70 Awesome Ways to Motivate Employees
When it comes to growing your business, you can use all the fancy tools and systems you want: but if your employees aren’t motivated to do great work, you’re not going to get very far.
There are a number of reasons why your team members might lack the motivation they need in order to do their best work each day—they could be feeling unappreciated, bored with their responsibilities, or unhappy with the benefits and flexibility offered to them.
If you’re looking for team motivation ideas this quarter, try these 70 simple ideas to motivate your employees at work:
1. Gamify, with incentives
Make a game out of work, and provide rewards when goals and achievements are met. This will increase employee engagement, which is a key indicator of workplace satisfaction and motivation.
2. Recognize accomplishments regularly
Recognition for accomplishments shouldn’t be rare. They should be regularly done. These moments lift up team members and give the others a break from their day.
3. Demonstrate trust
Micromanaging is not trust. Constantly correcting or re-doing work is not trust. If you give an employee a task and they do it differently than you would have, trust them enough to let it stand.
Show trust whenever it is possible.
4. Be positive
How the boss leads, the rest will follow. If you’re a grump, they will be, too. Set the tone for the workplace by being positive.
5. Allow flexibility as much as possible
84% of working parents said flexibility is the #1 most important factor in a potential job (compared to 75% for salary)! Be flexible about where they work, how they work, and when they work.
6. Give them a chance to lead
Really lead, don’t tell them they are in charge and then you come in and micromanage everything they’ve done into the ground.
7. Gather feedback for rewards
Encourage “spontaneous” feedback by providing an incentive. Maybe you send out an email survey to your team, and offer to give those who respond permission to leave two hours early.
8. Give them a purpose
Employees need to know what they do matters. Are they just tightening widgets, or are they building battleships? Make sure they know what the purpose of their work is, and make it a noble one.
9. Support their new ideas
You’re not the only one with ideas. Encourage, support, and sometimes even implement the new ideas they have. Whether it has to do with a new window display or trying a new employee scheduling software, both the employee and the business can get a lot from simply beta testing a new idea.
10. Insist on work-life balance
Insist on work-life balance: it’s important. Insist they take breaks. Refuse to allow them to log in on their home computer after hours. Whatever it takes. Implementing a digital employee time clock can help make this an easier transition.
11. Let them see the end game
Not only do they need to know their purpose, but they need to know what everyone is working towards. Help them see, as much as possible, that the idea of team unity is necessary for that end game. Keep them posted on how it’s going.
12. Give them a chance to rest
Can you institute a napping time? If you can, you’d be surprised at how many takers you’ll have for it.
13. Be transparent and honest
In all things, be honest. They can’t trust you otherwise, and it’s hard to work in fear and distrust.
14. Set goals of all sizes
Have big goals, project goals, department goals, personal goals—whatever it takes. But make sure you have smaller goals that are attainable, otherwise they’ll feel failure and disillusion at never reaching goals.
15. Give each person power
No one wants to feel powerless. Give them power either by involving them in decisions that affect them, or by letting them try on leadership roles periodically.
16. Focus on individuals, not just teams
Your employees are people, not faceless teams. Communicate and think of them as such.
17. Have an open door
Remove any barrier that might keep them from talking to you, whether it’s limited office hours, a fussy personal assistant, or lack of availability.
18. Have a morale officer
If you’re too busy to be bothered with employee morale, put someone else in charge of it. Make morale a priority. Encourage fun events and revamped procedures so the workplace isn’t drudgery. Make morale so purposeful there’s someone doing it as part of their job.
19. Keep your promises
Employees can’t trust someone who doesn’t keep promises. And they resent it, especially if they were promised financial or career rewards. Broken promises demotivate immediately.
20. Let them be unique individuals
This is about respecting personalities. For example, your ideal open workplace may be torture for an introvert. Respect their individual nature as much as you can and accept that your ideals may not be theirs.
21. Listen to them
Look them in the eye, know and use their name, ask questions, and respond appropriately. Take to heart what they say. Take action on what they say.
22. Provide free and helpful services
Bring in a personal trainer, an accountant at tax time, or a chair massage professional. Find a service that your employees would love to have access to once in a while, and offer it to them for free there at work.
23. Start workplace traditions
Give them something to look forward to, something that is unique to their place of work. Holidays are a tradition for everyone. Make traditions in the office that they can call their own.
24. Send hand-written thank you notes
Writing a real note on real paper and sending it to an employee means much more than just another email. It means you took the time.
25. Make sure everyone gets a mentor
Maybe not everyone wants a mentor, but make them available to those who do.
26. Use reward points for useful things
Set up a point system for your reward program that employees can use for useful and tangible things, such as cash gift cards, appliances, travel, etc.
27. Avoid boredom
You might take comfort in routine, but it may feel like a boring rut to your employees.
Be purposeful about spicing things up, changing things around. Move the office furniture, bring in different caterers, paint the walls a different color, change the weekly schedule. Just avoid mind-numbing sameness.
28. Provide healthy food
Birthday cake is fine once in a while, but make fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, and other healthy foods available. Stock your vending machine with healthy options.
29. Pay them well
Pay them the most you can. Pay them what they’re worth, and then some if possible. Simply not having a payroll blunder is something employees love. Link your employee scheduling app to your payroll app and make things easy for you and always correct for your employee.
30. Don’t fear change
Change can be good or bad, but don’t fear it. If you fear it, you’ll be pitted against your employees who are motivated to try new things. Embrace it and see where it leads.
31. Help employees reward each other
Create a system where employees can let you know of the good work or attitudes of their coworkers. Let them feel the pleasure of knowing they helped another get a reward.
32. Celebrate personal milestones
Remember birthdays, hiring anniversaries, and any other achievements they’ve accomplished outside of the workplace.
33. Send them to leadership training
Give them a taste for the leadership world. Even if they are not in a management position, consider it training for the day when they might be.
34. Give them stock
Make the health of your business matter to them by giving them stock through an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP).
35. Let them bring pets to work
If possible, let them bring pets. This is not appropriate for all businesses (e.g. restaurants), but if it is, make it so.
36. Communicate clearly what you expect
Don’t be afraid of confrontation. Don’t be concerned about making everyone happy. You must communicate your expectations clearly. This helps them feel secure in their job in the long run.
37. Help them continue learning
Offer to pay part of tuition, or send them to classes and training. Offer free accounts for online courses. Build their confidence by helping them learn more.
38. Set an example
Be the kind of leader they want to follow. Walk the talk. Work harder than they do. Make it clear to them, by what you do, that you don’t ask anything of them that you don’t ask of yourself.
39. Be purposeful about encouraging creativity
You can say you love creativity, but do you do it? Insist on practicing it through creative outings, exercises, group events, and even designated creative areas where they can express themselves with games, writing, art, etc.
40. Love laughter
If your team is laughing, that’s a good thing. Don’t reign it in.
41. Make unity a serious goal
Are all your goals about productivity or finances? Don’t forget to include unity. A team that is unified ultimately produces more and builds your business. Have a plan for measuring and keeping unity front and center.
42. Make rewards achievable
If your incentive and reward system takes impossible work to achieve, it isn’t really a reward system. Make it easy to begin reaping benefits of small rewards so they know it is possible and they continue on to the larger rewards.
43. Stay on the cutting edge
Junky equipment? Outdated computers?
Nope. Keep the tools your employees use as close to the cutting edge as you can. Using the best tools is exciting and instills pride in employees.
44. Offer promotions and bonuses
Employees should benefit financially, and in their career, for great work, loyalty, and continued success.
Not every position has an opportunity for advancement. This is discouraging for employees. Find a way to create advancement through tiered pay levels, additional responsibilities with corresponding title and salary adjustments, and so on, even if it isn’t truly moving up the ladder. There must be a sense of forward career movement.
45. Discipline and correct privately
Never, never, never shame an employee in front of others. If there’s a problem, deal with it in private. Never yell, take down, or criticize an employee while others are looking on.
46. Praise in public
Conversely, make praise and recognition a public thing.
47. Reward safety
Give incentives to those who practice safety in the workplace. Make safety valuable.
48. Stand by your team
The customer may always be right, and your boss may be trolling for blood, but you are to protect your team. They need to know you believe in them, trust them, and will protect them from anything ugly and undeserved.
49. Avoid nepotism
Nothing destroys motivation like knowing you won’t get promoted because you’re not a relative or you haven’t been there as long as other employees. Promotion and reward should be based on hard work, qualifications, and excellence. Anything else is demotivating.
50. Use what works, not what’s popular
The latest management fad isn’t the right one. Use what works with your employees, not the techniques someone far removed from your business tells you is the hot, new trend.
51. Ask employees what they want
Not sure what they want? Try asking them. Everyone loves to share their opinion.
52. Get everyone to participate
Not everyone participates in events and meetings the same way. Personalities and courage vary. Find a way that makes everyone comfortable to participate. Don’t cater to the loud and bold only.
53. Be fair and neutral
Skip the emotional response. Avoid favoritism. Don’t make conflicts or challenges worse by lifting one up and putting another down.
54. Use team building activities
Since unity is your goal, regularly hold team building activities. Make sure they’re fun, and seem like a reward in and of itself.
55. Work beside your employees
Are you always in your fancy front office? Get down in the trenches and do the same work alongside your employees sometimes. Understand what they experience.
56. Create rewards that are unique
Maybe you don’t have a pile of money to hand out as an incentive. Find other ways to reward employees that are unusual and inexpensive.
57. Reward groups that have done well
Focus on the individual is vital, but you also want to motivate teams and groups. Reward them for a job well done using group incentives.
58. Make feedback safe
Make it easy for employees to leave feedback. It shouldn’t always be in a face-to-face employee review meeting. Use the old-fashioned suggestion box if you must.
59. Bring in teachers
Bring instructors and experts into the workplace. Provide free and valuable training right where they work.
60. Reward healthy living
Healthy workers aren’t tired, worn out, and taking sick days. Have a system that rewards healthy choices, such as biking or walking to work, or using a 15-minute break for a quick walk. Give your employees a FitBit and hold a competition for who walks the most steps each month.
61. Do not patronize
Insincerity isn’t motivating. It’s insulting. Make sure your praise is genuine and free from any form of manipulation.
62. Guard the workplace culture carefully
Don’t assume your great workplace culture will naturally flourish. Take its temperature regularly and find any bruises.
63. Learn what demotivates
Some people are motivated by rewards, others by praise, and still others by a job well done. Blanket motivation techniques don’t work, and may do harm in some cases. Tailor your efforts for each person.
64. Give them an allowance
Whether it’s an allowance for books, decorating the office, or sprucing up their cubicle, give employees a set amount each year.
65. Give them professional development training
Send them to training that teaches them not only about job-specific topics, but also on things such as procrastination, being debt free, time management, and so on. Help them be successful people, on and off the job.
66. Don’t spring things on them
You might like surprises, but your employees don’t, particularly if it affects their job. If big changes are coming, let them know what way the wind is blowing early on. Announcing a huge change one morning, out of the blue, is upsetting.
67. Get rid of systems that fail
Your loyalty is to your employees, not your system or procedures. If it isn’t working, show them you’ll scrap it for their sake. Being locked in a bad system is demoralizing and makes them powerless.
68. Let them solve a problem
Got a problem? Give it to them to solve. Show them you trust and respect them enough to do it.
69. Create a buffer board
Let your employees select a few members to create a committee that will serve to hear employee concerns and report them to management. Not every employee is comfortable talking to the boss directly.
70. Use cross training
Train employees for other job positions, if they want to. Help them become invaluable by being able to serve in multiple positions and possibly have future advancement.
What are the benefits of motivating employees?
- Better productivity and performance
Motivated employees are high performers that work harder and focus more on creating better outcomes. This makes them more productive, and ultimately, your business becomes more profitable.
- Better customer service
Who do you want to serve you? The employee who is doing the bare minimum? Or the person who is motivated to go above and beyond to make your experience great? The answer is clear.
- Reduced turnover
Workers who are genuinely motivated to do their job don’t quit. If your employees are happy and motivated to do great work every day, they’re not looking for other jobs—they’re looking for more to do at your workplace.
- More innovation
When your employees are motivated and happy, they’ll handle change and uncertainty better. They’ll come up with new, more creative ideas on how to increase productivity, better the customer experience, and more.
- Improved employee engagement
A highly-engaged workforce is the key to a healthy bottom line. If you have employees who are not engaged, using some of the simple motivation ideas above could nudge them in the right direction.
Your employees are the heartbeat of your business. Even if you can’t offer them monetary rewards, you can offer them intangible benefits that show you care about them—that will go a long way toward keeping them motivated and engaged. One simple benefit employees love is flexible scheduling, which gives your employees more autonomy and control over their schedule. Empowering your employees is easy with When I Work employee scheduling. Find the right plan for you and get started with a 14-day FREE trial today!
Work motivation FAQs
Why is it important to keep employees motivated?
Your bottom line depends on having motivated employees. If you want your business to be successful, you need motivated, high-performing employees to do their best work.
How do I motivate employees at work?
Employees want to know that they matter to their employer. Keeping workers motivated is all about making them feel valued and appreciated.
What are some ways to motivate employees?
Read through this guide and find the right solution for your workplace. With 70 ideas, there’s something you can do today to get started.
How do I measure employee motivation at work?
Ask them! Put out an anonymous survey to ask about their motivation and satisfaction levels. You’ll quickly learn if you have engaged employees or if you need to add some new programs to increase morale.
How do I get started with motivating employees?
Any of the 70 tips in this guide is a great place to start. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, there are plenty of ideas that are inexpensive and easy to implement.