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What is the Best Way to Motivate Employees?

7 min read
Zoe Brankin
Zoe Brankin

Every good manager knows that the most valuable asset isn’t the new equipment you just purchased, the newly refurbished office with coffee stations and chill-out areas, or the app you simply can’t live without. It’s the team around you, and an essential part of creating and keeping a great team is knowing what motivates them to do their best work. 

Research shows motivated and engaged team members perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave a company. While, of course, money and benefits are important they aren’t the only motivating factors. So, I don’t think we need to cover whether or not motivation is important as those stats speak for themselves. Instead, we need to ask how exactly do we keep staff motivation at a high? Let’s take a look! 

What drives human motivation?

There is a theory that states there are three driving factors for human motivation: achievement, affiliation and power. Every employee will be driven by at least one of these and possibly a combination of the three:

  • Achievement is all about accomplishing goals, taking calculated risks, receiving constructive feedback, and for the most part working alone to help achieve these goals. 
  • Affiliation is working with others, feeling liked and valued, having a preference for working collaboratively and a dislike of taking risks. 
  • Power then refers to the desire to have control and the ability to influence others, win arguments, compete and achieve the desired status. 

As a manager, the goal isn’t just to manage your employees but to understand where exactly each of them falls on this scale. What will motivate your team members and how do you plan on implementing strategies that will keep them motivated?

Why do people feel demotivated at work?

Now that we have an idea of what goes into keeping someone motivated let’s explore why people wind up feeling demotivated at work. Below are some of the key reasons why they decide to leave. By understanding these issues, you can avoid running into them. ‍

Bad management

Unsurprisingly, bad management is one of the key reasons people leave a company, and we all know the saying people don’t leave companies; they leave managers. Unless someone gets a substantial promotion or offer at a different company that the business cannot compete with, managers should consider what they could have done differently to keep such a valuable team member.

Bad management revolves around disorganisation and a lack of motivating factors. And when managers fail to keep employees engaged through creating a sense of achievement, affiliation, or power, team members leave in search of new opportunities elsewhere. ‍

Lack of flexibility 

It’s a legal right to request flexible working, whether that be working from home a few days a week, type of contract or start and finish times. However, many employees feel they haven’t been given fair access to flexible work. You hired your employees because you believed they were the best candidates. Where and when they work doesn’t have to define how good they are at their jobs. 

Lack of flexibility today is likely linked to working hours or frustrations at not being able to go back into the office for a few days a week. Don’t immediately think something like flexibility is out of your control as a manager, because there are ways you can recognise and come to a compromise with your staff for better working arrangements. ‍

Lack of appreciation

Demotivation can come from not feeling recognised. If employees are working every day with no appreciation or recognition they will become demoralised and demotivated. We aren’t saying recognise everything they do but pick and choose the moments you want to celebrate for them, and be loud and proud with your appreciation. 

Employees consistently achieve things, collaborate well with others, and successfully compete in the workplace. Still, if they don’t see their hard work being recognised, they may begin to question their position. 

Oftentimes, it’s only the output that is seen and not the input. Managers become focused on milestones and deadlines, missing the daily picture of what it takes to meet those milestones and deadlines. 

The more invisible an employee feels, the more likely they are to move on. It’s important to understand what goes into every role at your workplace so that you can properly show appreciation for the work that employees are doing. ‍

Basic needs vs relational needs

Many managers can tend to focus on basic needs rather than the relational needs of their employees. While focusing on pay and compensation is important, factors like human connection, appreciation and personal growth are those that employees care about. 

While this may seem less practical, they often play just as big or a bigger role than basic needs. When these needs are neglected, it removes the personal investment and drive that a person has for your business. 

You want to achieve a balance to help maintain that personal interest in the work. Anytime you contemplate your staff’s basic needs, make a mental note to consider their relational needs.

Six ways to motivate your employees

Highly motivated employees are easy to spot – they exceed objectives, have a positive attitude, willingness to contribute ideas and support the team around them. If you’re struggling with how you can keep your employees motivated, here are a few tips! ‍

Make the office a great place to be 

No one wants to work in a boring, cold, dull office for eight or nine hours a day. Having an aesthetically pleasing and functional office with fun workspaces can make going to work a great place to be.

You could look at ways of adding more light, investing in new technology and updating outdated systems. We’re not saying you have to go and buy the best of the best. Sprucing up the office doesn’t have to break the bank! Make it a place your employees want to be by getting their insight into what they would like to see daily.

Offer flexible working

We mentioned above that lack of flexibility is one of the most common reasons for employees feeling demotivated so it’s only fair we included it here as a way to motivate them. It’s not just about the days an employee works, but more so about when they start and finish.

We have morning birds and night owls, meaning some people will work at their best early in the morning, whereas those who like to stay up late may prefer to push their start time back a bit. Having a more flexible working schedule allows employees the freedom to work when they feel their motivation is at its highest and when they can be most productive. Allowing a more flexible working schedule can also help reduce employee stress.

Give your employees room to grow

There is nothing worse than feeling stuck in a dead-end job, so combating this gives your employees the opportunity to grow in their roles. This doesn’t always have to come in the form of a promotion or more money, as we know that’s not something that’s going to be possible for every single employee.

You could offer training in new skills to those who want it (something pretty good for your recognition program also). By changing things up and giving them room to grow, employees will become more motivated.‍

Be available 

As a manager, we know it can be difficult to make time in an already tight schedule. However, you should always try your best to be present for your staff and stick to it. When employees are waiting around on a manager’s approval or feedback on a piece of work, it can become extremely demotivating and will ultimately keep them back from getting on with their workload. 

Suppose one-to-ones are something you offer but never stick to. In that case, it can negatively impact your employee’s motivation as they’re not getting any constructive feedback on their work or how to progress with certain tasks set out by you. Try and be as available as you possibly can for your staff.

Be someone you would like to work for

At some point in every person’s career, they have or will work with an unapproachable and unrealistic manager. Even if you love your job, miserable managers will spoil it, so why not aspire to be someone you would like to work for? Share your positive outlook and your team will follow by example. 

Get to know your team. Having one to one relationships with your employees will make you more personable. Be understanding and transparent, as no one wants to feel uncomfortable when talking to a manager about a mistake or something they need to do. All of the above are easy ways to keep your employees happy and motivated. 

Recognise great work

One of the biggest contributors to employee motivation is employee recognition. More than 70% of workers said that motivation and morale would improve massively with increased recognition from their managers.

It’s not just about recognising outstanding work, it’s about how you recognise your employees. Employee recognition isn’t just about a bonus or £5 Amazon voucher. It should be regular, meaningful, personal and timely. It also doesn’t always need to be monetary or in the form of a reward. A simple thank you is more than enough at times.

If you need some help with an employee recognition program to help boost motivation, Mo has the solution you’re looking for.

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Mo is an employee recognition and engagement platform that can help leaders improve collaboration and morale, reduce employee churn and drive change. 

Our platform creates a vibrant culture by developing team habits, encouraging people to celebrate success, recognise results and appreciate colleagues.

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