Everyone agrees that it's far better to have a team of motivated, engaged people at your workplace. The business will be more productive and more profitable.
But exactly how to get and, just as importantly, keep your employees motivated can be easier said than done.
People are different and what inspires one person may not motivate another. For some, it may be money, while others want rewards or recognition. Others find all the motivation they need within themselves and just get on and perform.
In short, there is no one-size-fits-all method for motivating employees, boosting performance levels, and creating a happy, thriving work environment. You need to utilise a number of different techniques.
So we've put together some key motivation strategies to help keep your people happy and focused on doing their best.
1. Start with individuals
Motivating your people is impossible if you don't know what drives them.
Talk to them about their needs and aspirations and find out what motivation looks like to them. From there you can work on best aligning each person's role and tasks with their professional and personal goals and tailor motivational strategies that will suit each employee.
This is an ongoing conversation that should start at induction and be built on with regular check-ins.
Motivation fluctuates over time, so the skill is in getting to know each person and continuing to adapt and refine your approach to help them stay motivated and engaged.
2. Get the basics right
Some businesses or HR departments can get distracted chasing a Silicon Valley-like environment with pinball machines, beanbags, and other outward displays of 'cool'. But if the basics are not right, all the fancy initiatives won't mean much and your employees will see them as a thin veneer over a deficient culture.
Nothing welcomes a new person like having a watertight employment contract issued before they start the job, and a solid onboarding and induction process that quickly brings them into the organisation.
Ensure your company culture is based on respect for all people and that behaviours actually align with your stated values. Pay employees correctly and on time. Establish objectives at the start of a year, not halfway through.
Getting the basics right may mean you never need to invest in a pinball machine to keep your people motivated, but it will be the icing on the cake if you do.
3. Trust your people
Trust is one of the most important building blocks in any business culture.
It goes both ways: employees need to trust that their boss or manager has their best interests at heart and managers need to trust their people to do the job properly without constant monitoring.
It doesn't come naturally to all managers; there can be a tendency to equate a trusting environment with a slack one, and employees will take advantage.
But if you foster positive relationships with each individual and build trust by letting them use their initiative and work independently as much as possible, you'll build a more creative, self-sufficient team.
This will also help create a bond with your employees and stop them from feeling micromanaged, which can be a real motivation-sapper.
4. Show them the big picture
Another key to keeping employees motivated is letting them know how the work they do helps the company achieve its wider goals.
Take the time to fully explain the purpose of the business and how each person's tasks contribute to it.
By understanding the value of their role, you encourage employees to perform because they know exactly what their hard work will achieve.
This makes work meaningful and fulfilling because people know they are making a difference, rather than just being cogs in a machine.
5. Be open and transparent
People that work for a company that champions open communication and transparency are more likely to stay motivated and loyal.
Being transparent with information encourages an atmosphere of trust and certainty, where there are few surprises and employees aren't left in the dark (which usually leads to them thinking the worst).
Providing a forum for employees' suggestions and ideas gives them a voice and creates confidence in their value to the business. It also helps give their work meaning.
If your employees know what's happening at the highest level and have a chance to give feedback, they will feel more involved and committed to the company's direction.
6. Set small, achievable goals
People perform best when they have specific goals to achieve and by breaking larger objectives down into smaller ones, you can help keep people motivated and focused.
With smaller goals, team members get to clearly see progress and that their hard work has tangible meaning.
Involve them in the goal-setting process and make sure any goals you decide upon are specific and realistic, so employees can achieve them and know when they have. Then you can celebrate each target you reach.
7. Recognise and reward
Of course, employees get paid for their labour, but people like to be recognised for going above and beyond.
Reward and recognition are far better motivators than punishment, as they prove to a person that they are doing the right thing and encourage them to keep doing it.
This helps strengthen the employer-employee relationship, and lifts self-esteem and people's sense of belonging.
Rewards don't have to be formalised – though they should be built into your performance management system – you can reward employees or teams for achieving goals or doing amazing work. It might be an impromptu lunch or afternoon off, or as simple as an appreciative email.
Recognition works best when it's personalised, as people like to be acknowledged in different ways. This has the added benefit of making each person feel valued as an individual.
8. Give frequent feedback
Don't wait for the annual performance review to give your employees feedback.
Frequent, meaningful feedback helps employees thrive by providing direction, certainty, and confidence.
Positive feedback highlights progress and helps generate a sense of accomplishment. Negative feedback, while it can be uncomfortable, should give guidance and target ways for an employee to improve.
Feedback is more effective when it is delivered close to the event. That way your employee gets a much clearer sense of the behaviour(s) you wish to reinforce or discourage.
9. Provide career development
No one wants to feel like they are stuck in the same place, doing the same thing.
Helping your employees learn and grow helps keep them stimulated and engaged. You need to understand where they see themselves heading and then provide opportunities for them to expand their skills and take on new challenges.
View training and progression as an investment that will pay off in higher performance and productivity. While there is a risk that the next step in a person's career will be one away from the company, that is better than having a team of people who are bored and apathetic.
10. Offer flexibility and regular breaks
Happy, healthy employees are naturally more motivated.
Flexible work options allow people to balance their working and personal lives better. It also shows you care about individuals and can trust them to do their job.
Regular breaks at work improve people's ability to stay focussed, helping problem-solving and boosting overall productivity. It's also important for people's health and safety.
Encourage employees to take leave they are entitled to. They shouldn't feel they have to come to work despite being unwell, grieving, or just needing a mental health day.