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Employee Recognition

Motivational Strategies for Employees: Inspiring Peak Performance

motivational strategies

What is employee motivation? Why is it important? And what benefits can it unlock for your business? In this guide, we’ll look at why you should inspire your people to reach their peak performance as well as some motivational strategies for employees. 

Imagine working somewhere where everyone loved what they did, believed in the company they worked for and was inspired to do their very best each and every day. It may sound too good to be true, but it’s this kind of culture that’s the secret behind the success of some of the world’s best-performing companies. 

So how can you replicate this for your own organization? 

This is where your leaders prove their worth. If you’re a manager one of the most important things you can do is inspire your people. Encouraging your employees to be the best version of themselves that they can be won’t just make them more effective in their roles, it will also bring untold benefits for your business. That’s because motivated employees are not just happier; they’re also more productive, more engaged and more likely to stay in their roles and reach their full potential. 

So what can leaders do to inspire peak performance? Read on to find out some tried and tested motivational strategies for employees. 

motivational strategies for employees

In this guide you’ll learn…

What is employee motivation?

How it can impact your organization

15 motivational strategies for employees

Best practices for maintaining motivation in the workplace

What Is Employee Motivation? 

Before we explore some motivational strategies for employees we should define exactly what we mean by “motivation”. It’s something that we’ve all experienced, but we rarely take the time to think through exactly what it is we’re experiencing. 

Put simply, motivation is the driving force behind everything we do. It’s the energy, commitment and passion we bring to tasks in both our personal and professional lives. If you can encourage people to tap into this well of energy and inspiration then they will be energized to perform to their best. 

However the opposite is also true, and if your employees aren’t motivated then their output will begin to slide. 

Motivation is inherently an internal process, it’s our innermost drive and determination to succeed. But, it can be influenced by external factors, which is why leaders – whether they’re in the workplace, in sports teams or running countries – play such a vital role in our society.

Motivation is also incredibly personal. Indeed different things will motivate different people. For example, while you may be motivated by deadlines and targets, the person sitting next to you may be motivated by money and your colleague opposite might be inspired by altruistic goals. Generally, however, motivation falls into two main categories:

Intrinsic motivation: This is the personal willingness of an employee to perform better. It’s an internal driver, one that’s driven by their own need to accomplish goals and their enthusiasm to face challenges at work. 

Extrinsic motivation: On the other end of the spectrum, extrinsic motivation refers to the external factors that motivate employees. This could be employee recognition, rewards, incentives or bonuses. 

Therefore, understanding what inspires people is crucial if you’re going to reap the benefits that motivated employees can bring to your business. 

Just 2-out-of-10 employees believe that they’re motivated to do outstanding work by the way their performance is managed.

How Can Employee Motivation Impact Your Business? 

Now that we understand exactly what motivation is, we can look at how motivational strategies for employees impact your business. 

The good news is that organizations that boast motivated employees can expect a host of benefits. Motivated people are obviously harder working, but they’re also more adaptable, more creative, more engaged and more likely to stay in their roles. 

And the stats back this up. 

Motivated employees boost company profitability by 21% – Yes you read that right, researchers have found that motivated employees can make a significant impact on your business’ bottom line. That’s because if your people are motivated they are more likely to help your company not only achieve its goals but surpass them. 

Motivated workers can raise sales by up to 37% – Here’s another stat that speaks to the importance of employee motivation. It may seem obvious, but if your people are inspired then they’re likely to help boost sales. That is in part because of the impact they have on your customers. Motivation can play a key role in delivering the best experience to your customers. If you don’t believe us just think of the times you’ve experienced exceptional customer service, nine times out of ten it will have been delivered by an employee who was willing to go above and beyond to exceed your expectations. 

motivational strategies for employees

Companies with motivated employees report 41% less absenteeism – In an era when employee wellness and engagement are front of mind for many organizations, motivation can help to keep your people in place. It can also have a significant impact on your employee turnover and churn rates. If you don’t believe us, consider this research from Gallup, which found that engaged employees were 59% less likely to leave their roles in the next 12 months. The reason why motivated employees tend to stick around is because they’re invested in your organization and their place within it. Improved retention can not only save your business from disruption, it can also boost your balance sheet, especially as the estimated cost of replacing a skilled employee is as much as 30% of their first-year earnings. 

Motivation makes work meaningful – Today’s top talent are looking for more than just a paycheck, they’re looking for purpose. People want to know that they’re more than just another cog in the machine and that they’re contributing to the bigger picture. That’s why motivation and meaningful work are intrinsically linked. If you manage to connect your people to their purpose the benefits can be staggering. Employees who find their work meaningful spend on average an additional hour a week at work (equivalent to a 2.5% increase in productivity). They also generate an additional $9000 of revenue and take less leave. 

​​“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”

– Simon Sinek

15 Motivational Strategies for Employees

So there you have it. Inspiring your people can do so much more than put a smile on their faces. Whether it’s improving creativity, reducing absenteeism or enhancing productivity, motivation can have a huge impact on your business. So if you’d like to unlock some of these benefits for yourself, what motivational strategies for employees can you put in place to harness their true potential? 

Here are 15 motivational strategies for employees to get you started….

1. Set goals

Setting goals can be an excellent motivational tool to help inspire your employees. It’s an example of an extrinsic technique that can challenge your people to do their best, giving them something to strive for. That’s particularly important in the workplace where people need to feel like they are reaching targets and progressing forward, rather than endlessly fire fighting just to keep on top of their workloads. 

The best way to set goals is to follow the SMART method. SMART stands for…

Specific – Make your goals specific so that people know exactly what is expected of them. 

Measurable – Make sure you can track progress.

Achievable – There’s no point setting impossible tasks, instead make sure people can earn a sense of satisfaction by achieving their targets. 

Relevant – Your goals should align with your company’s missions and values. 

Time-based – Set a realistic but ambitious deadline to help motivate your people.

motivational strategies for employees

2. Recognize and reward

Your employees work hard for you, and rewarding them can go a long way to motivating them to keep up their efforts. 

Rewards can play a big role in boosting your employees’ motivation and productivity. That’s why for years, bosses have turned to employee rewards programs to help motivate their teams. 

The reason for the enduring popularity of rewards is that they tap into a basic human need. You see, our brains are hardwired to respond to recognition. We don’t want to bore you with the science here, but the takeaway for leaders is that employee recognition and rewards result in higher levels of motivation, engagement and productivity. That’s a whole lot of positives from something that’s relatively simple to set up, especially if you use the help of a dedicated recognition and rewards platform like Bucketlist. 

3. Incentivize your employees

Of course, in an ideal world, people would come into work every day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – ready to do their very best to help your company succeed. Unfortunately in the real world, people often need a little encouragement. So if you want to encourage excellence in your employees and motivate them to do their best – you’re going to have to incentivize them. 

Employee incentives are rewards or privileges that you can use to motivate your team to meet business objectives and perform to the best of their abilities. Exactly what form these incentives take depends entirely on you. Some organizations offer cash incentives like bonuses or profit-share schemes. Others provide non-monetary rewards like swag, gift cards or even money-can’t-buy rewards like paid vacation or unique gifts. Whatever you choose, employee incentives can be the carrot that you dangle to motivate your people.

4. Build a positive culture

It’s a simple fact of life that we are motivated to succeed when we enjoy what we are doing. It may sound basic, but putting a smile on your people’s faces might just be the most powerful tool you have to motivate them.

There are many ways to build a positive culture, but one of the most effective is to help your people build genuine human connections with their colleagues. Things like team-building opportunities, game nights and company social events are more important in our remote/hybrid world than ever before. 

Not only do these provide a welcome break from employees’ day-to-day routines, but they also help colleagues to move beyond their professional relationships to get to know each other on a personal level. This not only strengthens the bonds between your employees but also helps to improve communication, encourage creativity and ultimately boost motivation.

motivational strategies for employees

5. Trust your people

No one likes to be micromanaged. Instead, if you really want to inspire your people to work harder then trust is key. Showing your people that you trust them helps to foster a culture of mutual respect that will ultimately motivate them to help your organization succeed. 

One way to create this level of trust is to cut back on things like micromanagement and activity tracking. Another tactic can be to offer your people more autonomy to perform how and when they like, allowing them to take ownership of their work. This kind of flexibility might feel like a leap of faith, especially for companies that fear their employees might take advantage of them. But get it right and you can create a virtuous cycle that will continually motivate your people to perform. 

6. Focus on the individual

Organizational or team goals can be a great way of focusing your entire workforce on the task at hand. But if you really want to unlock the power of employee motivation then you’re going to need to get to know your staff on an individual level. 

Why? Well everyone is different. We all have different goals, different dreams and different aspirations. We all have different strengths, weaknesses and different things that motivate us. That means if you want to tap into someone’s true potential you have to get to know them. Investing time in getting to know each individual within your team will help you to learn more about them to find out what makes them tick. Armed with this information you can then strategize the best way to motivate each individual to perform to the best of their abilities. 

7. Make feedback frequent

When you offer your people praise and constructive criticism it doesn’t just help them to improve, it makes them feel valued. And the impact of this activity is cumulative, the more frequently you offer your employees feedback, the more they are likely to respond to your actions. So if you’re looking for a strategy to help motivate your employees make sure that you set up opportunities to provide them with regular feedback. Having a consistent schedule sets a target that will motivate your people to strive for their best so they can receive praise at their next review.

motivational strategies for employees

8. Look after your employees

Your people are so much more than their jobs. And what happens in their personal lives can have a direct impact on what they do during their nine-to-five. That’s why the world’s very best workplaces are adopting a “whole human” approach, that focuses on supporting their people’s health, wellbeing and happiness – not just their workplace performance. 

And it’s working. 

Anyone who’s heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will know that people need to take care of certain specific needs before they can even begin to think about motivating themselves for work. So if you can help to satisfy these needs you can create a shortcut to increased motivation.

A good place to start is to care for your people’s wellbeing. Helping them to look after their physical and mental health will not only make them feel cared for, it will also dispel any fears or concerns they may have, freeing up headspace to focus on their work. In an era when absenteeism and burnout are growing concerns, it can also help to keep your people in place, creating a win-win for everyone involved

9. Connect your people with their purpose

At the end of the day, everyone wants their work to mean something. They want to know that what they do makes a difference, that what they do for eight hours a day has purpose. That means one of the best ways to motivate employees is to give them a clear and defined goal. If you help your people to see the bigger picture, then they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated and much less likely to lose interest in their work. 

So make sure you draw a clear line between people’s personal objectives and the objectives of the organization. Help them to see how they have a direct impact on your success and keep them up to date with where the company is going and why. Regular communication can help people to connect the dots between their own activity and the bigger picture. 

10. Unlock the power of peer recognition

Recognition has for a long time been the responsibility of managers and supervisors, who hand out positive feedback to their employees. But what if, instead of the traditional top-down approach, recognition could be democratized so that everyone could get involved?

That’s the idea behind peer-to-peer, a form of social feedback that empowers everyone, not just managers, to recognize each others’ achievements. It’s a tactic that’s become hugely popular in recent years because it can be more effective at motivating your people. Indeed peer-to-peer recognition is 35.7% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only interactions.

So if you’re looking to up your employee motivation game then peer-to-peer can be a quick, easy and effective place to start. 

motivational strategies for employees

11. Invest in career development 

Offering career development opportunities has been proven to help boost employee motivation. 

That’s particularly true of younger talent. Indeed 68% of Millenials believe that a clear path to career progression is a key factor in keeping them engaged and motivated in their roles. 

That means that investing in career development has a dual benefit for your business. It won’t just help you to upskill your employees it will help to keep them motivated. If your people can see that you’re willing to aid their future development they’re much more likely to put in the kind of effort that benefits you in the here and now. 

12. Lead by example

Leading by example is a managerial style where senior figures within your organization model the type of behaviors that they want in the rest of their team. The idea is that instead of pushing people towards excellence, you lead them there. It’s a form of leadership that can be particularly effective when it comes to motivation because it helps to show your people that you’re all in it together. It’s a technique that builds camaraderie, strengthens teamwork and builds respect. All of which add up to much higher levels of motivation. So if you’re looking for motivational strategies for your employees, why not start close to home by considering how your actions and behaviors can influence the people around and under you.

13. Embrace flexibility 

We all know the importance of work-life balance, but did you know that helping your employees to achieve it can actually help to improve their levels of motivation? Whether you encourage regular breaks, implement flexible working policies or embrace the opportunities opened up by hybrid and remote working – helping your people to find a balance that works for them will help them to feel supported and in turn more motivated to succeed.

14. Give your people a voice

This is a simple step that can create a whole host of benefits. 

First, making sure your people are heard will make them feel valued, which in turn builds trust and makes them more motivated to succeed. But giving your people a voice can also help you to gain invaluable insight into what motivates them as individuals. After all, everybody is different, and so how are you going to know what inspires them (and what doesn’t) unless you ask? 

This is where employee listening tools, regular one-to-ones and employee engagement surveys really come into their own. Giving your people an easily accessible platform to share their views provide actionable intelligence that you can put to work to ensure everyone is engaged in what they’re doing. 

15. Don’t be afraid to experiment

While we’ve offered you some tried and tested ideas for motivational strategies for employees here, there is no magic formula for inspiring your people. Maintaining motivation is an ongoing task and one that will evolve alongside your organization. That means there are countless opportunities to experiment with different tools and tactics. Over time you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, but each approach will teach you something new about your employees and help you to find the formula that unlocks their full potential. 

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

– Steve Jobs

Best practices for maintaining motivation in the workplace

Motivation is the spark that can ignite your employees’ productivity and help them to reach new heights. But just as in real life, that spark is easy to snuff out. If you want it to grow into a blazing inferno of inspiration you’re going to have to fuel it and fan the flames in order to ensure that it continues to grow. 

We’ve already offered you some tactics and motivational strategies for employees that you can put into action, but as the final part of this guide we also wanted to offer you some practical advice to help you maintain motivational levels within your organization. 

So what can you do to make sure that your people feel motivated? 

Don’t let up

Motivation is a journey, not a destination. It’s not something you will ever truly accomplish, instead, it’s something you will have to continually nurture throughout the lifecycle of your organization. So don’t let up. Keep working to make sure your people are motivated, experiment with new tools and tactics and make this an ongoing priority for your leadership team. 

Lean on your leaders 

Speaking of leaders, don’t be afraid to lean on them for support. Motivation flows from the top down so your managers have a key role to play in inspiring employees. Get them on board, help them to see why this work is so important and encourage them to understand the role they can play in boosting motivation. 

motivational strategies for employees

Ask for feedback 

Don’t be afraid to ask your people if what you are doing is working or not. The best way to tap into what makes your people tick is to gather regular feedback, analyze it, and then turn your findings into direct action. This will not only make your motivational efforts more effective, it will help you to maintain them over the long term. 


Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Inspiring your people may feel like a major undertaking, and in some ways it is. But as we’ve explored in this guide all of that effort is well worth it. If however, you’re worried about how you can find the time to implement all of these ideas then don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s from your own HR team, your leaders or the growing number of digital tools and platforms designed to make motivation easy – help is at hand. 

Ready, set, motivate!

Motivating your employees can feel like a daunting task, but it’s well worth the effort. Inspire your people to perform at their best and your productivity will soar, your engagement levels will increase and your bottom line will be boosted.

Every organization is different and the motivational strategies for employees that you implement will have to reflect what makes you and your people unique. But the information within this guide will provide you with a great starting point, allowing you to lay the foundations that will fuel success for years to come.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get motivating! 

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