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10 Best TED Talks for Training and Motivating New Employees

Matt D'Angelo
Matt D'Angelo Contributing Writer
Updated Jan 23, 2023

These TED Talks have countless lessons for the modern worker.

As a small business owner, it’s important to be aware of what free resources are available to further the education of your employees.

TED is a company that’s been committed to spreading inspiring ideas since the mid ’80s. It provides seemingly endless video content that touches on topics ranging from leadership to business to psychology, all for free.

If you’re on-boarding a new employee, offering a list of recommended TED talks can be a great way to communicate your company’s values in an innovative and informative way. But even if you’re not training new employees, these 10 TED Talks are great resources for small businesses. They touch on a variety of topics, and can be a great starting point for an employee looking to understand new perspectives and practice good habits at home and in the office.

1. As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify

In this talk, Yves Morieux outlines how the corporate world has been dogged by two obsolete approaches to problems: Hard and soft management styles. Business problems are often addressed by either building more business infrastructure to better address a problem (hard management) or emphasizing team communication to work toward an end goal (soft management). Morieux argues that the best businesses of the future will be those that get away from hard and soft thinking and instead simplify their processes by promoting cooperation and empathy within organizations.

2. Dare to disagree

Margaret Heffernan offers a bold look into our relationship with conflict and why dissenting voices can result in the most productive work relationships. This unconventional view treats conflict as a new form of thinking, where the constant barrage of doubt allows greater truths about an idea or product to shine through. This is a great talk for new and existing employees, as it can be a motivator for workers who have strong opinions but are worried to voice them.

3. Why you should define your fears instead of your goals

Tim Ferriss, author and productivity guru, outlines his relationship with Stoicism and why defining fears is an important step in the growing as a business leader and person. By defining our fears, Ferriss argues we exit the irrational torments of our imagination and practically outline how we can handle future problems. Defining fears, combined with other Stoic practices, can help individuals transcend the high stresses of the day-to-day modern environment.

4. Got a problem? First, tell me how you make toast

Tom Wujec outlines the importance of drawing diagrams and looking at problems as a collective whole. Through diagrams on how to properly make toast, Wujec reveals insight into how effective communication can come in the form of mixing and matching aspects of a problem to find a solution. While you may not be in a situation where you need to define a problem through a diagram, this TED Talk is a testament to how collaboration is an open and dynamic process.

5. The Happy Secret to Better Work

In this funny and informative talk, Shawn Achor illuminates how the lens through which we view the world shapes our reality. This talk, while more abstract than some of the others on this list, provides direct insight into how we live and work. Achor argues that reversing conventional ideas on how to attain happiness will provide us with a clear-cut path toward a more fulfilling life and workplace.

6. 8 Secrets of Success

Richard St. John spent seven years and conducted 500 interviews to determine what characteristics lead to success. He sampled successful members of the TED community and broke down success into eight key characteristics. The qualities included are a good starting point for employees looking to get the most out of their career experience.

7. What it takes to be a great leader

Roselinde Torres did a detailed dive into the characteristics of leaders, how environments shape leaders and the traditional development practices that could stunt the growth of natural leaders. Despite an emphasis on corporate training and “leadership development programs,” Torres found that great leadership in the modern workplace was based on three simple questions. The three questions provide a framework for healthy development and results in women and men who are preparing themselves for the future.

8. 10 ways to have a better conversation

While not strictly a business-related talk, this TED talk speaks volumes to the power of listening and maintaining work relationships. Effective teams need to be able to listen and communicate. This can go beyond what happens in meetings and into the personal interactions employees have with one another. Celeste Headlee is a radio host based in Georgia who has interviewed hundreds of guests on her show. Headlee offers viewers 10 interview tips that double as great ways to better everyday conversations.

9. Your body language shapes who you are

Amy Cuddy addresses body language and how unspoken communication can have major implications in our personal and professional lives. She provides some tips for better body language, but the value of this talk lies in the link between traits like confidence and body language. It provides insight so we can gauge whether our body language is holding us back and portraying a version of ourselves that may not be best for a professional environment. This talk unlocks the idea that nonverbal communication is a form of language, and that knowledge can be powerful in day-to-day business settings.

10. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Angela Lee Duckworth studied how the power of perseverance and passion relates to success in education and the workplace. Duckworth’s findings indicate that IQ or intelligence alone may not lead to success. Instead, grit emerged as a marquee ingredient to success across Duckworth’s candidates, which ranged from West Point cadets to private salespeople. This quick talk can be a reminder that passion and perseverance can motivate and drive us.  

Image Credit: Mr.Whiskey /
Matt D'Angelo
Matt D'Angelo Contributing Writer
I've worked for newspapers, magazines and various online platforms as both a writer and copy editor. Currently, I am a freelance writer living in NYC. I cover various small business topics, including technology, financing and marketing on and Business News Daily.