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Updated Nov 06, 2023

Tips to Motivate Your Employees

Create a productive and loyal workforce by improving company culture and inspiring employees to make goals.

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Jennifer Post, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Strategy
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Dealing with employee turnover and burnout? Motivating your team properly can propel them to make their goals. Whether you focus on building relationships, celebrating milestones or improving company culture, the time you invest today will pay off tomorrow. Even if your employees work virtually, there are easy ways to connect with them digitally.

However, motivating a team can take time. Utilize our best tips to inspire your team to remain loyal and productive.

How to motivate employees

1. Ask employees to do only the things you’re willing to do yourself.

If you want good workers, you have to show them that moral principles are what you – and your company – are all about. It’s not enough to tell them you expect X, Y and Z when you don’t live by those values yourself.

“When leaders model culturally aligned behavior, it gives permission and encouragement to folks to ‘do the right thing,’” said Monica Parker, founder of HATCH Analytics Ltd. “Further, it can model very practically the steps to take to achieve successful outcomes. Without this, motivation is just talk.”

A common saying is that good bosses don’t ask their employees to do things they aren’t willing to do themselves.

“If there are rules and a company policy that is imposed from the senior management, the most important thing for the employees is to see that these rules and restrictions are important to the CEOs and superiors in the company,” said Lora Georgieva, digital marketing specialist at B2B travel agency ProExpo Services. “If they are the first executing specific actions, following rules, etc., it means that these activities/rules are not only written to be part of standard inside rules but actual company culture.”

Even if workers see their leader doing something just once, they feel better about doing said task in the future, knowing that even though their boss could do it, they trust their employees to handle it. It leads to a significant boost in confidence, and employees feel more motivated to do good work for the company.

It’s simple: If you want your business staffed by hard workers, be a hard worker. If you want honest feedback, be honest with yourself when you get constructive criticism. Be open and upfront with your employees. If you want respect and fairness, show that to your workers. Don’t single anyone out or pick favorites. People instantly pick up on it, leading to a hostile environment.

Once you lead by example, you’ll see a return almost immediately.

Estimated time of completion: Three to five weeks

“On an individual level, you may be able to see results quite quickly – within a few weeks,” Parker said. “But keep in mind that ‘motivational leadership’ is not a cure at all. Unrealistic deadlines or metrics, poor resourcing, an otherwise toxic environment – these are all foundational elements that have to be met before motivation will have its desired effect.”

2. Ask employees what they want from your workplace culture.

Your first inclination as a leader may not be to check with your employees about what they want from your company’s workplace culture. According to research conducted by Quantum Workplace, highly engaged employees feel more positive about their workplace culture. Further, respondents reported they would leave their current job for another one if the culture was better.

Did You Know?Did you know
According to Gallup, the number of engaged employees has steadily declined (36 percent in 2020, 34 percent in 2021 and 32 percent in 2022).

As an employer, you must ensure your employees feel safe, welcomed and cared for. Tell your employees regularly that you are interested in what they have to say, that they have autonomy and that they’re a valuable asset to the business moving forward. Express gratitude for their hard work, and let them know you don’t take them for granted.

Parker recommended taking these additional steps as well:

  • Recognize there will be a period of significant adjustment within the company, and have a high level of tolerance for change.
  • Be transparent with managers and employees on the desired outcomes and accountabilities.
  • Commit the resources (people, money, time, political capital) to change.
  • Hire external professionals to determine and deliver the action steps needed to create a sustainable change in behaviors.
  • Empower people to enact change at every level of the organization.

Estimated time of completion: 18 months to three years

“If all these conditions are met, 18 months should produce meaningful change and another 12 months to really embed the behaviors so they aren’t new, but rather, ‘This is how we do things around here,’” Parker said.

3. Assign tasks and let employees complete them with little intervention.

If you want productive, intelligent, hard-working employees, treat them as skilled, capable professionals. Far too many employers micromanage employees, looking over their shoulders, not trusting that they will complete tasks within deadlines and talking down their abilities. Step back and let your workers do their jobs. Delegate tasks to them and then leave them alone.

You may be the boss, but the work these individuals do for your company is invaluable, and you can’t afford to lose them.

Think of different ways you can demonstrate your trust. Ask for suggestions on how they could feel more respected and appreciated. Determine a compromise that addresses both parties’ wants and needs, and meet in the middle.

Estimated time of completion: A few weeks to a few months

Once an employer realizes that micromanaging is not a beneficial quality, change can happen quickly, but it won’t happen overnight. For many leaders, that type of management is engrained, and relearning a new management method takes time. If both parties communicate openly and are willing to work together to achieve that change, the transition should go smoothly in no time at all.

4. Actively listen to employee concerns by asking open-ended questions and engaging in a two-way conversation.

As a leader, it’s important that when an employee is expressing concerns to you, you absorb what they’re saying and take actionable steps to improve the situation.

If your employees feel that what they say or think doesn’t matter, they’ll believe their work doesn’t matter either, and that is one of the easiest ways to lose faithful people who add value to your company.

Active listening isn’t just nodding your head to show that you’re listening; it’s asking open-ended questions, asking for suggestions, being part of the conversation and detailing how you will address what your employees are telling you. Two-way conversation conveys that you care about making real change.

FYIDid you know
Bad grammar is one of the leading causes of miscommunication in digital communication. Downloading software like Grammarly can help you improve your grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Estimated completion time: Immediately to about six months

Putting a time frame on results is difficult because it rests on the leader to enact change. If the employer strives to make a real effort to listen to employee needs, there could be immediate results.

5. Tell your employees just how valuable they are.

What’s more motivating than positive reinforcement? For employees, not much.

Only 35 percent of employees are receiving recognition on a weekly or monthly basis. One in two employees is actively seeking more recognition for their work contributions.

According to Alice Kemper, founder of Sales Training Werks, managers fail to recognize employees for many reasons. For example, some managers think they don’t need to give praise. “I’ve heard managers say, ‘I hired adults to do their job; I don’t need to give them praise,’ and ‘I don’t need praise, so they don’t either,’” Kemper said.

Other reasons Kemper pointed out as to why managers don’t recognize employees for a job well done include the following:

  • They don’t know how to deliver praise and acknowledgment effectively.
  • They intend to give praise and acknowledgement but don’t get around to it.
  • They believe it’s a sign of weakness as a manager to deliver praise.

Estimated completion time: Immediately to about six months

Multiple studies show what employee engagement should look like, yet there’s still a considerable gap between what employees want and what they have.

All of that, however, can change if leaders invest real effort into creating meaningful change.

Motivation mistakes to avoid

Being a manager that is too controlling can quickly motivate your employees in the wrong direction. Trust your team and they will gain the confidence and skills to excel in their career. 

Not delegating

Not having the confidence in your team to delegate tasks can signal a trust issue. This type of relationship can have negative consequences and decrease productivity.

Delegating tasks to your team signals that you know their strengths. Workers will appreciate the gesture, and you will have more free time to complete your required tasks.

Not showing your employees their worth

Your best employees work hard and deserve recognition. Taking their talents for granted risks losing them to a competitor. 

It’s important to praise your team for the goals they accomplish. Offering rewards and incentives can keep your workers engaged and have a positive mindset.

TipBottom line
Remote employees deserve as much communication and praise as those working face-to-face in an office setting. If you manage a remote team, motivate them by checking in at least once per day. The longer you go without communicating directly, the less engaged they will become.

Not making employees take time off

Work can be demanding. Taking time off and potentially getting behind can seem daunting.

Encourage your employees to take time off. The period away from work can help them reset and improve their mental and physical health.

Not offering advanced training

One of the top reasons employees switch jobs is the need for career growth at their current position. Offering on-the-job training not only benefits employees but the employer as well. 

A one-on-one conversation with each employee about their career goals can help you tailor training. While one employee may be interested in cross-training, another might be interested in certification.

Not leading by example

Employees value actions more than words. Be a leader your team looks up to through dedication, integrity and empathy.

Ensure that all leaders in your company act as role models. Provide a culture that encourages leaders to apply from within to minimize bad hires.

Julie Thompson and Jared Atchison contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Jennifer Post, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Strategy
Jennifer Post brings a decade of expertise to her role as a trusted advisor for small business owners. With a strong foundation in marketing, funding, human resources and more, she teaches entrepreneurs about the software and tools necessary for launching and scaling successful ventures. From email marketing platforms to CRM systems, she ensures businesses have the technological edge they need to thrive while also sharing best practices for everyday operations. Post's recent focus on risk management and insurance underscores her commitment to equipping business owners with the services needed to safeguard their businesses for long-term success. Her advice has appeared in Fundera, The Motley Fool and HowStuffWorks.
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