The why and how of engaging & motivating staff in the workplace

Organisations do not focus on employee motivation because it’s a nice thing to do, they do it because it contributes to a more productive workplace.

If you are in a leadership role and you have successfully learned how to motivate employees, then your workplace will gain the benefit of …

  • higher staff retention,
  • lower absenteeism levels,
  • improved innovation and team-spirit
  • the reputation of being an “employer of choice”

So if you have been asking yourself how you can motivate your employees, here are nine motivation strategies you might consider …..

  1. Get the hygiene factors right first. In other words before you can motivate your staff, you need to ensure that they have received the tools and training to be able to do the job that is required of them. And you need to make sure their working environment offers reasonable light, comfort and cleanliness. If your staff are distracted by a hot workplace because the air-conditioning isn’t working, then it’s not likely they will be able to perform to their best. Similarly, if they believe their salary is much lower than that of the “market” for their skills and experience, then will feel resentful. So make sure the fundamentals are in place, otherwise your initiatives to build staff morale may be wasted effort
  2. Different strokes for different folks. Be careful that you don’t assume that your staff will be motivated by the same things. They are individuals, and whilst they share things in common, they will also have some differences in their goals, values and aspirations as far as work and their careers go. So ask each of them what they want from work and what motivates them to perform to their best. Some will be seeking more challenge, greater variety and extra responsibility. Others are satisfied with simple gestures of appreciation. Be aware of generational differences that can affect what your staff may place a value upon.
  3. Measure morale. There are many large organisations who do annual organisation-wide culture surveys of their employees, which incorporate morale indicators. The feedback from the staff surveys is used as a barometer to identify areas needing attention
  4. Flexible working conditions. Many staff value the opportunity of telecommuting as a way of eliminating travel time from their working day, as well as the greater autonomy that it offers them. Not all jobs however lend themselves to this arrangement – and output must be carefully monitored to ensure the arrangement is not being abused
  5. Listen and act on feedback. A simple and yet powerful motivator for staff is feeling that they are listened to. So if an employee raises a concern or puts forward an idea and sees it quickly addressed, there is affirmation for them that they are valued. Exit interviews of employees who have resigned from their jobs show that one of the most common reasons for employee dissatisfaction is they have a poor relationship with their immediate supervisor or manager. Listening is a basic building block for any healthy relationship.
  6. Incentives and rewards for good work. In some workplaces, this translates to the use of an annual bonus above any CPI salary increase for the employee who has been appraised as performing at an “above competent” level. But the annual bonus can be too delayed. Think about smaller incentives such as movie tickets, gift certificates, trophies, club memberships, or paid “dinner for two” vouchers, or a day off. These things can be used as a more immediate way of recognising an employee who has gone above and beyond what was expected.
  7. Einsteinquote_000Match employee work to their interests and strengths. Look for opportunities, as far as reasonably possible, to delegate specific projects or assignments to staff based upon what you know they enjoy doing – as well as what they are good at.


8. Pizza / pancake / pie days. Create a fun, team environment where you have some special theme days and team lunches together. And of course you celebrate team member birthdays with cake, and you have your Cup Day sweeps, and your team gets behind some social causes like Red Nose day to raise money for SIDS research, or Movember, raising money for prostate cancer research. The main point is finding some things you can enjoy doing together as a team.

9. Remind employees how their work makes a difference. Most people want to feel their work is meaningful. A recent study by a psychologist at the University of Michigan indicates that a morale  booster can be bringing staff into contact with the beneficiaries of their work. ‘Front of house” staff have regular interaction with customers, get to see their happy faces and tend to gain a greater sense of being appreciated than “back of house” support staff. So for your support staff in particular, remind them how their work matters to customers and encourage opportunities for customer interaction. Encourage comments and feedback from customers and make sure you post and publicise praise so that all staff can see it.

In closing, when thinking about how to motivate employees also recognise that if a staff member is not motivated despite your best efforts, then it may not be your fault. If they are in a job that is simply not the right fit for their skills and interests then you both may be better served by helping them find another job that offers a better fit. .

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