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How to Improve Motivation in the Workplace: 10 Expert Tips

Performance Management
February 20, 2023
Rad time: 10min
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Behind any successful business sits a team of motivated employees, a.k.a. individuals who are invested in its success. As such, any organisation that knows how to improve motivation in the workplace will be able to also improve their rate of success and achieve more business goals. It is inevitable that every business would desire the secrets for how to improve motivation. 

So, along with pointing you to the types of motivation strategies here, we’re going to share tips and best practices for how to improve motivation. 

What is Employee Motivation?

Employee motivation is the level of energy, commitment and innovation that a company’s employees bring to their workplace on a daily basis. 

The word motivation stems from the Latin word movere, which translates “to move.”  Thus, motivation relies on movement, or a behaviour. In the workplace, employees who are motivated will channel their behaviours towards achieving goals and results. 

When you connect the two ideas, you realise that employee motivation is about an employee’s level of engagement, how empowered said employee feels, and how these feelings align with the organisation’s goals. As you can deduce, employers and organisations have a grand impact on employee motivation (but more on that soon).

Why is Employee Motivation Important?

One way to understand the importance of workplace motivation is to imagine disengaged employees and their effect on your business. When an employee is unmotivated, they will complete tasks at a slower rate, care less about their output, and also drag down the overall morale. Rates of employee absenteeism increase, as do the chances of staff turnover. 

Alternatively, motivated employees show up with a sense of eagerness to get the job done (and do it well), innovate and problem-solve with creativity, and spread their high energy to their colleagues and customers.

What are the Benefits of Employee Motivation?

Engaged and motivated employees contribute greatly to the outcome of your organisation. With their ability to remain productive and their genuine interest in their work product, businesses benefit from:

1. Increased Innovation 

Employees who feel aligned with the organisation’s goals and supported by their employers are more likely to think creatively and contribute to a culture of innovation. They have a desire to grow personally and professionally and they feel empowered to share their out-of-the-box ideas. 

2. Increased Productivity Levels

Most notably, motivated employees who work more productively and handle tasks proactively. In effect, companies can expect better revenue outcomes and greater levels of customer service. 

3. Better Reputation 

Companies that invest in their employees in every regard, from physical to mental wellbeing, are recognised for doing so. This level of interest and impact helps to develop a solid internal brand, which then trickles out to the business’ external brand reputation. 

4. Improved Retention 

When employees are motivated, well-taken care of, and satisfied with their jobs, their reasons to seek employment elsewhere decreases. Therefore, engaged and motivated employees can result in increased retention rates.

How Does Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards Motivate Employees?

When talking about motivation and how to improve motivation in the workplace, we’d be remiss if we didn’t break down the two categories of motivation, namely:

  • Intrinsic rewards: Intrinsic rewards are psychological and internal feelings, lie joy, personal fulfillment, learning, growing, and wellbeing. 
  • Extrinsic rewards: Extrinsic rewards are externally given to incentivise employees to be engaged, such as tangible rewards, extra perks, recognition, and the like. 

While extrinsic rewards are often used, they must be used with caution, as author Daniel Pink warns. He shares that extrinsic rewards create feedback loops that mirror what drugs do to the brain in that the more frequent they are, the more doses are needed more often. 

These types of rewards can be beneficial for routine tasks, but they can have adverse effects on creative tasks. Instead, the focus should be on fostering intrinsic rewards and feelings by caring for employees’ mental wellbeing and development. 

By doing so, employees are able to foster a positive mindset that is more open and resilient to be able to overcome challenges. With tools and techniques at their helm, employees can manage their stress levels, approach change with open arms, and feel confident to ask for what they need to be their best selves. 

While rewards do have their time and place in work settings, without proper mental wellbeing, rewards and recognition will fall by the wayside and lose their effectiveness. Employee mental wellbeing serves as the foundation for employee motivation, resilience, and focus.

What Drives Employee Engagement and Motivation?

It’s pivotal to understand the relationship between employee engagement and employee motivation. We’ll share a brief overview here: 

What separates an engaged employee from a disengaged employee is the quality of their motivation. When you optimise an employee’s motivation levels on a daily basis, this can promote long-term engagement. This comes with making sure an employee’s job is:

  • Aligned - has value
  • Integrated - connected to a purpose
  • Inherent - feels compelling, stimulating, and interesting to that individual 

Employee engagement is also fostered relationally, through an employee’s relationships with peers, leadership, stakeholders, and customers. Employees should also feel like they have access to career development opportunities so they can grow.

Employees working together collaboratively
Photo from Unsplash

How to Improve Employee Motivation?

There are many different strategies for how to improve motivation in the workplace. Here are a few methods you can enact as an HR professional, manager, or executive of your business. 

1. Initiate Rewards and Recognition

Employee motivation is impacted by how valued employees feel. Whether you do so through tangible and monetary rewards or accolades and appreciation through recognition, employees remain aware of these shared sentiments. Read more on rewards and recognition here. 

2. Practice Goal Setting

When projects and timelines drag on interminably, employees may start to lose their motivation. That’s why it’s important to set attainable and visible goals so that employees can track their progress and see the end in sight.

3. Focus on Mental Wellbeing

It’s crucial that employees feel supported and have resources to take care of their own mental wellbeing. Employers can use employee wellbeing platforms that offer tools and techniques for employees to become their best selves. T

hese platforms allow employees to better understand their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. For employers, they can understand what aspects of their business may need extra support. 

4. Foster Teamwork

Collaboration and relationships can go a long way in inspiring, promoting, and protecting employee motivation. 

When individuals feel that their teammates have their back, they feel more confident to take chances and are more enabled to correct their own mistakes. It’s like playing a sport with cheerleaders and support systems versus with empty stands. 

5. Encourage Breaks

It may seem counterintuitive, but taking breaks can actually help motivate and recharge employees. From an employer standpoint, you can encourage breaks or team-building exercises throughout the day for employees to have a chance to relieve their work-related stress. 

For example, you can practice morning meditations in the office or have lunch-and-learns.

6. Provide Benefits 

By offering employees benefits and perks, you can show them your appreciation through action. These additions help improve employees’ lives within the workplace and outside of the office. When employees feel happier and supported, their loyalty to the company increases, as do motivation levels. 

7. Offer Autonomy

Motivation levels are at their optimum when employees feel in charge of their own day and time. You can encourage autonomy by allowing freedom of choice in the workplace. This can be in the form of flexible working hours or unlimited time off, to name a few. The simple feeling of being trusted by an employer can mean the world to an employee. 

8. Prioritise Transparency 

Relationships are built on trust, and work relationships are no different. Teams that trust their leaders and managers will feel more motivated and encouraged to work at their highest potential out of respect. Transparency also means that everyone is informed and in the loop, which helps make for better outcomes in itself.

9. Stay Healthy 

When employees are hungry, they’re not going to be motivated to focus on work. Consider keeping healthy snacks stocked if you have a team that works together in person. If you have a remote team, you can offer food stipends. By doing so, you can encourage your employees to stay fueled so they don’t lose steam. 

10. Incorporate Feedback 

Make sure employees feel heard and seen! This means that their suggestions, questions, and advice is received with open ears. You can solicit feedback with staff surveys, suggestion boxes, or even anonymous email inboxes.

How to Measure and Maintain Employee Motivation?

Once you implement some or all of the motivation methods, you may be wondering, how will you know if they worked?

Measuring employee motivation, just like knowing how to improve motivation in the workplace, isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. You can consider using employee engagement software, conducting 1-on-1 meetings with employees, analysing KPIs, or issuing frequent surveys. 

While these may work, they each have their own downsides associated like lack of honesty or inconsistency. 

In contrast with employee mental wellbeing platforms, you are able to give the power to employees to check in with themselves and be honest with how they feel. They have zero incentive to stretch the truth and complete security to be honest as only they can access the individualised data. 

They can begin to understand what impacts their mood and behaviours to become more self-aware. On the employer’s side, you will be able to reap anonymised data and patterns that pinpoint areas of your business that may need added support, such as a team, department or location.

It should be noted employee wellbeing platforms aren’t designed to directly measure employee motivation levels. However, they are equipped to support employees' mental wellbeing holistically, which naturally will improve motivation levels.

Final Words

When it comes to knowing how to improve motivation in the workplace, it’s useful to take a moment and consider how to motivate yourself everyday. While external factors play a role in how motivated you are to accomplish something, most of what you do, think, or say is a reflection of your mental wellbeing and how you feel internally. 

As an employee, when your internal self is in alignment with your job tasks and integrates with what the company is trying to achieve, you will likely be motivated to do your best.

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