As a leader, part of your job is to motivate and empower your team. When people feel supported and inspired in the workplace, after all, a wealth of research suggests that they perform better. Which, of course, is good for business.
If you have come here, you are already in a great place! Wanting to be a better motivator is the first step in being a better motivator. If you are feeling inspired to motivate, after all, your team is already on a solid path.
What is employee motivation in the workplace?
Employee motivation in the workplace refers to the results of strategies used to incite passion and drive in employees. When employees feel like they have all of the resources they need to succeed, coupled with leadership that keeps them feeling inspired and aligned with overall team goals, they have a better shot at success. Motivated employees make business go 'round. They also keep clients and customers happy, which keeps them coming.
Employee motivation is important in attracting and retaining top talent. When job hunters can see genuine, authentic motivation amongst employees, they will feel more inclined to want to work for a company that has that effect. And people who are motivated not only want to stick around to get the job done, but also want to strive for more.
So, how can you inspire motivation among your employees? First, it's important to understand there are different types of motivation.
What are the 4 types of motivation?
There are four main types of motivation, each driven by something different.
Extrinsic motivation refers to motivation that comes from external sources. Extrinsic motivation may come from incentives like rewards, prizes and promotions. This can work, although appealing to extrinsic motivation too often may cause employees to have high expectations for compensation. Plus, people who are rewarded extrinsically may lack authenticity. They may not actually care about the goal but, rather, only have their eyes on the prize.
Identified motivation refers to motivation that's rooted in external sources that does not prompt action. Identified motivation happens when employees recognize that they need to get moving on an assignment, but they haven't done anything about it. It's on the mind, in the back of their head. The motivation to actually do something may take time to actualize. And, when it does, it may be powerful, since the motivation built up over time. But it's risky to wait around for the person to actually get to the point of "doing" what they need to do to achieve a goal.
Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is grounded in internal sources that causes someone to take action. In other words, the employee finds value in the goal that is aligned with their own values, and so they work hard to achieve it. They are motivated for their own personal reasons, without the need for motivation from external sources. The only problem with intrinsic motivation is that it is tough to assess. It is also difficult to determine what truly is anyones internal source of motivation, making it difficult to replicate.
Introjected motivation refers to motivation that is from internal sources but does not cause someone to take action. This is often a negative form of motivation rooted in bad feelings like guilt. The person knows they need to do something, and they do it, but they do it poorly just to get it done and check it off their to-do list. They have found it in themselves to get the work done, without external sources of motivation, but they just do not do the job well.
Why is employee motivation important?
Employee motivation is important because it helps people achieve their goals. Again, motivated employees tend to be more successful, which makes businesses more successful in the end, too. Basically, when everyone is aligned with a shared vision, all employees can work toward it together. But in order to want to work toward it, they need to be motivated in some way. Setting smaller achievable goals that benefit people personally, as well as benefitting the company, can help people feel motivated.
15 ways to inspire motivation in the workplace
There are multiple different ways to get people pumped up at work. Here are 15 ways to induce motivation amongst your team members. Just remember: Everyone is different, even if they each fit the company culture nicely! It's important to practice active listening in order to best understand each employee's unique needs and aspirations.
1. Share the company vision.
Sharing the company vision can help everybody on your team clearly understand the goals and the purpose behind what they are each individually doing. Knowing the "why" can help to motivate people to actually take action — especially if the why is partially personal. When everyone is on the same page, they can also work better together to get the job done.
2. Schedule regular check-ins with employees to discuss personal goals.
Scheduling regular one-on-one check-ins with employees is key. This way, you get to know their personal goals and aspirations so that you can help to motivate them to achieve those goals and aspirations. This private time together is also a great opportunity to discuss any blockers that may be in their way. For example, if they are motivated to complete an assignment but they cannot get to it or finish it until something else gets done first (something else that is out of their control!), you can help them to address that issue and get it corrected.
3. Create friendly competition.
Too much competition in the workplace can be toxic. You definitely don't want to be putting colleagues against one another. But creating some friendly competition can be healthy. It can motivate people to strive for more. For example, creating an "employee of the month" competition is a great way to get people to get excited about seeing their name up there. And it causes them to compete with their former selves more than it causes them to compete with their colleagues.
4. Set small goals en route to the loftier ones.
Smaller, more attainable goals can help to keep people motivated. While you want to have a bigger-picture end goal, setting milestones along the way can keep the excitement up! If people always feel like they're reaching for the impossible, they can easily get discouraged. But if they feel like they are making progress with small wins along the way, they'll gain more momentum to keep moving along in the right direction.
5. Incentivize goals.
Incentivize goals with things like promotions and rewards. Rewards could be bonuses, lunches, even coffee gift cards. They can be big or small. People love a good reward — it's like the light at the end of the tunnel. And, the more meaningful the reward, the better the chances are of the employees working hard to achieve their goals. You just have to be careful about creating too high of expectations with rewards for everything. After all, you want employees to want to be successful even without promises of rewards at the end.
6. Lead by example.
It is hard to motivate people to behave in a particular way or to work in a certain way or to collaborate together or to work well independently if they don't have a leader who does just that. Always lead by example by practicing what you preach. Show don't tell. If you want your employees to exhibit a certain work style, you need to exhibit it yourself.
7. Host team-building events.
Bring employees together with team-building exercises at different events you throw around the calendar year. Not only is this an exciting and fun way to get people to break out of their comfort zones and get to know more colleagues in the office (especially people across teams who may not typically work so closely together), but it is also a unique way to inspire motivation. When people love their coworkers or at least learn how to work well with their coworkers, they are more motivated to work together as a team. Remember that teamwork makes the dream work!
8. Promote people who perform well.
Promote people who deserve it! Of course, don't just go throwing around promotions to whoever. But, if someone genuinely deserves a title change, pay raise, or both, give it to them. When people feel recognized for their efforts, they keep them up! And when others see that there is a path to growth for them because they have seen their friends at the office get somewhere, they will be inspired to work harder, too.
9. Have collaborative team meetings.
Always bring the team together to talk about concepts, complications, concerns, and more together. You know, as a team. This dedicated time together can be a great opportunity for employees to help lift each other up, pass the mic, advocate for one another, give credit where credit is due, address blockers, and more.
10. Communicate expectations.
Communicate your expectations clearly. If you want to see something get done in a certain way by a certain time, let that be known. Without expectations, employees may feel lost and unmotivated. With expectations, they will know what they need to do — or they will know what resources they need to ask for in order to get done what they need to do. Expectations is the first step to getting the work done.
11. Set deadlines.
Deadlines can help put some pressure on people to get to work. It may help to keep procrastination at bay (unless the deadline is too far away, which can have adverse effects!). And it can be helpful in keeping everyone on the same page about those aforementioned expectations. Make sure that the deadlines are reasonable, so people feel motivated to get the work done without feeling stressed and rushing through it all. But make sure that the deadlines are not too wide, or people may leave the work to the very last minute and prioritize other stuff before it.
12. Delegate work in a manageable way.
Delegation is key. A great leader is someone who can properly delegate work so that it gets done in the most efficient way possible. To do this well, you need to deeply understand each team member's skills, strengths, and weaknesses. When things are done in an efficient manner, it is easier to motivated without losing steam.
13. Allow people time to recharge.
Time off is so important. Research shows that, when people take the time off that they need to recharge their batteries and reset, it helps them come back feeling more creative, inspired, and, you guessed it, motivated! Sometimes they just need a break, especially if they are feeling like they are burning out. And when they can return to the office with a clear mind and a sharper vision, they will do better! When this happens, better business happens.
14. Keep an open-door policy.
Let it be known that your door is always open so employees feel comfortable talking to you about questions or concerns they may have. When people feel like they can be vulnerable and honest, there is a stronger culture of trust in the workplace. And trust breeds motivation.
While you do not necessarily need to literally keep your door open at all times so people can waltz in with anything (this can be incredibly distracting), you should regularly check in and remind your team that they can schedule time to chat whenever they need it. In the same vein, being open and honest with them can help them to feel more comfortable being open and honest with you.
15. Be a good listener.
Again, it is so important to be an active listener. At the end of the day, even if everyone on your team is working together toward the same common goals, each and every one of them is human. Everybody has their own unique needs, goals, and aspirations. Listening to understand those can help you be a better cheerleader for them. It can help you to better accommodate their needs, address any issues in a constructive way, inspire them, and help them to become personally successful, too.
About the Career Expert:
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist for a gamut of both online and print publications, as well as an adventure aficionado and travel blogger at HerReport.org. She covers all things women's empowerment — from navigating the workplace to navigating the world. She writes about everything from gender issues in the workforce to gender issues all across the globe.