In today’s fast-paced world with a wide range of professional opportunities, ongoing business changes, and a large amount of (mis)information, keeping your employees motivated matters more than ever. Great companies have mastered the art of building a motivated team and use that to improve the company's culture and bottom-line.
Motivation is an intangible concept, yet such an important one for each company’s success. It’s difficult to measure and tough to control, but easy to apply when you know how to do so.
And while motivation can’t be achieved by following one method or applying a single technique - opting for a combination of them will definitely get you there. We want to share some insights to help you have highly motivated employees in your organization.
However, if you don’t quite know how to approach this, don’t worry, as this is where we step in with our article on the 22 most effective ways to motivate employees!
What Is Employee Motivation?
Leadership Development Ideas
Culture Building Ideas
Workplace Environment Ideas
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Employee Motivation?
Employee motivation denotes...
"how committed an employee is to his job, how engaged he feels with the company's goals and how empowered he feels in his daily work. Job motivation can be extrinsic or intrinsic, meaning an employee's motivating factors can come from internal or external sources. An extrinsically motivated employee wants to work well to gain praise, recognition or some financial reward from the company."
As you can see from this definition, employee motivation is all about how engaged and empowered workers feel with their everyday tasks, responsibilities, and accomplishments. Of course, it’s also about how willing they are to continue moving toward their future goals.
In general, employees feel motivated in situations where they:
can freely participate;
feel recognized for doing a good job;
can communicate their fears, expectations, worries, ideas, and suggestions;
sense there’s room for further professional development, knowledge growth, and career opportunities;
feel that there's open communication;
are given feedback when they're going the right direction, and so on.
That said, it’s worth noting that over time, the things that may motivate certain individuals may change. If words of encouragement motivated your employees to be more productive and engaged before, over time this incentive might lose its effectiveness and you might have to switch to rewards or team building activities instead.
That’s why it was important for us to include a wide range of strategies when it comes to motivating employees. And before we dive into them, let’s briefly focus on some employee motivation statistics.
Employee Motivation Statistics
Statistics are always useful because they show you where your business stands and in what groups your employees fall into. More importantly, they help employers make smart conclusions about a greater corporate population.
And employee motivation stats are no exception.
So, here are 10 thought-provoking employee motivation stats to help you reflect on the subject.
Employees are said to work 20% better when they’re motivated.
Motivated employees are apparently 87% less likely to quit their jobs.
Just 15% of employees worldwide feel motivated.
Employee engagement and motivation are said to reduce absenteeism by 41%.
Employers lose more than $5,000 every time an employer quits.
Companies with actively motivated employees have a 27% higher profit.
Over 42% of employees pay attention to rewards and incentives program opportunities when they’re considering employment opportunities.
Two-thirds of the staff are motivated enough to stay at their job with the presence of a motivational program for employees.
1 in 3 professionals cites boredom as the main reason for quitting.
Fewer than half of employees are aware of the company’s employee motivation strategy, tactics, and achievable goals.
Now, taking these stats into account, companies should be able to make smarter choices both for their company and their employees. And while numbers and statistics can’t magically motivate workers or “make” them do their job, they can help you understand what aspects you need to focus on so that you can come up with the right ways to motivate your staff.
22 Best Ways to Motivate Employees in 2023
There are many ways to motivate your employees, but not all of them work well among different workers and working environments. Plus, you don’t need just any methods - you need effective and versatile ways to boost the motivation levels in the office.
That’s why we divided our ideas into four separate categories, so let’s start with the first one.
Leadership Development Ideas
Leaders are known to be more or less always motivated to do their tasks and be a role-model for others, but when they help inspire and motivate the rest of their employees effectively, that’s when they’ve truly done their part.
There are numerous ways to approach this, and we discuss several of them below.
1) Be a leader worth following
Becoming a leader who’s worth following is probably one of the top three goals each employer has. However, wanting to become one and actually being one are two different things.
Employees want to have a leader who walks the talk.
To make sure you are one, you should:
give room for others to show their potential in the workplace;
own up to your mistakes;
learn from your fears and transcend them;
engage in self-reflection;
lead with humility, fairness, and kindness;
make an impact, and so on.
2) Practice empathy
You may not fully understand your employees’ feelings. You may not be able to truly relate to their experiences. And you might not comprehend their perspective at all times.
But if you have the willingness to try and do so, you’re already on the right track.
Empathy refers to the ability to understand a person’s feelings, thoughts, and decisions. Being empathic and trying to relate to another person’s experiences enhances an individual’s ability to develop a much deeper understanding not only of the other person, but the world in general.
This allows you to understand your own actions as an employer better, too, and opens the door for more productive conversations, stronger working relationships, fresh ideas, versatile approaches, and employees who feel heard and valued. Such an approach is especially welcomed when you deal with employees that have different backgrounds and perspectives from yours.
That said, employees should practice empathy among themselves too. As an employer, you’re just part of the puzzle. But the concept of empathy in the company should, of course, start with you. After you set the example, your employees are set to follow.
3) Be positive
Josh York, the founder and CEO of GYMGUYZ, said:
"I'm always pumping energy through the office. I'm really enthusiastic and want my staff to feed off that positive energy. Because culture is so important to me, I play music, have fun, joke around, and play games. We work hard, but we play hard too. You have to be in the moment and high-energy all the time!"
Deborah Sweeney, the CEO of MyCorporation, also suggested that
"Misery may love company, but negativity has never lifted anyone up. You feel better when you surround yourself with positive people. They encourage you to reach for the stars, work hard and stay focused on fulfilling your dreams. Positivity begets more positivity. Over time, you may find that even the most stubborn person in the office who refuses to enjoy something has a change of heart and changes to be more positive, all because you had such a great attitude."
In essence, having a positive attitude can do wonders not only for your mood and overall office atmosphere - it can have a tremendous impact on your workers’ motivation levels, too!
And since you’re the company’s leader, radiating positivity in the office is not an option - it’s a must. Indeed, a positive attitude by the company’s management can make all the difference in the office.
And you don’t have to do anything spectacular or drastic. It’s enough to show honest engagement, devotion, support, and openness to solve issues in a balanced way. It’s about not exhibiting frustration, desperation, or focusing on the times when things went wrong with a client. Going back to moments when your product launch failed isn’t a good option either.
In fact, being positive means being able to understand the lessons and the not-so-shiny-corporate moments. And that doesn’t just make you a “positive” employer, it also makes you a great role model for the rest of your workers.
That said, each person has their own share of bad days and sad moments. And no one expects you to be happy employees 24/7. In fact, it’d be wrong to suppress some negative feelings or ignore some bad news that may impact your business. But even in those moments, it’s all about how you approach the situation. Once you master that kind of behavior, your workers will be able to follow suit.
4) Lead with vision
Leaders should ensure proper employee motivation by having a vision, holding onto it, and seeing that vision through. A leader should be able to foresee the future, but remain present within the current circumstances and make their best effort to achieve their goals.
A leader’s vision should be credible, rational, feasible, challenging, clear, stimulating, and concrete.
To make sure employee motivation remains high, you should know how to apply that vision into practice. Here are some practical tips:
provide direction and focus;
explain work strategies;
outline business goals and make sure they’re met with success;
give enough business input;
engage in hard work and expect staff to follow suit, and so on.
Culture Building Ideas
Working on improving the company culture within your organization won’t only affect your employees’ motivation levels - it will also impact your overall brand and make you stand out in today’s crowded industry.
If these culture-building ideas are something you truly believe in, it will take little effort to implement them. You’ll also notice that your workers will accept them in a spontaneous manner, as they ultimately benefit them as well.
5) Prioritize emotional safety in the workplace
Emotional safety in a work environment refers to an environment where workers feel free to share their opinions, thoughts, worries, ideas, and suggestions with their peers and senior managers without worrying about how others might react.
Workers should also be allowed to openly discuss their views about specific topics and state their insecurities (or wishes) without being judged for it.
Such an approach matters because each organization is full of people with different personalities, characters, and behaviors. Some are more talkative whereas others are shy. Certain workers are better team players, whereas others have a much more individual approach. As such, employers need to make sure they can create a work culture that accepts everyone equally - and doesn’t favor one behavior over another.
That said, certain behaviors are indeed intolerable and unacceptable. We’re talking about behaviors such as sexual harassment, attacking colleagues either physically or verbally, making nasty jokes, mocking someone, gossiping about a peer or trying to set them up, and so on. Such behaviors have no place in a healthy work environment.
In essence, creating a work culture that values emotional safety is key to ensuring workers feel at peace in the office. Many employers believe their organizations are very tolerant, humble, and their employees are unprejudiced. However, all it takes for this perception to be “shattered” is a bad incident where a worker gets offended, mocked, or unfortunately in some cases even harassed.
Finally, emotional safety is very important because it not only helps employees feel protected and less worried, but it allows them to focus on their work and responsibilities in a much more effective manner, too. As Amy Leigh Mercree put it: “Emotional safety is feeling internally secure and confident in your life”. It’s your job as an employer to make sure your employees feel “internally secure and confident” in their work environment.
6) Create a company culture of recognition
Creating a culture of employee recognition in your company refers to the timely acknowledgment of a worker’s effort, behavior, contribution, and results. All of these are supposed to go hand in hand with the company’s values, goals, and expectations.
Recognition is one of the answers to the question of How to motivate employees?
There are many ways you can strengthen the employee recognition culture in your office. Here are just some ideas:
social media recognition;
surprise time off, and so on.
If you want to learn more about employee recognition ideas, we invite you to take a look at our 22 Best Employee Recognition Ideas for 2023 [Ranked] article.
7) Develop an attitude of gratitude
Apart from establishing recognition within the workplace, you need to focus on developing an attitude of gratitude.
Gratitude has many benefits in the office - from improved productivity and stronger interpersonal relationships to a happier work environment and high self-esteem and value. Plus, gratitude isn’t just about the connection between you and the employees - it’s an important factor when it comes to the connection they experience with the job they do daily as well.
This gratitude approach doesn’t have to be anything big - it may simply include greeting your employees when they come to work every morning, being respectful of your employees’ ideas and their time; recognizing their efforts even when things don’t work out as planned, and so on. Sometimes gratitude may even be expressed via something as simple as a “thank you” note.
8) Celebrate milestones
Without your employees’ continuous efforts, office expansions, remote employees, and client collaborations, it’s likely your company/organization won’t have grown into what it is today.
Whenever you celebrate employees' work anniversaries or your staff’s growth, you’re celebrating much more than the actual milestone. In other words, you’re celebrating all the projects your employee took part in, all the tasks they completed, the presentations they gave, the meetings they attended, the salaries and the bonuses they received, and so on.
However, by celebrating such milestones you actually show that you’re running a company that looks after its workers. It acknowledges their progression within your company and shows appreciation of the workforce in general.
This approach not only brings about higher employee motivation levels among your existing workers but also signals to future hires that your company is a good place to be a part of.
9) Welcome all ideas
Not all employees have great ideas, but it’s your task as an employer to be open to all of them. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to accept and apply them all, but you need to acknowledge the worker giving that idea so they don’t feel left behind or ignored. And this should be genuine. You can’t fake your way into listening to your employees’ ideas. Sooner or later, it may backfire.
Now, how is this connected to the notion of employee motivation?
Well, if you truly want to learn how to motivate employees, you need to be open to their ideas first. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
listen to your employees actively, even if you don’t agree with them at all times;
be open to opposing ideas;
have an open-door culture;
provide incentives for employees to share ideas;
show workers why ideas make a difference;
place equal value on ideas, regardless of where they come from, and so on.
10) Build a sense of purpose
Many employers believe employees should come to work with their own set of goals, values, and an overall sense of purpose.
And while many workers may not struggle with these concepts, the majority need a boost every once in a while. Put simply, they need a reminder of what it is they’re doing, why they’re doing what they’re doing, and how it’s supposed to be done.
Here’s what you can do to make sure you not only have a bunch of motivated employees in your office, but a bunch of workers with an unbreakable sense of purpose, too:
regularly discuss goals, objectives, and ongoing projects;
measure employees’ personal growth;
support concepts such as internal career development;
provide relevant employee benefits and ongoing support, and so on.
Workplace Environment Ideas
11) Ask employees for feedback
Asking your employees to pinpoint specific moments from a meeting, share thoughts, give opinions, and provide detailed feedback won’t be useful just for you, but it will make them feel important and valued, too.
Plus, it won’t just motivate them to work harder, it will also motivate and inspire them to come to you for more feedback in the future.
You can initiate such feedback discussions on a regular basis. You can ask questions such as:
I’m working on project X. What are your current thoughts about it?
What changes should I make to help other team members be more productive?
How do you prefer to get positive feedback about your work?
What kind of feedback could you give me about our Monday meeting?
Just remember not to get defensive if they share something that’s might be a bit negative. You want them to open up to you, and not shut down and never bring up the same subject again.
12) Give employees autonomy
Giving employees autonomy in the workplace means allowing them to work in a manner that suits them best. In other words, employees have the freedom to decide things such as how they work and when they work (although this one can be tricky to apply).
Workplace autonomy will be different in every company. Employers need to take into account their industry, work duties, employees’ schedules, responsibilities, and so on.
If you think work autonomy sounds a bit complicated or far-fetched, here are some benefits which may convince you to reconsider it:
There are higher levels of employee engagement and motivation;
It increases job satisfaction;
It boosts retention;
It helps employees prioritize tasks;
There’s more flexibility, innovation, and individuality;
It helps build a culture of trust, and so on.
13) Provide a healthy competition
A lot of employers think that creating a competitive atmosphere may have damaging effects on the workplace. However, unlike a hostile competitive environment, a healthy one increases:
performance and productivity;
creativity, and so on.
Now, how should employers stimulate such healthy competition in the office? Here are some ideas to get you started:
offer non-monetary rewards (as cash-based incentives tend to create more conflict and division);
develop a peer-to-peer-recognition program;
prepare team activities;
focus on inclusion;
approve of diversity;
encourage employees to develop their leadership skills;
schedule brainstorming sessions, and so on.
Finally, healthy competition may be a tricky aspect in every workplace, as many tend to think it may do more harm than good, but when you encourage it adequately, you’ll definitely see some positive results.
14) Encourage time off
Some employees can’t wait to go on a holiday, and then there are those who just can’t seem to leave the office.
Whichever group dominates in your office, you need to:
have a clear leave policy;
be transparent about sick days;
provide everyone with the same set of principles;
allow every person to use their holiday days;
limit vacation rollout (a “use it or lose it” policy so that employees can’t hoard days and never take them), and so on.
Plus, it’s important that you communicate the reasons and the benefits of taking a vacation from work. In other words, workers shouldn’t feel like they’re “running away” from work or be judged when they combine public holidays with their own vacation days.
Resting, relaxing, and taking some time off are not just beneficial - they’re necessary for people to function properly. You want productive workers, not burnt-out ones.
And if you have workers who are having a hard time understanding this, you need to shift their expectations and perception about leave/vacation days.
Finally, if you want employees to understand they could use some time off, we suggest leading by example and taking some time off yourself.
15) Change the scenery
Let’s face it - we could all use a change of scenery when it comes to where we work.
Even if you have the most equipped office and the most modern infrastructure - things may get monotonous after some time.
Allowing workers to take one afternoon a week to work from home, a coffee shop, or even just go to the beach, by the river, or to the park (depending on where your company is located) and work can significantly increase their productivity as well as motivation.
It really doesn’t matter where the employee goes - they can simply take their laptop and go to an area that feels comfortable and relaxing to them or a coworking space that’s outdoors.
Even studies have shown that working outdoors has a wide range of benefits, such as:
increase in employee morale and overall mood;
improvement in energy levels;
reduction of stress;
allows one to do their best work;
promotes generation of new ideas;
enhancing one’s memory, and so on.
That said, it’s worth noting that certain industries don’t allow for such flexibility, as the job itself seems to “tie” employees to the location itself. For instance, cleaners can’t really choose to go and work in the park, a company’s security guards can’t leave the building they seem to protect, and so on. Certain companies simply deal with a lot of sensitive data and personal information, and they’re not allowed to simply “wander” with their laptops.
However, there’s always some sort of solution. For instance, allowing workers to have lunch outside, take some time off when necessary, put more plants in their office, and so on.
All in all, it’s up to you to see what resonates for you and your employees based on your company and how it operates.
16) Establish a healthy work-life balance
Work-life balance is probably what all employers and employees strive to achieve. Yet, many seem to fail at it.
Such balance isn’t important just when it comes to how to motivate employees. It matters for employee retention, productivity, engagement, and overall performance, too. Of course, it matters for an employees’ overall life quality as well. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance prevents burnout, reduces stress, and helps people preserve their mental health.
Put simply, apart from meeting deadlines at work, employees need to have enough time to sleep, eat well, look after their wellbeing, and have hobbies that should fit in their schedules. And they should be able to enjoy these without having to worry about their work.
When this balance is disrupted, you not only end up with demotivated employees - you end up with poorer revenue, poor ideas, fewer suggestions, and a toxic work environment. This, of course, serves no one.
17) Practice transparency
Being transparent in the workplace means:
sharing your thoughts and opinions with respect and honesty;
leading candid conversations;
participating in sincere interactions;
disclosing relevant information;
providing timely feedback and constructive criticism, and so on.
On the whole, transparency matters in every organization because it establishes trust, better relationships among employees, improved productivity, as well as higher employee motivation levels.
Employee Development Ideas
You can’t secure high employee motivation levels in your company if you don’t allow your workers to continue working on themselves and expanding their knowledge.
Put simply, you need to ensure there’s a wide range of employee development ideas in the office. And you should make sure you’re constantly working on coming up with new ones.
In the meantime, we invite you to take a look at ours and start by implementing some of them.
18) Encourage employees to take ownership
Encouraging employees to take ownership helps not only in keeping them motivated but in accelerating their growth and ongoing development as well.
Here are just some of the potential benefits:
an understanding of what needs to be done - not just what they’re expected to do;
having faith in the process and being disciplined about it;
being aware of one’s responsibilities and potential consequences;
taking credit both for wins and loses;
taking full responsibility for one’s actions;
taking actions toward making things better, and so on.
19) Provide regular training opportunities
Many employers believe that employee onboarding is the first and the last training practice new employees should receive in their career, and they’ll be fine with all the knowledge and skills they possess so far.
But just because some of your employees don’t seem to show initiative to take part in regular training activities, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them the opportunity to do so.
So, when it comes to how to motivate employees more and how to make sure they engage in lifelong learning, here are some ideas you can start applying:
group discussions and activities suitable to your industry;
lecture-style training sessions;
books, and so on.
In essence, see what resonates with your employees. If you notice there’s interest in seminars/webinars and lectures, find a way to introduce those.
While your priority as an employer may be to find ways how to motivate employees, it’s pointless if you don’t apply the “right” ideas.
20) Create a career path
How to motivate employees to do their current job if they’re craving for more?
How to motivate employees to handle their daily tasks if they’re ready for more challenging ones?
How to motivate employees if they’ve outgrown their current role?
The answer is the following: create a career path they can follow. A career path helps you keep your best employees, attract top achievers, create a competitive work culture (in a healthy way), increase diversity in the workplace, and, of course, motivate employees further.
You can create a detailed career path by:
- creating/updating your company’s organizational chart;
(re)defining job positions;
creating a specific roadmap for each department, function, role, and team;
map out each worker’s personal career path as soon as you hire them, and so on.
That said, it’s worth noting that career paths are flexible and dynamic, so employees should know nothing is ever set in stone.
21) Figure out what makes your employees tick
No two employees behave or think alike, and this includes things such as work ethics, overall attitude, and organizational skills all the way to a professional set of values, ambitions, work priorities, and salary satisfaction.
However, all of them have a driving force behind their behavior. There’s “something” that pushes them to pursue their goals and achieve the desired outcomes. And it’s up to you to discover what makes each employee tick.
By knowing how to assess, explore, and learn more about the factors that influence how your employees feel and think, you’re able to get the most out of them.
And that’s when you can say you’ve truly understood how to motivate your employees.
22) Provide employees with an online platform
“How can an online platform help me with employee motivation?”, you may wonder.
But it’s not just about the online platform - it’s about what the platform provides, your general expectations, and how you and your employees decide to use it.
Introducing an online platform in the workplace can bring about a sense of connectivity, faster communication, neat planning, and higher employee engagement levels.
When it comes to choosing the right online platform, it’s important to consider opting for a user-friendly tool. You don’t want to pick a platform that’s complicated to set up and use, as it will be much more challenging for employees to incorporate the app into their everyday workflow.
There are other factors you need to take into account, such as:
your company’s goals - for instance, what are the objectives behind introducing such a tool?
the desired outcome - what expectations do you have moving forward with this platform?
budget - how much money is your company able to spend on this tool? Picking a cost-effective solution is always welcomed. For example, here at PulseMate, we tend to provide clients with one flat price for an unlimited number of users.
- features - do you wish to conduct surveys? Provide feedback? Ensure better teamwork communication? The answers will determine the type of tool you need.
All in all, it’s about opting for tools that resonate with you and your business structure. For instance, some employers may opt for project management tools only, or human resource management systems, whereas others might look for platforms that come with pulse survey tools such as ours.
Frequently Asked Questions
What tools should I have to motivate my staff?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to how to motivate employees.
The tools you can use may range from everyday communication platforms and simple surveys, to social media platforms and various other mobile apps.
That being said, opting for a digital platform is the best option for any corporate context instead of solely focusing on social media apps, for instance. Just keep in mind that employee motivation extends well beyond any specific tools and platforms.
Are these ideas applicable to virtual teams?
Some of these ideas apply to virtual teams, others not so much. In essence, when you’re trying to find ways to motivate employees, you have to pick the ones that resonate with your current corporate situation.
For instance, if most of your team works remotely, you probably wouldn’t focus on the safety in the workplace idea as much.
That said, most of these ideas do apply to a wide range of working contexts (including online work), as they’re pretty much universal ideas that motivate all kinds of employees. Of course, it goes without saying they need to be applied properly, too.
What should I do if we don't have an HR manager to lead this process?
Although HR leaders and teams are concerned with the process of how to motivate employees, you can still apply many of these ideas on your own.
Sometimes employers know what resonates with their employees much more than their HR managers. Also, most of these ideas involve you as an employer directly anyway (which doesn’t mean that HR managers don’t have their place in companies/organizations).
And if you haven’t hired an HR manager yet, but are in need of one, you can always consult with an HR professional by outsourcing them or even talking to other employers and their experiences.
On the whole, employee motivation is a very important factor when it comes to ensuring your company’s progress, development, engagement, and employee retention, to name a few.
And while there are no shortcuts that will get you there, we hope our ideas about how to motivate employees will give you a head start.