Learn how to motivate team members at work by creating a culture where they can thrive.
Anyone who worked an office job in the 90s is familiar with the infamous motivational poster. You know the ones—a pithy quote floating in a black void with a nature-based picture looming above it. You couldn’t walk into a corporate working environment without spotting at least one hanging above the water cooler or gracing the HR Department’s door.
No matter how you felt about those posters, they were made for a good reason. Keeping employees motivated is a challenge that keeps many employers up at night—and who can blame them? Motivated employees work harder, require less management, and produce better results.
Unfortunately, few employees are entirely self-motivated. This is where your workplace culture works its magic. Our research shows that thriving cultures with great employee experiences are 13 times more likely to have highly engaged employees—and engaged employees quickly become motivated employees.
Use these employee engagement ideas to build an inspiring workplace culture that will motivate your people for years to come.
There’s no single thing that motivates all people, which is why managers need to learn what drives each employee individually. Take this opportunity to connect with your employees on a personal level—bond with them as their leader, mentor, and friend. When you get to know team members as people, you discover how to motivate them as employees.
Speaking of leadership, let’s talk about the dreaded “M” word. Nothing shows your employees you don’t think they’re capable quite like micromanaging. Instead of being a helicopter boss, you need to be a mentor. A recent study shows that when a leader is an active mentor, employees report a 102% increase in feeling motivated. Mentors give their people the tools they need to succeed—then trust them to get the job done.
The importance of trust in the workplace really can’t be overstated. Don’t keep significant company information from your team. Instead, treat your people like adults with the emotional intelligence to handle both good and bad news. Share your challenges to give them something to overcome and your successes to give them something to celebrate.
Few things are more demotivating than feeling confined by your job. If your business process allows it, try giving your employees more freedom through flexible schedules. This is a lifesaver for working parents, students, or anyone whose busy life requires adaptable working hours. A little flexibility now can lead to more employee happiness in the long run.
Most employees don’t have the chance to experience big successes in their daily routines, so you’ve got to provide the chance. An O.C. Tanner survey revealed that employees who participate in special projects and excel are 20% more likely to have an increased sense of success. And once your people get a taste of success, they’ll be motivated to get more.
It’s often difficult for a person to emotionally connect with an entire company, but a small group of people—their team—can inspire unshakable loyalty. And the more an employee cares about their team, the more likely they are to work towards its success. These working relationships often develop naturally, but you can help them grow by giving your people time and opportunities to bond with each other.
No one wants to feel like their ideas don’t matter—especially in the workplace. Research shows that when leaders dismiss employee opinions and ideas, 38% of employees become unmotivated. To combat this, encourage your employees to share their ideas. This gives you insider solutions for company problems and a chance to empower your people.
It almost seems too simple, but many employees are unmotivated purely because they haven’t been given what they need to do their jobs well. Often, companies spend thousands of hours searching for highly motivated people without realizing they’ve already hired them—they just don’t have the tools or resources they require to succeed.
An O.C. Tanner study shows when people do work that feels meaningful, there is a 49% increase in employees feeling highly motivated to contribute to their company’s success. You can improve employee engagement by building your company culture around a higher purpose, and then showing your people how their work helps you achieve it.
Once your people have a larger purpose, they’re going to need manageable ways to reach it. Set clear, attainable goals for your employees and give out recognition rewards when they achieve them. This will motivate your team by providing a step-by-step path to success.
Every healthy relationship is based on reciprocity—even professional ones. The more you care about your people (and show it through recognition), the more they’ll care about you (and show it through their work). It doesn’t have to be a lot—little things like providing healthy snacks and writing the occasional heartfelt letter go a long way.
Remember, you can’t force motivation. There’s no secret key that unlocks the motivation vault hidden in all employees. But you can make day-to-day choices to create a motivational culture that helps your people to feel inspired, driven, and fulfilled.
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