If you’re currently a manager or interested in becoming one, one of the most important skills you need to develop is knowing how to motivate employees. Just as all people are unique, not all workers will be motivated by the same things. But having motivated team members is extremely important for company success, and the trend is not going in the right direction. According to a Gallup poll, employee engagement in the U.S. at the start of 2022 was 32%, a steady drop from 36% in 2020 and 34% in 2021.1
What can you, as a manager, do to encourage employees in order to boost employee morale and job satisfaction? Keep reading to find out.
Why motivated employees are important for an organization
Highly motivated employees benefit the company they work for in many ways. Employee motivation is directly linked to engagement, and when a worker is fully engaged in what they are doing, that’s good news for your business. On the other hand, if an employee is unmotivated and not engaged, they don’t feel enthusiastic about their work. There’s even the risk of people becoming actively disengaged, which can lead to low job satisfaction and may lead to particular problems like lessened employee productivity.2
Motivated employees are critical for business and result in:
- Better employee performance and higher productivity
- Greater creativity and innovation
- Stronger manager-employee working relationships
- Improved customer service
- A more positive company culture
- Lower absenteeism and turnover
- Stellar company reputation2
The quality of your team can make or break your company, which is why all managers should know about employee motivation tactics. Disengaged employees (and poor management) cost businesses money. By Gallup estimates, that cost to U.S. businesses is between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion annually.3
At the most basic level, motivated employees are engaged employees and engaged employees are at a lower risk of leaving an organization.6 But the benefits of employee motivation go much further beyond retention. Keeping employees motivated can have positive effects all across an organization from loyalty to finances.7
Employee engagement stats
Gallup compared employee engagement levels among top- and bottom-quartile business units and teams and found the following differences7:
- 23% increase in profitability for teams with higher employee engagement
- 18% increase in productivity at organizations that have high employee engagement
- 81% decrease in absenteeism at organizations where employee morale is higher
- Lower rates of turnover for both high and low turnover organizations
- 10% increase in customer loyalty and engagement when employee engagement is higher
The Four Drivers of Employee Motivation
The Four-Drive Theory of Employee Motivation was developed from research that shows four primary underlying drives that control a person’s motivation.4
These include the drive to:
Acquire and Achieve
This drive is fulfilled through the organization’s reward system for personal achievement. This system separates top performers from those who are average and below average, tying rewards to their performance and recognizing employees for outstanding work. This is often expressed by higher pay and internal promotions.
Bond and Belong
Through the company’s culture, this driver of employee motivation is satisfied by embracing teamwork, encouraging strong friendships and bonding and valuing collaboration. The desired culture is one where workers can get support from their peers, and company successes are celebrated and shared. The business puts employees first.
Challenge and Comprehend
This drive is satisfied mostly through the job and the company’s organizational structure. The company must ensure that the roles in the organization give team members the necessary challenges so that they can grow. This includes recognizing them as an important part of the company and giving them jobs that are meaningful and fulfilling. The employee should feel that they are contributing something of value to the organization, and the company’s organizational structure should provide ample opportunities for growth and promotions. Offering paid training gives workers new knowledge and skills.
Define and Defend
The organization’s vision, reputation and performance management system fulfill this drive. A company that has a strong reputation and vision can create an alignment with employees. The business should be seen as fair and ethical, providing important goods or services. It should also be open and transparent, innovative, cutting edge and well-respected.4
Right or wrong, employees tend to look to the company they work for to provide them with the motivation they need to excel. A successful organization focuses equally on all four drives.4 To motivate team members is not just the job of the manager. They must be fully supported by the HR department, upper management, and the entire organization.
How can managers motivate employees?
Although each person will respond differently to various techniques, several methods of employee motivation have proven effective. As you consider how to motivate employees for greater productivity and a more engaged team, try the 10 methods below.
1. Be strong but not harsh
People want to follow strong, courageous leaders who can make hard decisions and fight for the good of the team. A good leader must rise to the occasion during challenging times. This type of individual is a powerful role model for others, encouraging strength and perseverance in all team members. They instill strength in others by their example, and not by being controlling and domineering.5
2. Be a good communicator; give clear directions and constructive feedback
The best managers communicate clearly with their employees about the company’s expectations, plans and goals. A lack of clear guidance can make employees feel frustrated with management. By setting clear expectations, and goals, and providing context for what you are asking, workers will understand what is expected of them. It is also important to offer constructive feedback to the employee so that they can continue to improve and grow in their positions. 5,2
3. Be a role model instead of a preacher
Inspire admiration and trust through your actions rather than your words. Truly great leaders ‘walk the talk’ by demonstrating the behavior and integrity they want to see emulated in their staff.5 It's important that this is taken on by all types of leaders throughout an organization and not just the human resources team.
4. Treat employees with respect and invite feedback
The most respected bosses in the workplace don’t act like they’re better than everyone else. Instead of behaving arrogantly, seeing your leadership position as a sign of prestige, consider it a mantle of accountability to better serve those who report to you. This instills mutual respect which can in turn make employees feel heard.5,2
Invite, listen to and act upon employee feedback. This creates an environment of openness and inclusivity.2
5. Take an interest in team members’ personal and professional life balance
Consistent overtime hours can make employees feel resentful and quickly lose their motivation. Research shows that when the work week is greater than 50 hours, productivity sharply declines. Don’t punish your best workers by piling more work on them. Show interest in your team members' work-life balance. Provide them with resources to help them improve their overall wellbeing, such as allowing flexible work environments when possible. Also consider offering professional development opportunities. Listen to their needs. By focusing on employees’ mental and physical health and helping them to balance their work and personal life, you’ll create more loyal, motivated workers. 5,1
6. Use the company’s values and culture to guide your business decisions
Employees will have greater respect and trust if they see the company’s culture and values reflected in day-to-day operations. Companies that were flexible during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic addressed the needs of their workers increased employee wellbeing, performance and loyalty. This builds trust in the leadership and improves employee motivation.1
7. Be open about organizational changes and company direction
By communicating regularly with your team in a transparent way, you will motivate and inspire a sense of commitment. Managers should keep their team well-informed about any changes in the organization, as well as encourage discussion around the company’s direction and goals.1
8. Build positive relationships between managers and employees
The employee-manager relationship is at the center of employee motivation and engagement. Strive for regular two-way communication. Hold one-on-one meetings to understand what motivates each team member. Showing that you are invested in them will improve engagement and keep employees motivated.2
9. Focus on employee strengths rather than weaknesses
Examine each person’s strengths to find the best job within the organization. Focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses encourages employees to grow in their roles, encourages better work and builds a stronger business.2
10. Express gratitude and recognize achievements
Recognition is one of the best ways to keep employees motivated. Create an official employee recognition program and build a culture that celebrates employee successes as they occur.2
While the job of employee motivation is mostly the responsibility of the manager, the entire company must support these efforts in order for them to be successful. Managers motivate employees through respect, two-way communication and focusing on their strengths and achievements, while the HR department can support a reward system and ‘whole person’ approach. Upper-level management sets the tone for the company culture and reputation. However, it is the manager who puts the motivational methods into daily practice.
To be a successful manager who inspires your employees, you must have the knowledge and expertise to be a master communicator and strong leader.
Learn to Lead and Inspire Your Team
The Marquette University online Master in Management (MiM) program creates leaders who can inspire teams to great success. It's entirely online, multidiscipline curriculum teaches organizational behavior and development, leadership, human resource management, analytics and change management. Learn how to motivate employees, manage a diverse workforce, align business and talent management strategies and drive organizational transformation for high-impact results.
To advance your management career, speak with an Admissions Advisor today.
- Retrieved on August 21, 2022, from gallup.com/workplace/391922/employee-engagement-slump-continues.aspx
- Retrieved on August 21, 2022, from business.com/articles/the-benefits-of-highly-motivated-employees/
- Retrieved on August 21, 2022, from gallup.com/workplace/324131/future-top-workplaces-rely-manager-development.aspx
- Retrieved on August 21, 2022, from leadersbeacon.com/how-great-leaders-use-the-4-drive-model-to-impact-employee-motivation/
- Retrieved on August 21, 2022, from weforum.org/agenda/2016/11/70-of-employees-say-they-are-disengaged-at-work-heres-how-to-motivate-them/
- Retrieved on September 7, 2022, from business.com/articles/the-benefits-of-highly-motivated-employees/
- Retrieved on September 7, 2022, from gallup.com/workplace/285674/improve-employee-engagement-workplace.aspx