The Importance of Employee Motivation

We all have days when going through daily activities is a pleasure, like a cruise on a calm sea. Nevertheless, inevitably, there are days when we want to be anywhere but work. Everyone faces changes in their disposition, but a little daydreaming or feeling low never hurt anyone. Still, this can quickly become a problem if the employees feel constantly disengaged and they lack motivation for longer periods.


Competition to attract and retain top talent – both for office and frontline workers – will further compel employers to expand and innovate total rewards packages that support employees in and outside the workplace. The spotlight on mental health, financial wellness, childcare, motivation, shifts that work for all, and an individual's sense of meaning at work will burn even brighter as the new generation floods the workforce. As employees continue to expect more from their employers, organizations that take a proactive, equitable, and inclusive approach to support the entire individual will reap gains in productivity, engagement, and loyalty.

Undeniable, for employees, money is the most important aspect of why they come to work every day. But it is not the only one. You, as a manager, have so many other systems and tools available to motivate precious candidates to choose you and employees to work better and stay longer in your company.

Get to know the environment where your business activates, know your employees and learn what motivates them to work efficiently for your company to stay on top of a constantly developing market.

If you're looking to identify what motivates employees to stay longer in a company, you might also consider our guide on employee retention where we detail 10 strategies to motivate your employees to be more loyal to the company.

How to motivate employees? 10 Methods to motivate employees

Your only interest as a manager is to see your business grow.To this end, you can use all the levers and sophisticated tools you want, but if you don't motivate your employees properly, all your attempts are in vain.

If you're looking for tips to boost your employees' motivation, here are 10 simple ideas to keep you and your team motivated.

1. Recognize the achievements of colleagues

Employee motivation improves significantly when their work is known and recognized by superiors.

Small and medium-sized businesses can take small steps to value and recognize employees' work. With small gestures, you can show that you care about your employees and their contributions. Such gestures increase employee morale, and if you implement a system, it can have important results.

Here are some examples of how you can appreciate the work of the staff:

  • Send a thank you letter
  • Celebrate 3 years of working together
  • Invite your colleague for coffee or lunch
  • Give yourself a few days off
  • Throw a party for the successful project.

2. Invest in professional and personal development

Employees who have the opportunity to learn continuously and are challenged in the workplace by their managers to become better are motivated by a sense of achievement and personal development. This challenge may be accepting a different role, managing a new or more valuable project, or representing the company and speaking in front of the public, even though the colleague has not done this before.

Employees whose work allows them to contribute to a greater cause they believe in are driven by a greater sense of achievement and purpose, which also helps boost staff confidence in their own abilities.

Another example of how they can develop at work is to take over management activities. Let them lead: During meetings and whenever possible, let another team member lead the conversation and the topics discussed. Not only can they share their opinions and be heard that way, but they are motivated to make their words and ideas happen afterward.

Also, help them to continue learning: offer to pay part of their tuition costs or send them to vocational training courses. Through education, their confidence and motivation will be on another level.

3. Build a positive and healthy work environment

A pleasant experience at the workplace increases both the productivity of employees and their motivation. A work environment where employees have a sense of belonging and feel that they are contributing to the company's success. To create a pleasant working environment you need to consider a number of aspects:

  • Fairness. Fair treatment of all employees helps to generate trust in the organization
  • Positivity. This aspect plays an important role in the success of your business, which is why it's so important to find ways to bring positivity into all of your team's interactions.
  • Regular breaks. Employees are not machines. They need to recalibrate their minds. Taking a break every hour or two has positive effects on the employee's body and mind, and thus the company.
  • Work-life balance: An organization that has an organizational culture that prioritizes work-life balance produces increased motivation and overall happiness and satisfaction at work
  • Workplace traditions and rituals: Give your employees something to aim for, something that is unique to their workplace. Create habits in the office that employees can call their own. This positive feedback loop motivates all team members.
  • Security and certainty. High levels of uncertainty in the organization make employees feel insecure and threatened. This has a negative effect on employee performance and productivity levels.

4. Promote flexibility in the workplace

When it comes to Gen Z, workplace flexibility is a very important factor, followed by salary. Be flexible about where they work, when they work, and how they work, and they will be highly motivated.

A flexible company is a company that allows you to make up a lost hour, one that allows you to work from home, or if you have to go to the office, you can go. Flexibility can also be in working hours. It doesn't matter if you start very early or later, each of us has certain hours when we are productive. And a flexible manager understands and accepts this as long as the job gets done.

5. Improve team dynamics

The way you work, relate, solve problems, collaborate and socialize in a team has an important role in motivation and job satisfaction. Teammates may be different, but if you have the same professional values and work to create things together, it boils down to success.

Here are some activities that contribute to team dynamics:

  • Encourage teamwork: Focusing on the individual is vital, but you also want to motivate teams and groups. Teamwork is one of the biggest motivators. Knowing that your teammates have your back and support you is an amazing feeling.
  • Be clear and transparent: Like any relationship, work relationships are built on mutual trust. Being transparent is one of the best ways to foster an atmosphere of trust between you and your team, and a team that trusts you will be more motivated and engaged with their work.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to contribute. Employees must have adequate opportunities to contribute at a level commensurate with t heir capabilities. If they don't feel appreciated, they may feel threatened, which negatively affects their performance.
  • Organize team-building activities. The benefits of such events are numerous from improving communication, planning and collaboration skills. But when teams change, because some colleagues come, others leave, projects are constantly changing, and it takes a lot of time 1-2 days of respiro, where employees can connect in a different context, even funny is welcome .

6. Offer opportunities for promotion and bonuses

Offer promotions: Not every position has an opportunity for advancement, which discourages employees. You need to find ways to motivate them financially and give them a sense of career progression.

Remember that money is obviously a very important aspect when recruiting a new employee. And if this meets your needs and lifestyle, then in time you should focus on other aspects of motivation.

Well known author Daniel Pink, in the book to Drive, highlights research-backed reasons why the reward and bonus system does not work as expected because:

  • They can destroy intrinsic motivation.
  • May decrease performance.
  • They can paralyze creativity.
  • I can eliminate positive behaviors.
  • They can encourage lying, quick fixes, and immoral behavior.
  • They can be addictive.
  • They can stimulate short-term thinking.

7. Relationship with direct boss/manager

How often have you had a toxic boss and wanted to leave the company, start looking for a new job, or even make that change? The same can be the case with the staff you are responsible for. To demonstrate that you are a good manager who supports your colleagues, we recommend a series of ideas:

  • Support an open door policy: When employees know their voice is heard and that it matters, they feel motivated and confident about their position within the company.
  • Avoid micromanagement. Specifically, don't be that person who has to constantly control the smallest details, who is unrealistic about delivery times, and who ignores the experience of colleagues.
  • Show confidence. Let your employees know that you trust them, and they won't let you down. A vote of confidence appreciates more than you think
  • Support new ideas. Encourage, support, and, when possible, implement new employee ideas. Listen carefully to their pitches because they are the best at what they do.
  • Be an example. Be the type of leader they want to follow. Work side by side with them. Be their colleague rather than their manager. Make it clear that by what you are doing, you are not asking anything of them that you do not ask of yourself.
  • Make appointments. As a manager, we recommend having 1-on-1 meetings with staff. In these meetings, you can strengthen your relationships with colleagues and, through feedback, find out what activities keep them busy, if you are experiencing difficulties, and ask about aspects such as motivation and if they need the training to improve their skills. If you see a drop in productivity, don't hesitate to ask about your personal life and relationships within the team.

8. Use applications that facilitate digital transformation

Get rid of systems that have been proven wrong: Your loyalty is to your employees, not your system or procedures. If they don't work, show them you're going to ditch them. Being stuck in a bad system is demoralizing and makes staff powerless. Optimize your HR processes and move to cloud HR systems.

9. Effectively communicate future plans

Effective communication between management and employees about organizational goals facilitates informing employees, reducing errors, and improving company performance. Here are 3 critical elements that must be communicated to benefit from such advantages:

  • Clarify the big picture: Understanding the purpose behind the work is seeing how it fits into the big picture. You can help increase motivation at work by ensuring your team understands how their efforts affect the organization, customers, and community. Talented employees will go above and beyond what you expect from them.
  • Set a purpose: Make sure employees know their work's purpose and emphasize its importance.
  • Set measurable goals: This provides a change for better employee motivation every time a goal is achieved and keeps the team on track.

10. Celebrate the wins

When a significant project has been completed, or after you have successfully completed a conference or had a great quarter - do not let things pass as if nothing happened. Celebrate these outstanding results with your colleagues.

A saying goes, "Work hard, Play hard." These elements will not go unnoticed. They will create a special dynamic in the team and will energize colleagues. We notice that some companies celebrate success as following:

  • Invite colleagues to a restaurant,
  • Give a few extra days off
  • Go bowling with the team
  • Give a coffee card.

Remember. You will have several colleagues with you to grow the company and develop it. You must find out what motivates them and provide as many such experiences as possible to keep them close. Staff turnover is high, and companies with processes to make employees feel appreciated, valued, and rewarded will be with the company in difficult moments and when you celebrate successes.

Top Motivational Theories

As an HR Manager or CEO is important to know the motivational theories:

1. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Five needs in Maslow's theory of work motivation

  • Self-actualization
  • Esteem
  • Love and belonging
  • Safety needs
  • Physiological needs

Image via Simply Psychology

2. McClelland's Three Needs Theory

McClelland approaches the needs also in order of importance. They are best explained visually in a pyramidal format.

  • Need for Power
  • Need for Achievement
  • Need for Affiliation

3. Herzberg's Motivation Theory

Known also as the Two-Factor or Hygiene Theory, Herzberg's Motivation Theory is exemplified through two categories:

  • Motivating factors– achievement, recognition, growth, responsibility, advancement, the work itself.
  • Hygiene factors- security, status, salary, supervision, work policies, and work environment.

Image source Marketing91

Wrapping up

In the near future, policies will continue to be revised by both organizations and legislation with a focus on people-centric solutions that motivate employees, allow them to celebrate, recover, manage life events, care for others, and grieve on their own timeline.

Revising time-off policies and enacting creative motivation solutions will arm organizations with a competitive edge for top talent in parts of the world with low unemployment while helping businesses comply with and stay ahead of growing regulation.

According to psychologists, self-realization is a very human thing. It is our basic nature to nurture something and see it flourish, it is applicable to most things we do in our day-to-day life. This is true for both social and societal spaces.

Motivation plays a very important factor in a human's life. Whether it is about improving ourselves or our organization's performance. Motivated employees don't need to be told how to get things done, they take initiatives, are eager to take up additional responsibilities, are innovative and go-getters.

Motivation, therefore, plays a very important factor and ensures employees remain active and contribute their best towards their organization.

Frequently asked questions

What is employee motivation?

Employee motivation is the level of energy, commitment, and creativity that a company's workers bring to their jobs. Motivation is a behavioral progression that instigates an individual to move toward a goal and guides him in the process. Motivation can help someone become independent and live the desired lifestyle. It equips one with the leverage to explore limits and survey ideas and ideals.

Employees seek more than money; hence cash or cash-like rewards are no longer sufficient to motivate them. Members of the younger generation appear to care more than older workers do about intangible rewards; they want to feel their input makes a difference within their circle of collaborators.

What employees crave is to feel that their managers appreciate them and aren't afraid to show it, not only in paycheck terms, but in other ways such as flexible work-at-home schedules, gift cards for pulling off impressive projects, or even just by saying “thank you” for a job well done.

Finding ways to motivate employees is always an employee management concern. Employee motivation can sometimes be particularly problematic for small businesses. The owner has often spent years building a company hands-on and therefore finds it difficult to delegate meaningful responsibilities to others. But they should be mindful of such pitfalls: the effects of low employee motivation on small businesses can be harmful. Such problems include complacency, disinterest, even discouragement. Such attitudes can cumulate into crises.

On the other hand, a small business can provide an ideal atmosphere for employee motivation: employees see the results of their contributions directly; feedback is swift and visible. A smoothly working and motivated workforce also frees the owner from day-to-day chores for thinking of long-term development.

Furthermore, a tangible and emotional reward can mean the retention of desirable employees. People evolve in creative work environments and want to make a difference. Ideally, the work result itself will give them a feeling of accomplishment—but well-structured reward and recognition programs can underline this consequence.

Why employee motivation is important?

Motivation in itself is a highly complex activity and affected by many factors in the business. The benefits of employee motivation are numerous; however, we would like to list a few of the most important:

  1. Results in profitable business
  2. A more productive workforce
  3. Reduces stress and anxiety
  4. A better understanding among team members
  5. Minimize disputes among co-workers and management
  6. This leads to satisfied employees
  7. The better overall use of human resources
  8. Improves the level of efficiency of the employees
  9. This leads to the stability of the workforce
  10. Leads to achievement of company goals
  11. Puts human resources into action
  12. Develop a positive attitude
  13. Reduce absenteism
  14. Improve performance level
  15. Leads to creativity, exploration and innovation
  16. Lowers employee turnover
  17. Faster acceptance of organizational change
  18. Overall increased efficiency and output
  19. Fosters employee loyalty
  20. Lower training and recruitment costs.
Tip: We provide a curated list of more than 100 motivational quotes to engage and inspire employees.

Now, when someone asks you why employee motivation is important, you will have some good arguments to share.

What are the types of employee motivation?

There are two types of motivation controlling our lives and influencing our decisions and actions:

  • The intrinsic motivation, in which an individual seeks motivation from his/ her heart and mind;
  • The extrinsic motivation, in which outside factors and events motivate a person to do certain things.

Both Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivations have different effects on the overall lives of people.

Understanding intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is key to performance management. If you, as a manager, spend all your time trying to incentivize great performance through external motivators when an employee's motivation really lies within, you will not only waste time and money, but also you will lose the interest of your top performers.

In our modern knowledge-based society, using money or any other cash-like rewards as motivators without appropriate recognition increases the employee' s extrinsic motivation and erodes the intrinsic motivation.

The intrinsic motivation

In the book, “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions & New Directions”, Dr. Richard Ryan and Edward Deci are describing the intrinsic motivation as “the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequence".

Employees experience intrinsic motivation when they feel that the work they are performing is coherent with their beliefs, personal values, and goals. Intrinsic motivations are typically tied to some deep sense of personal satisfaction, which can be tremendously beneficial for employees.

Intrinsic motivators come from within; they are more psychological than extrinsic motivators. In fact, some experts go so far as to say that intrinsic motivation is the only type of motivation that leads to serious success. When employees are intrinsically motivated, they are more likely to perform well and get promoted.

Intrinsic motivation can come from several sources, including the desire to please a manager, to improve a particular skill, or to further the company's mission. Intrinsic motivation is the reason why personal development objectives are so important to successful performance management.

Examples of Intrinsic Rewards

To fully motivate employees, managers need to lean on intrinsic motivators. The following are examples of intrinsic motivators that should be incorporated into every organization's performance management system:

  • The Pursuit of Knowledge
    Human beings have a general thirst for knowledge; we are always seeking to learn more. Top performers and leaders tend to have strong desires for knowledge and self-improvement. These appetites should be supported in the world of work if we really want to keep high flyers engaged.
    Companies can encourage the pursuit of knowledge by providing ongoing training opportunities and helping employees create and follow personal development plans.

  • A Sense of Meaningfulness
    Employees want jobs they actually care about, and they want to know their efforts make a real difference to their teams, managers, and companies. The best way for companies to give employees a sense of their own importance is to keep the lines of communication open. Managers should take time to explain thoroughly to employees both the company's mission and how each individual's efforts contribute to the company's overall success. This will help employees feel like valued parts of a team, significantly contributing to their sense of accomplishment.

  • Autonomy
    It has become increasingly clear that employee autonomy is crucial to engagement. In fact, extrinsic motivators like increased pay often pale in comparison to intrinsic motivators like improved flexibility and autonomy.
    Employees with autonomy seek more responsibility, increased trust, and freedom to perform work their own way. Companies and managers can accommodate this by simply releasing the reins and cutting back on micromanaging. This doesn't mean letting go of control altogether. Regular one-on-one meetings are always required to check in on employee performance. However, giving employees the freedom to pick their hours or approach work from a different angle could pay off in the end.

The extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation is easy to understand. Companies have been trying to motivate their employees extrinsically for a long time.

Extrinsic motivation is the motivation that comes from the external world. Extrinsic motivators tend to be financial or tangible. They generally come in the form of an increased salary, a bonus, a company car, or a promotion. These rewards, as you can tell, are external to the work itself. It is also worth noting that the form of an extrinsic reward is usually determined by someone else, such as the employee's manager.

Essentially, those who are extrinsically motivated do things primarily to receive a reward. According to this logic, an employee doesn't perform well because they enjoy a certain sense of satisfaction or they want to help the business thrive. Rather, they perform well to earn material compensation for their efforts, such as salary or paychecks.

According to Alfie Kohn's article from Harvard Business Review, extrinsic rewards are not as motivational as we once believed them to be. In fact, for non-routine, mostly creative work, extrinsic motivations are generally considered a counterproductive form of motivation that should be avoided by the employers.

Eye-opening statistics about employee motivation and engagement

Employee motivation and well-being are finally taking center stage in the business world. For too long, they have been viewed as the responsibility of the HR department and not an integral part of business strategy. However, it is increasingly clear that unhealthy and unengaged employees are a drag on productivity, innovation, and the bottom line.

Healthy and engaged employees, working in a strong workplace culture, are the secret for business success. The following statistics underscore the need to make engagement and wellness strategic priorities for an organization.

Highly motivated teams show 21% greater profitability

According to Gallup, employee engagement consists of concrete behavior, not an abstract feeling. The report finds that the most successful organizations make employee engagement central to their business strategy. They give employees clear expectations and provide them with the tools and support to do their best work. Those teams who score in the top 20% in engagement realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% less turnover. Motivated employees show up every day with passion, purpose, presence, and energy.

89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing feedback and check-ins are key for successful outcomes

Based on the GloboForce survey on the importance of employee motivation finds clear and regular feedback to be critical. Feedback and recognition should always tie back to a company's core values and mission. Employees want to be reminded that their work has purpose and meaning. This is another reminder that employee motivation should be featured as a central part of the overall business strategy.

Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work

As this Salesforce report finds, ensuring that employees' voices are heard needs to be part of a larger push for equality and inclusiveness in the workplace. Companies with greater gender and ethnic diversity consistently outperform the competition. They more accurately reflect the diversity of society and reach more potential customers. Inviting more people to the table, and ensuring their voices are heard, is a win-win for everyone.

72% of CEOs believe the state of workplace empathy needs to change

Empathy is an essential part of emotional intelligence, the ability to identify and manage one's own emotions and be mindful of the emotions of others. Engagement and empathy are inextricably linked, and employees don't feel truly respected and empowered in an organization that does not show empathy. The results of a 2019 survey show that: 72% of CEOs said the state of workplace empathy needs to change, a 15-point increase over the last two years. Yet, despite this positive trend, the “Empathy Gap” (the difference between employees and employers in their perception of empathy in the workplace) is widening. CEOs believe things are getting better, but employees are not so sure: 92% of CEOs say their organization is empathetic, while 72 %of employees say they work for an empathetic employer, down 6 percent from previous years.

61% of employees are burned out on the job

CareerBuilder's survey on stress in the workplace finds 31% of respondents report extremely high levels of stress at work. The survey documents how those high-stress levels manifested in poor physical health (fatigue, aches and pains, weight gain) and compromised mental health (depression, anxiety, anger). These findings emphasize the connections between wellness and engagement, and how stress undermines both.

89% of workers at companies that support well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work

In organizations where employees do not view leadership as committed to their well-being, only 17% would recommend the company as a good place to work. The APA report stresses that employee well-being cannot be addressed separated, through a singular program but is instead a reflection of broader culture and climate within the organization.

61% of employees agree that they have made healthier lifestyle choices because of their company's wellness program

This is just one of many findings in an Aflac summary of current benefit trends. A comprehensive wellness program will help employees change their lifestyle and make better choices, resulting in higher productivity and job satisfaction. The same report finds that Millennials, more than any other group, factor in benefits like health and wellness programs in deciding whether to take or remain in a job.

What are the reasons why employee feel demotivated?

There are innumerable reasons that cause workplace demotivation and low morale, and they vary depending on the individual.

Here are eight of the most common reasons why people hate their jobs:

  1. Job insecurity
    Job security is the most important factor in employee motivation. If an employee is at an expendable job or working in an unstable company, he may just put in the necessary effort to keep getting his salary. The rest of his energy will be spent on updating his resume, gossiping with co-workers, looking for a more stable job elsewhere and planning his jump.
  2. Lack of progress
    The majority of employees feel happy when there is continuing learning potential in their company and they have a feeling of growing in their knowledge and skills. Even progress in the form of small workplace accomplishments are triggers for motivation. If on the other hand, employees feel uninspired and stagnant, their enthusiasm and engagement will drop.
  3. Micromanagement
    Micromanagement may be defined as a management style characterized by the manager closely (excessively) observing and supervising the work of his employees or subordinates. The manager may not mean any harm by his micromanagement; however, it can be irritating and bothersome to his employees. The reason is that it tells them he does not trust their judgment and thereby contributes to a loss of motivation.
  4. No recognition
    When employees are not recognized for a job very well done or immense efforts they have put in towards a project, they become demotivated. They lose interest and may not even want to try thinking innovatively, get some extra work done or even just perform their role with feelings of obligation and energy because their superior doesn't seem to care or notice their hard work and dedication.
  5. Unrealistic demands
    Ambitious managers may place heavy workloads upon the shoulders of their employees. Though holding staff to high standards is not a bad thing, it does become bad when managers cross the line by being too demanding. Asking employees to carry out the truly impossible or insisting that they complete projects over the weekends decrease the employees' productivity.
  6. Unpleasant coworkers
    Research from Gallup reveals that close friendships at work cause a 50% increase in employee satisfaction while having a close friend at work increased the likelihood of engagement in work by seven times. So, one can just imagine what would be the outcome of having bullying, intimidating or otherwise unpleasant or conflicting co-workers. Even if the job is well-paying and offers opportunities for career growth, if there are back-stabbers, the result would be misery and stress.
  7. Boredom
    Gen Y workers are known for seeking jobs that are personally satisfying and inspiring to them, but they are not alone. As the Huffington Post article reveals, 55% of Gen X and Gen Y workers believe that finding a job that is personally fulfilling is worth sacrifices in salary.
  8. Poor communication
    In the absence of information, rumors thrive. Employees end up guessing, confused, and frustrated. If there is not an avenue to communicate back to leadership for clarification, it gets even worse. Not only does clear communications throughout the organization make for an efficient workplace, but it also has a major impact on employee morale and confidence.

If you would like to become a better people manager, discover the skills that can boost your company results, employee motivation and team dynamics.

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