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.

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.

Importance of employee motivation

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.

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

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.

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.

The best ideas to motivate employees

Your sole interest as the owner is to see your business growing. For this purpose, you can use all the levers and fancy tools you want, but if you don't motivate your employees properly, all your attempts are in vain.

If you are looking for tips to boost your employees’ motivation, here are 20 simple ideas to keep you and your team motivated:

  1. Recognize great accomplishments: employees’ motivation improves significantly when their work is acknowledged and recognized by the superiors.
  2. Demonstrate trust: let your employees know you trust them and they won’t disappoint you. A vote of confidence values more than you think.
  3. Allow flexibility: for the younger generation is the most important factor, followed by the salary. Be flexible about where they work, when they work and how they work and they will be highly motivated.
  4. Give purpose: make sure the employees know the purpose of their work and emphasize the importance of each ones’ activity.
  5. Set measurable goals: this provides a change for the better of the employee’s motivation each time a goal is achieved and keeps the team on the right track.
  6. Celebrate results: setting measurable goals offers plenty of opportunities to celebrate hard work. If you want to motivate your team, be specific, let them know who and how they contributed to the organization's great results. You can use our thank you letters if you need some inspiration.
  7. Support new ideas: encourage, support and when it’s possible, implement your employees' new ideas. Listen carefully to their proposals, as they are the best at what they do.
  8. Stay positive: positivity plays a great role in the success of your business, which is why it is so important to find ways to bring positivity in all your team’s interactions.
  9. Insist on work-life balance: an organization that has a culture that prioritizes work-life balance yields increased motivation and overall happiness and satisfaction in the workplace.
  10. Take regular breaks: let your employees recalibrate their minds. Taking a break every hour or two has positive effects on the body and mind of the employee and thus on the company.
  11. Have 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.
  12. Offer promotions and bonuses: not every position has an opportunity for advancement and this is discouraging for employees. You have to find ways to motivate them financially and give them a sense of forward career movement.
  13. Be clear and transparent: like any relationship, the work relationships are built on reciprocal trust.Defaulting to transparency is one of the best ways to encourage an atmosphere of trust amongst you and your team, and a team that trusts you will be more motivated and engaged with their work.
  14. Show the bigger picture: understanding the purpose behind work is seeing how it fits into the larger picture. You can help boost motivation in the workplace by ensuring your team understands how each of their efforts affects the organization, customers, and the community. Talented employees will go above and beyond what you expect of them.
  15. Let them lead: during meetings and whenever is possible, let a different team member lead the conversation and the topics discussed. Not only can they share their opinions and be heard this way, but they are motivated to make their words and ideas happen afterward.
  16. Encourage teamwork: focus on the individual is vital, but you also want to motivate teams and groups. Teamwork is one of the greatest motivators out there. Knowing that your colleagues have your back and support you is an amazing feeling.
  17. Help them continue learning: offer to pay part of tuition, or send them to classes and training. Build their confidence and motivate them by helping them learn more.
  18. Set an example: be the kind of leader they want to follow. Work side by side with them. Be their colleague rather than their manager. Make it clear to them, by what you do, that you don’t ask anything of them that you don’t ask of yourself.
  19. Get rid of systems that proved wrong: Your loyalty is to your employees, not your system or procedures. If it is not working, show them you’ll scrap it for their sake. Being locked in a bad system is demoralizing and makes them powerless. Optimize your people processes and switch to cloud HR systems.
  20. Create workplace traditions and rituals: Give your employees something to look forward to, something that is unique to their place of work. Make traditions in the office that they can call their own. This positive feedback loop motivates all team members.

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.

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