13 Ways to Motivate Your Team to Do Their Best Work
A happy, productive workforce is critical to the success of every business. In fact, research shows that employees who are motivated by and engaged in their work outperform their counterparts by over 200%. But outside of the promise of collecting a paycheck every two weeks, what motivates employees to do their best?
If your company culture is at a plateau and you want to breathe new life into workforce morale, there is good news. Some of the most effective employee motivators don’t cost a dime and a simple enough to try immediately. Here are 13 tips to motivate your employees to do their best work.
1. Share the “big picture”
Would you want to get on board a train every morning and ride it for eight hours if you had no idea where it was going? Of course not and your employees are no different. No matter what their role is in your organization, they want to see how their work contributes to the overall success of the company. Share your company mission with your team and then show them how the work that they do every day is in alignment with that goal. When employees feel like they are part of something important, instead of just punching a clock every day, they’ll be more likely to jump on board and take the ride with you.
2. Make professional development a priority
No one gets a job and thinks “This is as far as I want to go!! I don’t want to advance any further or get any more money.” It is human nature to want to advance and be recognized for our achievements. From their first day of employment, start talking to your team about what they want to accomplish in their careers. Document their responses and revisit them frequently. If your team feels as if the company is invested in their growth, they will be far more invested in the company.
3. Create a culture of transparency
Many organizations keep their executive teams behind a velvet rope--untouchable and unreachable by the majority of the workforce. As a result, employees begin to feel uneasy about the decisions being made by leadership teams and are afraid to speak up if they see a potential problem. To the extent possible, have your leadership team share updates with employees. Encourage the team to ask questions. In doing so, you’ll build trust between employees and executives and allow employees to focus on their work instead of fear of the future.
4. Give employees the right tools
Often, we present our teams with aggressive goals and a list of expectations, but not with the right tools to accomplish what we’ve asked them to do. Ask your team what is preventing them from doing their work more efficiently. Does the technology they use every day get in the way of good work or support it? If it’s clear that your tools and applications are falling short, it’s time to re-evaluate and choose solutions that will enable your team to do their best work.
5. Provide regular feedback
Don’t wait until a regularly-scheduled review to let your employees know how they are performing against their goals. Check in with regularity to see how your team feels they are doing if their projects are on track, and to see if they need any extra support from you. It’s an opportunity to support employees who may be struggling, and a chance to highlight top performers who consistently over-achieve.
6. Reward high performers
Speaking of those high-achieving employees-- don’t take them for granted. In many organizations, top performers are met with a few compliments here and there...but that’s it. Even the most motivated employees will be tempted to look for greener pastures if they feel that they are giving their all every day and are not rewarded for it. Look for ways to show your appreciation to the hardest-working members of your team. Whether it’s a pay raise or just a gift card for coffee, human beings are more motivated when their hard work is acknowledged and appreciated.
7. Be an active listener
In your 1:1 meetings with your employees, who does most of the talking? If it’s you, you might need to adjust your approach. Give your employees ample time to speak, ask questions, and voice concerns. Don’t jump in with solutions or counterpoints. Simply listen as they speak and when they finish, restate what you heard them say. Active listening is a huge morale booster. If your team feels heard and validated, they will be more motivated to stay focused and working hard.
8. Empower employees to own their roles
We have all been on the phone with a customer support agent, trying to correct a minor issue on our bill, for example, only to be transferred up the “food chain” ten times to someone who has the authority to process the refund. Empower your employees to delight customers. Give them the authority to make independent decisions that will positively impact their internal and external customers. When we take every shred of power away from our teams, they are far less motivated to think creatively and solve problems.
9. Gamify tough work
Do you have a big project or an aggressive goal coming up? If there is trepidation among your employees about getting the work done, try gamification to make the challenge more interesting. Build contests into project milestones to keep employees motivated to meet timelines and complete the project on time. Healthy competition is a great motivator.
10. Encourage growth
Much like employees want to see a clear career path with their employer, they also want to develop their skills and knowledge along the way. Invest in your team by offering continuing education courses, tuition reimbursement, or by sending them to industry conferences. The investment will pay off in the expertise they bring back to the team and in their motivation to work hard for a company that believes in and invests in them.
11. Foster team spirit
At times, we spend more time with our co-workers than we do our family and friends. Try team building exercises to create connections with your team and to keep everyone motivated to work together. If formal activities are not your speed, schedule team lunches or happy hours to give everyone a break and a chance to get to know each other.
12. Be an advocate
Beyond your responsibility to mentor and coach your team, you may need to serve as an advocate for them at times. As organizations grow and put more processes and policies in place, they don’t always serve the best interests of employees. If no one speaks up to advocate on behalf of the workforce, change never happens, and workers become discouraged and unmotivated. You won’t win every case you make, but if your team sees that you are actively speaking up for them when they truly need it, they will be more likely to return your advocacy with loyalty and hard work.
13. Celebrate wins
Whether it’s an individual accomplishment or attaining a team goal, don’t gloss over achievements. Take time to recognize the contributions of your employees and brag about them to other members of the organization. Recognition is a direct contributor to motivation and an effective way to reduce turnover and drive a more positive company culture.
There are countless other ways to motivate your team. As you get to know your employees and their personalities, experiment with tactics that resonate well with them. Think about your own career experience. When did you feel most motivated? What drove you to do your best work? By making a visible effort with your team to improve morale and boost motivation, you’ll already have won half the battle.