Tips for Motivating Both Employees and Managers

The bottom line when you're motivating employees is the manager and the environment he or she creates.
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Employee motivation describes an employee’s intrinsic enthusiasm about what drives them to accomplish work. Every employee is motivated about something in his or her life. Your goal as a manager—or boss—is to help employees and other managers find the job factors and work environment that will help motivate them to work harder and contribute more in the workplace.

How to Motivate Your Workforce 

Some strategies work better than others. The tips below highlight the fastest, and often easiest, ways to understand and implement employee motivation.

Realize that every person is motivated: Whether that motivation revolves around work, a hobby, the family, the spiritual side of life, or food, each person has some items or issues about which he or she feels motivated to take action in his or her life.

Realize that motivating your workforce does not have to be expensive. In fact, it does not have to cost money at all: You do not need to involve company financed events or company-sponsored parties, gifts, or monetary awards. Activities and recognition that cost money are welcomed by employees as part of the motivation and recognition mix, but their impact on motivating employees is short term and will not over-ride the consequences of how people feel treated every day in the workplace.

Realize that much of the workplace environment that encourages employee motivation involves the time commitment of upper management: Genuine interest, care, employee-oriented policies and procedures, and attention from both senior managers and line managers are all appreciated and valued. This might seem like it only motivates lower-level employees, but the satisfaction of motivating others is often motivating in itself, which propels management to higher productivity and happiness.

Realize that motivation is prevalent in workplaces where people are treated as valued human beings. Trust, respect, civil conversation, and listening prevail in a workplace that fosters employee motivation. Gone are the days when negative reinforcement drove results. With many employees only staying with a company for a few years, it is vital to keep them happy. This ensures they are motivated to work, but also to come back if their new situation is not what they thought it was.

Realize the power of offering clear, concise direction: When polls are conducted about what supervisory behavior makes a manager a bad boss, the lack of clear direction consistently ranks first. Employees want to know exactly what you expect from them. When they have the reassurance of clear direction, motivating employees becomes easier because you and they have created a framework for their expected performance.

Realize that oftentimes, your workforce will follow your example, which means you need to be at the top of your game: Supervisors can create an environment in which employees choose motivation. So, the right answer is that, generally, you know what you should do; you know what motivates you. You just do not consistently, in a disciplined manner, adhere to what you already know is effective in motivating employees.​

Realize employee motivation is an individual challenge: What motivates one employee is not motivating for another. Research indicates that while treating employees nicely is a factor in motivation and happy employees are also a factor in employee motivation, more is needed for a successful organization. After all, a workplace of happy employees is great, but it does not guarantee quality products delivered on time, delighted customers, or profitability. These are all essential to providing those happy employees with jobs. Factors such as demanding goals, success measurements, and critical feedback ensure the organization’s success.

Realize you can’t motivate another person directly: You can only provide an environment at work that is conducive to and supportive of employees choosing to become motivated about issues related to work. Your actions in the workplace either encourage motivated behavior or they discourage employee motivation. In some workplaces, company policies and management behavior actually squelch motivation.

Realize that you need to actively solicit information from the employees who report to you, and from your co-workers about what motivates them: Employees know what they find motivating and they can tell you if you ask. Following through on the information you are given is key as employees test you constantly to see if your word is good. If asked, people expect to see something changed as a result of their response. If it does not change, and you do not tell them why—you risk wasting your efforts in motivating employees. Responding to employee needs and complaints is key in motivating employees.