7 Ways To Increase Employee Motivation At The Workplace

April 11, 2019
by Pieter Moens

Before diving into this blogpost, we want to make sure you woiuldn't miss our huge blogpost regarding Employee Engagement. It contains more information about this post as well as many other topics related to Employee Engagement! You can read it here.
“Employee motivation is a direct sum of each individual employee’s interaction with their manager.”

- Bob Nelson, Employee Motivation & Retention Expert


In this post, we will discuss employee motivation, seeing how it’s one of the core components of employee engagement (Ambassify’s ultimate guide on the subject is available here).

However, before we dive into the ways you can increase the motivation at the workplace, allow us to share a short story with you.


Paper plane v2

This here is John.

He works for you.

Well, we say work but what we actually mean is - you pay John a salary. Right now, he is busy making a paper airplane. Earlier in the day, he tried to close a sale with a reluctant potential customer. They had a few too many questions, and John really didn’t put in the work so that fell through.

It’s 3 PM now and John is satisfied with his paper plane. He’ll give it another hour at his desk (checking Facebook and deleting emails he doesn’t feel like responding to) and then he’ll make up an emergency and leave early. He’s doing it more and more these days: no one seems to notice, he’s not getting in trouble, and he’s getting his check on time every month. So, why not?


If your company has 13 employees, you most likely have a John from our story somewhere in there.  No amount of disbelief or head-shaking will change that because a 2013 Gallup poll found that employee motivation is at an all-time low, with only 13% of employees stating that they feel engaged and motivated at work.

The question is - what are you doing to address the issue of employee motivation in your company?


A well thought-out employee advocacy program results in increased employee engagement, which is the backbone of employee engagement. Learn all about employee advocacy here!

What is Employee Advocacy?


Employee motivation largely depends on the overall “health” of relationships in an organization. It’s the managers that need to put in extraordinary effort to get employees excited about their work, and to maintain that level of excitement day in and day out.

To be able to do that, they need to understand what employee motivation is. Gareth Jones, the definitive expert on the subject, defines it as, “psychological forces that determine the direction of a person's behavior in an organisation, a person's level of effort and a person's level of persistence".

There are two different kinds of motivation:

  • Extrinsic motivation - comes from the outside world. Typical examples include salary, benefits, company car, a promotion, corporate discounts, and so on.

  • Intrinsic motivation - comes from within. It’s driven by the employee’s desire to impress a manager, learn a new skill, gain more knowledge, make a mark on the company, and similar.


A lot was written on the subject of employee motivation so we won’t go into the details about the differences between the two types. The most important takeaway for managers is that the focus should always be on intrinsic motivation - meaningful work gets done when employees are motivated from within, while extrinsic motivators can even curb creativity and lead to poorer work outcomes.

What’s the impact of employee motivation on the bottom line?

By impacting employee engagement so profoundly, motivation also has a serious impact on your bottom line. In fact, in the report titled “State of the American Workplace”, Gallup found that unmotivated and unhappy workers cost the American economy between $450 and $500 billion every year! That’s a mind-boggling amount of money, and you want to make sure your organization is not contributing to it at all!


7 Effective Strategies To Increase Employee Motivation



We’d love to say that these effective tips for increasing employee motivation are simple and easy. Unfortunately, they are not. They will require top management buy-in, as well as an overhaul of established HR processes in more traditional companies. However, the benefits you will reap with just a few changes to the way you manage your employees are definitely worth a few minor inconveniences and, in the end, you will be glad you put employee motivation front and center!

Download our Employee Advocacy Whitepaper


1. Transform Your Managers Into Leaders

True leaders are inspiring - they help others achieve their goals, hold themselves to a higher standard, and lead by example. They also very rarely “grow in the wild”. Leadership can be learned (to an extent, although some people will come more naturally to that role than others), and investing in that education is the smartest way for an organization to spend its money.

A lot of the advice on this list hinges on your managers being able to execute perfectly - knowing when to be lenient, when to apply pressure, when to recognize great work, and how to praise employees and get them to press on even harder. Make sure to hire and promote the right people when it comes to managerial positions because managers will be the ones that dictate the overall motivation of employees that report to them.


2. Recognize Great Work - Consistently

Would you put in extra work if you felt that it went unrecognized?

It’s hardly motivating, right? Recognition and praise are vastly underrated, despite being one of the most potent tools at a manager’s disposal. In fact, Reward Gateway study found that 70% of workers feel that an occasional “Thank You” from a manager would “massively” increase their morale and motivation.

One employee’s idea secured a new client? Another one’s side-project decreased onboarding time? The third one’s cleared a roadblock on a particular project? A good leader will shine a spotlight on all of these employees, and make sure that everyone in the organization gets an email with their names featured in it in bold print - in addition to signing their bonus check!


3. Set Smaller, Measurable Goals & Celebrate Them


Working on a project that drags on and on is detrimental to employee motivation. If most of the projects your employees work on are labor-intensive and time-consuming, ensure that smart goal-setting practices are in full effect.

Empower your managers to discuss individual projects with their teams and encourage them to propose goals that are incremental and measurable. After each milestone is completed, celebrate it! It gives employees a small sense of accomplishment - of closure - and they feel that they are that much closer to the overall goal, which boosts their determination going forward.


4. Give Their Work A Purpose

Employees know that their work contributes to the company’s bottom line. Most of the time, however, they don’t know how that happens exactly. That can be slightly demotivating.

It’s your job (and the job of your managers) to communicate that impact to employees. While you don’t have to do this at an individual level (it’s pretty difficult in large organizations), it might be feasible to do it on a departmental level. For example, you could communicate to your customer support team how much their retention efforts and the resulting reduction in customer churn saved the company on a specific month. Or tell your sales team how much their increase in sales contributed to the bottom line.

Additionally, you can also focus on how the work your employees do impact your ability to make a change in the world. If you contribute to certain causes, tell your employees about it. Things like donations to Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, or your own philanthropic efforts can resonate with the values of your employees, lighting a fire under them to perform even better.


5. Encourage Organizational Transparency & Trust


Generally, when employees see the big picture and know where they fit in it, they feel more motivated and perform better. For this to happen, though, you need to practice organizational transparency. Basically, it just means being open and honest - from the top down and sideways - about the company’s goals, practices, expenditures, investments, and the overall mission. This level of transparency fosters trust more than anything else that you could do.

Organizational transparency also reduces employee errors. When everyone is working with the same set of information, it’s easier to perform effectively. This particular change needs to come from the top, though - executive managers need to ensure that communication lines are open and that everyone in the company is on the same page.


6. Fit & Healthy Employees Are Motivated Employees

If you want your employees motivated and performing to the best of their abilities, make sure they are healthy, rested, fit, and fueled up.

When it comes to health, have policies in place that encourage sick employees to take time off. They need it to heal anyway, and they are not useful to you if they are barely keeping their head up. The cost that you will incur with them being off is still a lot lower than what you will deal with if they continue performing poorly or, worse yet, come in and get everyone else sick, too.

boostproductivity v2

To curb the potential for burnout, look into creating a rec or a break room where employees can go to unwind when they feel stressed out. Coffee and snacks availability is generally considered a perk, but it’s also been shown that hungry employees are less productive so you’re feeding your people more for your benefit than theirs! It would be great if you could have a gym onsite since studies have shown that employees that work out are more productive. If that’s not possible, consider subsidizing their gym memberships, encourage everyone to attend, and be flexible when it comes to arriving late to work, especially because people tend to exercise in the morning. This flexibility around when and how employees complete their assignments brings us to our next point.


7. Promote Self-Governance

Being able to decide for yourself how and when you work is a great motivator. On the other hand, being a stickler for the rules - insisting that all work be done within the same four walls, and at the same time every day - can put a real damper on employee motivation.

Trust your employees to do the work they were hired to do. Give them a deadline, support their work, and watch them deliver for you. They do their best work early in the morning while sitting at their home office desk in their jammies? Count that as work hours. They are most productive during weekends and come in on Monday with half of their weekly work already done? Count that as well. Train your managers to avoid micromanagement in this particular aspect of work and you will notice everyone’s productivity soaring.

These are by no means the only things that you can do to increase motivation in the workplace. However, these suggestions yield the greatest gains. Additionally, you should strive toward making the work environment fun (if the work itself can’t or shouldn’t be), gamifying work-related experiences, instituting an open door policy, and more. Don’t be afraid to modify these employee motivation strategies to fit your bill - after all, every organization is different.


If you have any interesting insights into employee motivation, share them with us and the rest of the world! In the meantime, download our comprehensive guide to employee advocacy and learn more about why motivated employees are your best salespeople and advocates!

Download Ambassify’s Ultimate Employee Advocacy Guide


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