What is employee motivation?
Motivation is an internal desire to accomplish a goal or task. In a work setting, motivated employees want to play a part in a company's success. This desire can be fueled by a variety of underlying factors, from personal ambition, the need for financial gain, or the wish to make the world a better place. A self-motivated employee will want to do their job, even when the environment is changing around them — working in or out of the office, completing tasks alone, or as part of a team. Within the organization as a whole, individual personalities may require different motivational support. For example, not everyone appreciates or is motivated by public recognition. Nevertheless, highly motivated employees will want to adapt and grow as a company changes, even when faced with a degree of uncertainty.
Why is employee motivation important?
Motivated employees are more likely to meet their goals, which improves overall performance and results in a higher level of job satisfaction. The motivation of workers boosts engagement at work. Companies can reap the benefits of employee motivation in many ways, including:
Increased job satisfaction can lead to better employee engagement and more loyalty among staff. Over the long term, companies may experience improved retention of valuable employees who are happy in their jobs and not looking to go elsewhere. This results in costs savings when companies spend less to recruit and train new talent.
Increased career development
Motivated employees may be more likely to want to move forward in their career. They may do whatever is necessary to get ahead, including participating in training opportunities and skill development. Better trained employees will contribute at a higher level and allow companies to become more innovative, especially in turbulent times, when avoiding change is not an option.
Improved employee efficiency
Less time wasted on non-job tasks translates into increased efficiency throughout the company. Motivated workers tend to focus on getting their work done and producing quality results. In doing so, they may find and suggest ways to save time and expenses, which benefits the organization as a whole.
How to motivate employees at work
In these uncertain times, employees may welcome the opportunity to focus on their work. Companies should support their staff by implementing strategies that work to nurture each employee's intrinsic desire to do well. The end goal is to provide opportunities for all to succeed in the workplace, while recognizing that each person may have individualized career goals. Depending on your workforce, a mix of motivational techniques may be helpful. Career development plans, a supportive corporate culture, and compensation strategies can be some of the most important types of motivation. Strategies to consider include the following:
Employees who are given control over their jobs and feel trusted will often take on a higher level of ownership in their work. As many shift from working in the office to remote work, companies should strive to support workers. Provide them with the necessary technology and allow them to devise a new process to fit their situation. Chances are, their ideas may yield cost savings or process efficiencies for your business.
Building a culture of respect
Employees are generally more motivated when they feel a strong sense of support from their employer. It's important to place value in your staff and instill the belief that they will help your business achieve its goals. Culture starts at the top. Executive management should model respectful behavior and be willing to listen to the concerns raised by all levels of employees.
Companies don't need to spend a lot to motivate employees. Even a minor acknowledgment such as a personalized "thank you" from a supervisor carries meaning, as long as it's perceived as sincere and given for a specific achievement. When recognizing employees, watch out for statements of company-wide thanks that fail to mention an employee whose contribution goes above and beyond their peers. Also, be mindful of different personalities; an introverted employee may appreciate your words of thanks offered in private, while others will be pleased to have their names read out at a staff meeting.
Coaching and feedback
Many employees view their managers as people who can guide them on the best ways to strengthen their job skills. Managers should take every opportunity to coach employees who struggle with on-the-job challenges and be willing to share what they know. This helps keep employees engaged and interested in learning more. When giving feedback, let employees know how their individual and team efforts are contributing to the growth of the company. Take time to celebrate the completion of a major project or initiative. Commend employees on their job milestones. Highlight promotions of individuals who have come up through the ranks. All of these activities reinforce the sense that "we're all in this together."
Compensation and benefits
Compensation is a basic motivation for virtually all employees. When choosing between jobs, candidates often list salary and benefits among their top decision factors. Making sure your employees are paid fairly and provided with the benefits they need can help build a foundation upon which higher levels of motivation can flourish. To add further motivation, "design compensation strategies that have a variable component based on incentives and performance bonuses," suggests Paychex HR Services Area Manager Matthew Keup.
Setting clear company goals and expectations
All too often, employees become disenchanted because they don't see how the work they do fits in the bigger picture. To communicate a vision properly, strive to make the message as clear as possible. Taking time to communicate the company's goals may help workers understand why their role is important to future growth. Use every opportunity to reinforce this message through newsletters, all-staff meetings, and one-on-one discussions between managers and employees.
Employee motivation during the pandemic
During these stressful times, it's important to find ways to motivate employees as they adjust to their new normal, which often includes working from home. Even if your employees aren't on site, you can still offer encouragement.
Talk about more than business
If you sense that employees are feeling isolated, now may be the time to dust off your collection of ice breakers and use them to encourage team building. Perhaps once a week you can leave a couple of minutes in your staff meetings to show off pets or catch up on a topic not strictly relating to work. For employees wanting more socialization, this can be a morale booster.
Expand learning opportunities
While the world is seemingly on an endless pause, many employees might be looking for ways to continue developing their career. If companies are in a hiring freeze or aren't promoting individuals as quickly, providing staff educational and training opportunities can feed their need to achieve and encourage them to keep learning.
Help employees support their communities
Support the small business community and reward your employees for their hard work by purchasing gift cards as a way to say thank you. Order take-out from local restaurants if you're in the office. You may also want to organize company-sponsored activities to show appreciation for health care workers and first responders in the local community.
Uncertainty often feeds a rise in stress levels. Now more than ever, workers are looking to company leaders for answers. Be upbeat when interacting with employees, generous with praise for their hard work and dedication to detail, and share your company's strategic plan, while emphasizing the role each individual plays in this overall effort. Effective leadership should inspire and motivate; strive to serve as a model for the behavior you want. Let employees ask questions and allow managers to offer insight into where the company is headed. Any reassurance you're able to provide may help to motivate employees. And if you don't know the answers, your honesty may also be appreciated.
Support employee mental health
Take the time to examine ways to not only boost motivation, but also to support employee mental health. Changes brought on by the current pandemic have affected everyone to some degree. Providing opportunities for employees to increase their well-being through flexible scheduling or access to mental health counselors can help alleviate stress and help maintain productivity.
Effects of strong employee motivation
Employee motivation promotes a strong company culture and can help lay a solid foundation for your business. Even if you're not in the office together, keeping up vital business connections can power employees and businesses through tough times. Motivated employees want the company to succeed and want to do the best for their career.
As changes from the pandemic continue to affect your business, you'll likely want to continue to support your employees in many ways. If morale is suffering, consultation is available from an Oasis human resources professional on ways they may be able to help boost morale. You may also want to spend some time reviewing your current benefits offerings to make sure they match your workers' current needs.