Whether you own a company or manage a team, keeping employees motivated is essential. Having motivated employees improves company culture and employee morale – not to mention, motivated employees are more likely to achieve company objectives.
Motivated employees also tend to stay at a job for longer since they feel satisfied with their work lives and professional development. This is increasingly important now, as many companies see workers leave historically high rates as job opportunities grow thanks to remote working. In September 2021 alone, an estimated 4.4 million people quit their jobs, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This article will explore why employees lose their motivation, as well as the science behind effective methods that keep motivation high.
Motivated employees: Why does motivation start decreasing?
In order to know the best way to motivate employees, it’s essential to understand common reasons why employee engagement starts to take a dip. Here are a few signs that your employees are losing motivation.
1. They don’t feel their work provides value. Say your boss asks you to complete a daily task. Maybe it’s reporting on specific metrics or updating a particular spreadsheet. This task starts to take a large chunk out of your workday – but each time you send the report to your boss, you don’t receive any type of response.
You start to feel as if this task doesn’t actually matter to the overall success of your team or the company. It also doesn’t align with the job you were hired to do – and is taking you away from the work you enjoy doing for the company.
Employees will inevitably have to take on at least some portion of tasks that they don’t enjoy doing in any role – but ensuring that the workload of your staff members primarily consists of functions that they feel value in doing helps keep them motivated for longer.
2. They express uncontrolled emotions. Suppose an employee who typically has a calm demeanor starts to lash out in response to being asked to complete a task, in response to feedback, or during any other work situation. This can be a sign that they’re experiencing frustration and stagnancy in their role. If this behavior persists, it may be time to have a discussion with your employee about the work they’re doing and what can be changed to keep them motivated.
3. They don’t feel capable. In any role, there comes a time where your manager will ask you to take on something new. While this can be exciting for certain employees, employees that are losing motivation may feel that they’re not capable of taking on something new and may be concerned that they won’t do a good job.
4. They don’t have an effective leader. If an employee doesn’t have a manager that they feel motivated to work hard for or one that they feel they can come to when issues inevitably arise, it can take a toll on an employee’s motivation. While having a manager who can encourage employee participation and increase employee engagement is not the only factor for maintaining high motivation, it is crucial.
5. They don’t see a future with the company. If there’s no clear path for upward mobility in their department or within the company, employee motivation will deplete fairly quickly. In an ideal scenario, managers would be able to offer monetary incentives through raises and promotions often and with ease – but the reality is that many companies don’t provide these types of incentives as quickly as they should.
If this is the case, keeping your team motivated by carving out a career trajectory within the company before they start to show signs that their losing motivation will help keep them engaged – even when a promotion may be a year or two down the line,
6. They start to make careless errors. Mistakes happen, and even the best employees can slip up on occasion. But when this behavior becomes consistent, it may be a sign that your employee is losing motivation to complete their tasks correctly. If you continue to see this pattern, set some time aside with your employee to see what the issue is and how you can help keep them motivated to continue to do the type of work you know they are capable of.
How to motivate employees
Finding capable talent is only half the battle. If companies want to retain employees, they need to consider what employees value most in the workplace and continue to make these motivating factors a key priority. Here are a few ways to improve the overall happiness of employees, increase employee engagement and motivate the team to do their best work continually.
1. Make the workplace a great place to be
Whether your employees are working remotely, in the office full time or a mix of both in-office and remote work, making work a place that feels exciting and pleasant to be will keep spirits high. If your workers are in the office, consider what optimizations could be made to the working space to make it a more engaging one. According to one study, adding plants and greenery to an office can improve workplace productivity by up to 15%.
If your team is working remotely, consider asking for an at home office stipend for your workers. This allows them to upgrade their work from home space, which will help keep them motivated and make them feel valued.
2. Offer employee incentives
When your company wins, your employees should reap those benefits, too. Consider offering an incentive program that kicks back monetary benefits into their paycheck quarterly when the company meets or exceeds its goals. Or provide additional stock options or profit-sharing within the company to express gratitude and reward employees. Putting aside some money for a company retreat is another option, and could be one of the ways to motivate employees while reinforcing the company’s mission.
3. Provide positive feedback
A great motivational factor is making the team feel that their work is valued. Pay attention to the small wins of the week that the employees on your team make and give praise when it’s due. Depending on the type of company, this can be a successful interaction with a customer, a problem that was solved by an employee or even a team member who took the initiative to help others; making employees feel valued will go a long way.
4. Strive to be a supportive manager
At most companies, upward mobility means that suddenly you’re thrust into managing a team. Often, new managers aren’t given the training or tools necessary to know how to lead a team and help employees grow and succeed – they’re just promoted because they’re good at the work they do.
So whether you’re promoting someone into a management role, are new to being a manager yourself or have managed a team for a while and want to ensure you’re keeping your direct reports motivated, it’s worth getting up to speed on what makes a great manager. Take the time to explore manager books and resources that outline best practices and tactics to employ to conduct yourself as someone that employees are motivated to work for.
5. Provide opportunities for growth
Doing the same job with the same task list and workload day in and day out can quickly start to make employees develop feelings of stagnation. While money is a significant motivating factor for employees, managers sometimes overlook the small ways they can provide opportunities for growth within the employee’s current role.
This can act as a way to prepare employees for the next step, give them something to work towards and keep employees motivated. Speak to your employee about what they’re interested in doing more of within the role, and work to identify ways they can start tackling tasks that will prepare them for growth within the organization. Be sure to take the time to recognize the ways they’ve shown growth within their role to ensure your team feels valued.
6. Offer flexibility
The more that remote work and technology have innovated the traditional desk job, the more employees crave flexibility within their work schedules. Gone are the days of having to be in an office to check your email or communicate with team members – this can be done out of pocket when necessary.
Be sensitive to your employee’s individual needs where scheduling is concerned and do your best to provide them with the room they need to support their ideal work life balance. For example, if you have an employee who would like to attend their child’s event one afternoon, granting this flexibility will motivate the employee to complete the work needed before and after the event to ensure this same courtesy is available in the future.
7. Give employees recognition
Providing employees with positive, one on one reinforcement is an effective way to keep motivation high. But recognizing their achievements in a more visible way throughout the company can also go a long way in keeping employees motivated to work harder.
Identify opportunities to showcase your employees across your organization. Is there a weekly newsletter where you can highlight their work? Or share a story of a situation they handled incredibly well? Giving credit where credit is due is an easy and effective way to motivate the people on your team.
8. Communicate with your employees
This may seem obvious but getting clear on what your employee values most — both in their current role as well as future goals – can provide insight into the most effective method to motivate your employee. Don’t try to guess what will make your team members feel motivated or use a one size fits all approach for motivation. Tailoring your efforts to your employee’s individual needs will help keep them motivated and make employees feel valued.
9. Provide transparency
Being as transparent as possible with employees when it comes to company goals, how the team is currently pacing and what objectives need to be prioritized makes employees feel like part of the team and can boost team morale and camaraderie. Don’t just share the company’s wins but get comfortable discussing the challenges the business is currently facing. You may find that your employees are motivated to explore different ways to solve these challenges.
10. Introduce friendly competition
Whether it’s motivating employees toward a specific sales goal, increasing positive customer service feedback or an incentive to complete certain training modules in an efficient manner of time, gamifying your team’s work experience can be a big motivator. This can be done through recognition via certain certificates, an employee of the month reward or even gift cards that apply to your employee’s interests. Valuing your employee’s performance in a tangible way like this can be an impactful motivator – and a great way to express gratitude.
11. Allow your employees to have the autonomy they need
Though you may be doing so with the best of intentions, constantly checking up on your employee’s work and performance throughout the day can actually backfire when it comes to motivating employees. In fact, research has found that employees who have more autonomy in the workplace are also more satisfied with their jobs. If you want to retain visibility into your employee’s work and workload but want to give them the freedom to thrive on their own, implementing a program management tool that allows teams to see the work being done without having to constantly check in can be a great place to start.
12. Show respect to your employees
This may also sound like an obvious way to keep spirits high, but in a management role, it can be easy to lose sight of how your direct reports can also teach and inform you on insights and workflow issues you have not been privy to since you’re further removed from the process. If an employee comes to you with a problem or vice versa, approach the conversation with respect and curiosity.
Learning from your employees doesn’t make you a bad manager or business owner. In fact, quite the opposite – it improves your business and your company’s bottom line. Showing respect in this manner will motivate employees to come to you proactively with issues and solutions and keep the line of communication open between you both.
13. Evaluate your performance review process
Is your performance review process actually motivating your employees to do their best? Or is annual review time something that they dread? Furthermore, is your review process an effective tool to really show the work your employee has done over the past year? Or has this become a formality? In order to ensure that your performance review model is motivating employees, speak with them about how they feel the current process can be improved. Consider adopting a performance review process that occurs more frequently, keeping employees motivated toward quarterly conversations rather than waiting until the end of the year to pack everything in.
14. Set small, weekly goals
Companies and teams are constantly working toward significant goals, whether quarterly sales goals or year-over-year growth. Which can make the weeks and months leading up to the overall fruits of your labor start to feel far away. To motivate your team to continue putting their best in each week, consider implementing weekly goals that are more easily achievable and frequent. For example, give employees an afternoon off if you’ve received a high amount of positive customer service feedback that week, or buy the team lunch if they’ve managed to close a certain amount of weekly business to help keep employees motivated.
15. Be approachable
If your employees are under the impression that they can’t come to you with an issue or suggestion, they likely won’t. To make team members feel like they’re able to be heard, consider an “open door” policy, whether that be in your physical office or virtually, where having your door open signifies that employees may approach you with questions, suggestions or feedback. When employees know that they are being heard, they feel motivated.
16. Show your employees how their work contributes to the bigger picture
Even if your team is constantly hitting their goals, sometimes connecting the dots for employees to show how their individual efforts contribute to the company’s overall goals and bottom line can help employees understand the significance of their effort.
Next time you get wind of news about the company’s success, don’t be afraid to take the time to show your employees how their work ladders up to this tremendous recent achievement. This can be a powerful way to motivate and encourage employees to continue to work harder.
17. Stay motivated as a manager for your team members
If you’re not staying motivated as a manager, your employees will sense it. Take the time to understand what it is that motivates you – both intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Share things that keep you motivated throughout your workday and workweek — whether it was feedback from your own boss or higher-ups who provided you with words of encouragement or seeing the team hit a goal they’d worked hard to achieve.
Keeping employees motivated is essential to the success of any company or business. When employees know they are valued, employee performance, employee morale and team spirit are boosted. As a manager or business owner, it’s in your best interest to motivate your team to retain and grow the talent you have.
Provide positive feedback, express gratitude, discuss growth opportunities and employ clear communication with members of your team. You’re sure to see a difference in how your employees work harder and continue to stay motivated.