Rallying Employees

Motivating employees does not simply depend on magic or personal leadership charisma. More often, a few simple practices can boost morale and enhance your team's daily satisfaction.

At both the office and in everyday life, two main types of motivation encourage people to perform. Intrinsic motivation means doing a task for its own sake, out of interest, curiosity, enjoyment or for psychological reward. Extrinsic drivers are more tangible incentives, such as money, status, promotions, perks or flexible work arrangements. Both types of gratification can work powerfully, ideally in tandem.

Consider some examples in a workplace setting.

Intrinsic motivation

  • Work/life balance.
  • Opportunities for continued learning and development.
  • Deriving meaning and purpose from work that impacts the lives of customers and the community.
  • Recognition from peers and management.
  • Authority and responsibility to execute with self-sufficiency.
  • Trust.
  • Beating boredom through new challenges beyond one's comfort zone.

Extrinsic motivation

  • Salaries, stock options and bonuses.
  • Clean, well-lit, comfortable workspaces.
  • Safe environment, especially post-COVID-19.
  • Vouchers, travel and extra vacation days.
  • On-site services like gyms, child care and dry cleaning.
  • Free food, including snacks, subsidized meals and parties.

Even where resources are limited, employers can establish a framework to show they care by providing a setting for their employees to flourish.

Managing graciously

A dollar in salary is still a dollar, but successful motivators know that it is not only the reward itself that matters. The presentation counts too. It may require extra effort and sensitivity, but you will achieve more impact by treating employees as individuals rather than by automatically lumping them together as teams or departments. In other words, try to engage with your direct reports one-on-one. You need to understand their personal concerns and elicit regular feedback, perhaps through surveys or face-to-face conversations. When you get that feedback, above all, don't just file and forget it. Act on it as soon as possible to demonstrate that the questions are not an empty exercise, particularly if your employees have made an effort to respond.

When interacting with your team members, try to be authentic and transparent, even in straightforward situations like when sharing sales reports. There will inevitably be bad news at times, and unwelcome, unpopular tasks sometimes do arise. You will earn more respect by addressing them frankly without any sugarcoating. Clarity is key. It is helpful to start with small, measurable goals that provide a sense of accomplishment.

Employees are quick to perceive and judge unfairness, so be consistent in how you treat your staff and resist any urge to play favorites. The goal is to never demotivate. Once managerial trust and respect are eroded, they are nearly impossible to restore. If it is within your control, which will depend on individual company circumstances, there are benefits to promoting from within rather than seeking outside talent. Current employees will be keenly aware and follow the process.

A business, even a small one, is like an army. For motivation, soldiers look to their commanding officer. When you want to motivate your own troops, remember at all times to set an example. Whether you are showing the way with behaviors like punctuality or maintaining an appropriate appearance, co-workers will take note. When it comes to going the extra mile, like staying late or pitching in for a deadline, they will notice, and some are bound to remember.