Motivated employees are happier at work, more productive and less likely to look elsewhere for employment. Knowing what motivates your employees and how to reward them accordingly is the key to making sure you are getting the most from your workforce, and that they are getting the most from their job.

Before concentrating on employee motivation specifically, the employee must feel safe in their role, believe that they are in the right role for their skills and believe that they have a future within the organisation. Employees should all be treated equally and fairly, and line managers must be willing to motivate their staff, whichever technique is used.

Simply asking staff members how they are in the morning is a great way to start the day and encourages a happy, healthy working environment.

What is motivation?

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“Motivation is a psychological feature that arouses an organism to act towards a desired goal and elicits, controls, and sustains certain goal directed behaviours. It can be considered a driving force; a psychological one that compels or reinforces an action toward a desired goal.” – Wikipedia[/quote]

Intrinsic motivation

Individuals that proactively perform well under their own motivation and have the passion to succeed and push their business forward are said to be intrinsically motivated. They will learn new skills and enjoy improving themselves, both on a personal level and as an employee.


Motivational Poster

Extrinsic motivation

Employees that are motivated by rewards such as sales bonuses or praise from managers/colleagues are said to be extrinsically motivated. Praise can either be verbal or on the company intranet or notice board.

Positive reinforcement using a praise and reward strategy

Rewarding an employee for a specific task completed well, or exceeding a target, will reinforce their desire to repeat or exceed their behaviour. Again, monetary awards, open praise or other rewards such as additional annual leave or a free lunch can be utilised. In time, the achievements that an employee was previously rewarded for may become normal behaviour. At this point, praise should be given if there are noticeable improvements, such as completing a task in less time or improving upon previous sales.

Listening to your employees

To understand what motivates (and demotivates) your employees, you need to listen to them, and be seen to listen by the workforce in general. Asking open questions such as “explain to me why….” and “what do you feel the reason that….” are all great ways to encourage an employee to explain their opinions, both good and bad. One trick to utilise while listening to an employee (or anybody for that matter) is to close your mouth completely. This reinforces the fact that you are really listening and not about to jump inn to the conversation with a remark or comment.

Once the employee has finished speaking you can then ask constructive questions regarding their comments. Asking them to elaborate on a particular point or why they feel a certain way will show that you listened, and that you are interested in what they told you.

Your employee’s needs, illustrated

Abraham Maslow illustrated the 5 human needs which can be translated to employee needs and utilised when thinking about employee motivation. The pyramid below shows humans more basic needs at the bottom.

employee motivation

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“The human mind and brain are complex and have parallel processes running at the same time, thus many different motivations from various levels of Maslow’s hierarchy can occur at the same time. Maslow spoke clearly about these levels and their satisfaction in terms such as “relative,” “general,” and “primarily.” Instead of stating that the individual focuses on a certain need at any given time, Maslow stated that a certain need “dominates” the human organism. Thus Maslow acknowledged the likelihood that the different levels of motivation could occur at any time in the human mind, but he focused on identifying the basic types of motivation and the order in which they should be met” – Wikipedia[/quote]

Employees too have needs ranging from the very basic, getting paid enough to live, to furthering their career, learning new skills and achieving their potential. Motivating and encouraging your employees to achieve their goals and the goals of the company will improve engagement, increase retention and enhance wellbeing within your workforce.

Showing trust, respect and encouraging employees to take more responsibility are also effective ways to increase motivation  Showing that you have faith in an employee’s ability to perform their role or to accept additional responsibilities increases their desire to prove themselves and do a good job.