A look at the different methods that can be used to motivate employees.
If you want to run a successful business, then you should make sure that your employees are satisfied. An unmotivated (or worse—a disgruntled) employee can harm a company’s productivity as well as customer relationships with a company. Even though employee motivation may seem easy, it involves diligence and maintenance and cannot be accomplished overnight. Many motivation strategies exist but not every employee will respond to the same methods; you’ll need to engage a variety of strategies on a regular basis in order to effectively motivate each of your employees.
Employee Motivation Tip #1: DON’T BE AFRAID OF FUN
"Fun" shouldn’t be a dirty word! Organize company parties once a month or celebrate office birthdays when they occur—just avoid making the same party mistakes that notoriously-ignorant boss Michael Scott makes on The Office. You don’t need to spend a ton of money to have a good time; a delicious cake from the corner grocery store can go a long way to break up the monotony of an occasional work day. If your company doesn’t have the extra cash to spend on cakes or treats each time, then most employees probably won’t mind donating a dollar or two to help supply the sweets!
Employees also enjoy shedding those stuffy suits or restricting uniforms once in awhile, so initiating "Casual Fridays" can boost morale as well. Jeans and t-shirts may not be appropriate for every workplace, but even allowing employees to wear a pair of khakis and a company polo shirt on Fridays would be a welcome change. In fact, any activity that temporarily removes employees from their work environment is a strong implementation of fun; company picnics, optional outings, and contests all have the power to motivate employees and to encourage them to enjoy themselves.
Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly potlucks also give employees the opportunity to have fun at work. Each staff member could sign up to bring a different food item for a buffet-style spread in the company kitchen—a potluck would not only provide employees with healthy lunches but also encourage them to socialize with one another.
Employee Motivation Tip #2: USE INCENTIVES AND REWARDS
Employee incentives and rewards can range from pricier prizes like restaurant gift cards to inexpensive gifts like business-related promotional items. You may choose to reward staff members who meet specific performance goals or you may decide to hold a companywide contest, but either way has potential to motivate. Even a simple incentive like a designated parking space or the opportunity to leave an hour earlier on Friday can drive employees to do their best. Just remember that your staff members will likely appreciate your efforts to thank them more than they’ll appreciate the actual gift itself—there’s nothing like receiving a good pat on the back when you’ve worked hard!
Employee Motivation Tip #3: SCHEDULE REVIEWS
Not all reviews are worthy of dread! Quarterly or yearly reviews can be excellent motivation tools if they are correctly executed. To conduct a productive review, distribute a self-evaluation sheet to each employee prior to the review and ask them to come prepared to discuss their responses (in addition to your responses). This strategy can help to identify each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, to discuss improvement methods, and to note specific accomplishments. Be careful how you organize the review process, though, because most employees get nervous when they’re put on the spot! Highlight employee strengths to their fullest, and kindly suggest methods for improvement in the areas that lack.
Employee Motivation Tip #4: POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT OVER NEGATIVE
We’ve all read about the "Stick vs. Carrot" analogy: the stick exemplifies negative reinforcement and the carrot exemplifies positive reinforcement. Just as the carrot is a reward for desirable behavior, the stick is a punishment for unsatisfactory behavior. Even though most employees are better motivated by the carrot strategy, there are some employees who will only respond to the stick strategy. If this is the case with one of your employees, then you must devise a punitive measure for undesirable behavior in order to motivate him/her to change for the better. However, punishment should only be used as a last resort and you should always attempt to coax an uninspired employee with positive reinforcement first! It is actually much more effective to encourage employees with incentives than it is to punish them.
NEVER berate employees for past mistakes that have been remedied or attack their personal characters—such malicious behavior will only devalue and de-motivate employees even further (not to mention it will make YOU look bad). There are many factors that can cause employees to underperform, and often problems can be solved with a bit of encouragement or assistance. If you, as the employer, would rather yell at employees and threaten them instead of taking the time to help them through a struggle, then you are doing something wrong. Resort to disciplinary action when absolutely necessary, but it should never be your primary motivation method!
You won’t get anywhere with your employees if you constantly force them to work long hours, refuse to approve personal days or sick days, communicate only their faults, and/or fail to encourage them on a regular basis. Those actions break spirits and won’t motivate your employees to work any harder—you must do your part to motivate them with fun, with rewards, and with positive reinforcement. There is a massive difference between goofing off during work hours and implementing an enjoyable experience every now and then. You shouldn’t have to worry about employees abusing the occasional slack as long as you don’t permit them to act crazily while they participate in fun activities! The four tips in this article, when correctly used, should give you enough fuel to effectively motivate your employees and increase productivity.