The question of how to motivate employees is often on a business owner’s mind. It can be difficult to find ways to genuinely motivate employees at work. And often the old standards—performance-based bonuses, increased rewards and commissions—only work in the short-term, if they work at all. In fact, some tests have shown that the usual motivational tactics aren’t always effective.
So how can you authentically motivate employees?
1. Share positive feedback
Too often, rewards and recognition are based on achievements—increasing sales or closing a big account for example. But your employees do a lot of work that doesn’t gain attention on a spreadsheet. Going the extra mile for a client or showing compassion when dealing with a frustrated customer, for example, enhance your company’s reputation even if they don’t immediately have an effect on your profits.
Create a process through which you gather feedback from your clients. When they share positive comments about your workers, share it with them. Let them know they made someone’s day, even if it wasn’t directly related to their job. Doing so can increase your employees’ satisfaction, which can be a great motivator. It also shows employees that you—and your customers—appreciate them.
2. Focus on individuals
Yes, your employees are members of a team. But each team member contributes in a way that is unique, and based on their individual skills, goals, and habits. Remember, when you’re motivating your team as a whole that the people on it need to feel aligned with the strategies and goals you implement. You also need to motivate employees individually so that each person feels that they contribute to, and also benefit from, the work the team does.
Talk to the individuals to find out what they do and don’t like working on, what their goals are and how the team can help them reach their objectives. Do they want to improve their skill set or try a new role? Do they want a mentor on their team who can help them with professional development? Have one-on-one check-ins and ask questions focused on their individual skill set. Listen to their thoughts and ideas. After all, you hired them for a reason.
3. Ask your employees what they want
Business owners frequently develop rewards and recognition programs based either on what they want or by following what other companies do. Rewards are often tied to promotions or financial incentives. These are nice to offer, but they may not appeal to all your employees. Not everyone wants increased work responsibility, for example.
Some employees might prefer additional vacation days, enhanced benefits, free lunches, flex time at work, or other bonuses that aren’t tied to their salary or job title. Talk to your employees. Ask what motivates them and create rewards and bonuses based on what they identify as being most valuable to them.
Entrepreneurs often view financial rewards for achieving goals as the main way to motivate employees. Research shows that these tactics may not be as effective as previously thought. There are other things you can do to show your employees you appreciate and value the work they do.
It’s also good to remember that even the most motivated employee faces tough days. In those moments, showing your colleague compassion and offering support can help them feel valued.