How to motivate staff

As a manager, learning how to motivate staff is an important part of your role. It’s about encouraging employees and teams to do their best work consistently, even when they’re faced with challenges. Strong employee motivation strategies will inspire staff productivity and engagement, and help your organisation achieve its goals and succeed. Find out why it’s so important, and learn how to develop an employee motivation plan for your team.

How to motivate staff, and why it matters

There are a range of approaches that can be implemented at your workplace to help motivate staff and keep them engaged in their work. Staff motivation matters because it goes hand-in-hand with productivity and the success of your business. Employees who feel motivated about the work they do, the people they work with and the organisation they work for, are invested in the work they produce. Motivated employees are driven, determined and passionate. These are key attributes of top talent.

Start with these six strategies to help develop a strong employee motivation plan for your organisation. Remember, sometimes it’s the simplest gestures that make the biggest impact:

  1. Ask employees what motivates them
    When it comes to learning how to motivate staff, start by talking to them. Ask them as early as induction about what inspires them in their work, and what personal motivation for them has looked like in past roles. Maybe even ask about roles in which they lacked motivation, to understand what not to do. Keep conversations about motivation regular with your employees, checking in to see what needs to be changed or updated to ensure they remain satisfied and productive.
  2. Trust your staff
    Trust between employers and employees is a key part of motivating staff at any organisation. When staff feel able to work without constant interruption and micromanagement, they’re likely to be satisfied. They’ll feel that their skills and decision-making abilities are valuable to the team, and will work confidently and efficiently to prove this. Show you have faith in your employees by giving them space to do their work, praising the great ideas they have and when appropriate, even saying something like, “No need for me to review that, I trust you.”
  3. Offer flexible arrangements
    Providing staff with flexible work options is an easy policy to implement when seeking to improve staff motivation. It also shows you care about individuals at your organisation, and understand that everyone requires different conditions in which to do their best work. If possible at your organisation, offer some of these flexible work options:
    • Different start and end times
    • Work from home days
    • One day a month leave for study
    • More lenient sick leave
    • Mental health days
    • Ability to bring pets to the workplace
    • If none of these arrangements are appropriate for your staff, ask what can be done to better accommodate them and keep them engaged in their work.
  4. Make employees proud of their work
    What elements of your employee’s role inspires them most? Whether it’s teaching other staff, meeting tight deadlines, or the recognition they receive for completing a task, where possible, make this a focus of meetings and team projects. For example, if IT employees are particularly inspired by the company’s purpose of “digitally connecting the Asia-Pacific region” and treating “web connectivity as a human right”, then make sure these are focus points for the IT employees. Talk about how an upcoming data project really epitomises the organisational purpose, with examples of how the impact will be felt by clients. Or discuss how finishing a lengthy report ensures that meaningful work continues at the company.
  5. Remember your mood affects employee motivation
    Nic Marks of Happiness Works says it’s important for leaders to remind themselves regularly of the pivotal role they play in how employees feel. “If your manager says one bad thing to you, it can really dampen your motivation for days, even weeks. Similarly, when a manager says something great to you, it can expand your positive feelings and make you feel good about yourself for quite a while,” he says.
  6. Make organisational leaders visible and accessible
    If employees work at an organisation that is hierarchical and where leaders are shut away from other departments, it can develop a sense of disconnect. Staff who are disconnected from the leaders may have difficulty understanding why they should work hard for goals or a purpose that seems lofty and distant. Whenever possible, get senior leaders and executive to spend time with your team, and vice versa. Perhaps you could book a showcase day, where members of your team present summaries of the projects they’ve been working on to executive employees. A genuine interest from company leaders in the people and projects of various teams will work wonders in terms of boosting staff morale and productivity.

If you ever need guidance about how to motivate staff, always refer back to our helpful tips, and remember that a combined approach is most effective. Always communicate with your employees about how they’re feeling, and look for signs of waning motivation such as absenteeism or missed deadlines. Every organisation has the capacity to develop a truly successful employee motivation plan; it’s just about understanding the needs of your staff.