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By Jessica Elliott Updated on October 15, 2021

9 Ways to Motivate Employees (Besides Money)

Getting people to show up to work is one thing. Keeping them driven is another. Although a decent wage helps, there are other ways to motivate employees.

Learn what motivates people to work and explore methods to help your team stay on track.

Employee Motivation: Contributing Factors and Benefits

Motivation is a driving force that starts and guides goal-orientated behaviors. But, professional motivation differs among individuals.

Some people focus exclusively on income and perform actions that earn them more. Others thrive on being helpers — and that sense of gratification inspires them to mentor team members. 

Of course, many individuals are determined to show up at work on time because they fear getting fired. In each case, a personal or professional element influences their decision-making. 

Factors contributing to motivation include:

  • Work-life balance
  • Virtual and physical workspaces
  • Leadership style and communication 
  • Company culture
  • Availability of interesting work
  • Personal gain
  • Employee development and advancement opportunities
  • Incentives or perks
  • Manager and peer recognition and appreciation

Advantages of a Motivated Workforce

Motivating employees in the workplace helps you improve their experience leading to higher engagement and productivity levels. Likewise, it also supports your business goals. 

When you find what drives your team, you can achieve the benefits of a motivated workforce, such as:

  • Higher employee engagement rates
  • Reduced absenteeism 
  • A supportive corporate culture
  • Increased productivity levels
  • Lower employee turnover rates
  • Higher levels of creativity and innovation

A hand reaches for a carrot tied to a stick that is being held by another hand.

Forms of Motivation for Employees: 9 Methods to Use

Motivation may ebb and flow during the year and will vary among team members. Finding things that motivate people isn’t a 1-and-done task.

Instead, continually monitor and assess performance. If you or your managers notice a persistent drop in focus or enthusiasm, reach out to the employee and help them get back on track.

Keep spirits high and reach business goals using these 9 ways to motivate employees.

1. Prioritize Employee Engagement

Motivation is part of a successful employee engagement strategy. Engaged workers are eager to accomplish a task or goal. Providing opportunities for interaction can keep employees happy because they feel invested in their work and workplace. 

However, a Gallup study finds that 36% of U.S. workers are engaged, and “actively disengaged employees report miserable work experiences and are generally poorly managed.”   

Because motivation is tied to engagement, it’s vital to measure levels with regular surveys. Work with your human resources department or an external agency to develop questions regarding an employees’ sense of purpose, commitment, and motivation.

Along with surveys, hold strategic conversations with individuals and small groups. These discussions can highlight areas where your culture or management may inadvertently be deterring engagement.

2. Provide Career Advancement Opportunities

If employees can’t see themselves growing with your business, they’ll look for another job. Internal mobility can be upward, such as moving into a higher paid position or lateral, where workers shift to a different job role that may not pay more but is better suited to their talents or desires.

Help your team members visualize their future by:

  • Creating an organizational diagram showing hierarchy and relationships
  • Sharing business objectives that include adding new positions or departments
  • Working together on employee goals and development plans
  • Offering job shadowing and role rotation opportunities
  • Complete career pathing exercises with individuals

3. Invest in Employee Development

Employee development consists of educational activities, networking opportunities, on-the-job experience and regular assessments. While training focuses on skills needed to do their current job, employee development takes a long-term approach. 

As with career advancement, developing staff helps them visualize a future with your business. It shows leadership cares about professional growth as a whole, not simply learning job-related skills.

Workplace motivation examples involving employee development include:

  • Reimbursing tuition expenses for continuing education 
  • Providing mentorship opportunities as a mentor and a mentee
  • Giving staff time for independent learning 
  • Building interpersonal relationships virtually and in-person
  • Offering resources, such as skills workshops and online webinars

4. Design a Supportive Culture

Improving your company culture and ensuring it aligns with your mission and vision is vital to employee motivation. If there’s a disconnect between what you say and do, staff may feel uninspired. 

For instance, if a worker is struggling to complete a task or feeling burned out, having access to resources, both physical and emotional, can prove your company is willing to be there during the good and bad times. 

In contrast, a lack of empathy and punishment handed down without looking at why your employee is struggling could leave them to believe that you view them as a commodity. If they feel as though you’ll replace them at any moment, they may seek a position where they feel more valued. 

Developing and maintaining a supportive culture requires input from leaders and workers. Team-building activities involving small groups and company-wide workshops can enhance your culture and motivate employees to give it their all.

5. Give Employees a Greater Purpose

Let’s face it: Some job roles and tasks are tedious. Satisfied employees can power through the dull work because they’re excited for what comes next. 

But ultimately, they need a greater purpose to understand why the work they do matters. 

Key motivators include:

  • Knowing their job role or a task aligns with their personal goals and values
  • Understanding how various duties affect business outcomes and objectives
  • Believing that their company’s products or services help customers
  • Seeing how their employer positively impacts the local community

Use storytelling to help employees find purpose in work. A company message board can share announcements about activities of sponsored teams and customer testimonials. 

In addition, give employees an outlet to find their purpose. Provide a list of local organizations that need volunteers or start a drive to fund a charity chosen by your staff. 

6. Recognize Worker Achievements

Recognizing and appreciating your staff is one of the best forms of motivation for employees. Getting a pat on the back for a job well done spurs them to do more of the same. 

But, appreciation isn’t only for completing a task. It also is:

  • Recognizing when a team member overcame a personal struggle while holding down a full-time job
  • Thanking a co-worker for repeatedly helping you navigate a new software application
  • Reframing setbacks or mistakes as learning opportunities

Indeed, feeling appreciated can help employees push through periods where nothing else motivates them. Part of this goes back to your company culture, as building gratitude and a shared sense of accomplishment are crucial. But, worker recognition is both a top-down and bottom-up approach. Everyone needs to be involved. 

Various fringe benefits and nonfinancial rewards, such as leaving early on Friday, are great ways to show appreciation.

A happy worker wearing an “Employee of the Month” shirt hoists up a trophy.

7. Get Help From Management

As companies switch to remote or hybrid work models, managers must learn what motivates employees who work on and off-site. Indeed, supervisors can fuel innovation or sideline it. 

Gallup notes “the manager or team leader alone accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement.” 

Moreover, according to a Degreed and Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning study, 45% of respondents looked to a manager or mentor for “guidance or recommendations” when they wanted to learn something related to their job or career.

To this end, managers must adopt a coaching mindset, including behaviors and skills, such as:

  • Listening to employee feedback and giving nondefensive responses
  • Demonstrating empathy and emotional intelligence
  • Frequently checking in on staff on a personal level
  • Recognizing when employees hit milestones
  • Encouraging worker accountability 

8. Empower Employees to Shape Their Job Role

Aside from recognizing worker accomplishments, giving them autonomy is the next best form of motivation. Having a choice in how, where or when they work is a more effective long-term motivator than feeling obligated to perform to earn a reward.

Ways to motivate employees include:

  • Offer adaptive environments: Flexible work conditions let employees function when they’re most productive from their chosen workspace.
  • Measure performance based on outcomes: Instead of focusing on how long employees sit at their desks, define daily or weekly goals. 
  • Allow focus time: Between emails, Slack messages and video meetings, it can feel impossible to concentrate or stay motivated. Let your team pick hours to dedicate to deep work.

9. Provide and Accept Feedback

Giving feedback to employees and listening to their criticisms shows that you value your employees. In return, they work harder. 

Guided feedback should be immediate and specific. Refer to their effort and actions while avoiding negative discussions about their traits. 

For instance, an employee may excel at written communications but do everything possible to avoid answering the phone, which puts a larger burden on other team members. 

Instead of assuming the worker is lazy, help them come up with scripts for answering calls. Create small daily goals to help them work up to answering a certain number of calls per day.

Your objective is to help staff reach their full potential. By hearing them out, recognizing nonverbal cues and offering regular feedback, you can keep employees motivated and not let mistakes overtake their motivated mindset.

Discover Your Team’s Key Motivators

Determined workers increase productivity and keep things running smoothly. But, some people are naturally self-driven, whereas others need extra support. 

Learn what motivates your employees and recognize when you need to switch things up to activate goal-orientated behavior.

Jessica is a business-to-business content strategist and consultant with 24 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. She writes about technology, marketing and finance.
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