How to Motivate Employees: 9 Research-Backed Strategies

May 16, 2024 | Retaining Employees

Josh Rust

Marketing Manager

Ever notice those times when deadlines get missed, projects don’t quite hit the mark, and team members are always calling in sick?

If you’re seeing this happen a little too often to be coincidental, it might be low motivation. 

Many companies face motivation problems these days. Did you know that only 15% of employees worldwide report feeling motivated? 

It’s a concerning global issue that can significantly impact your company’s bottom line. 

When employees lack motivation, it can lead to decreased productivity, poor teamwork, and, ultimately, decreased revenue.

So, how do you fix it?

In this blog post, we’re sharing how to motivate employees with motivational strategies, innovative ideas, and real-world advice to help you create a thriving, productive workplace. 

You’ll learn how to make work fun, build a strong team culture, and implement the best ways to motivate employees. So let’s get started and reignite that spark of inspiration and high productivity on your team!

The Impact and Science Behind Employee Motivation

Engaged employees are not just committed. They’re 87% less likely to resign from their companies. 

This translates to lower turnover rates for the organization, resulting in significant cost savings on recruiting, training, and getting new employees up to speed.

On top of that, studies show that when people are really into their jobs, they’re way less likely to miss work, and they tend to get more done while they’re there. 

According to Gallup, companies with a highly engaged workforce have 41% less absenteeism and 17% higher productivity. 

Employee motivation is a well-researched topic that has been studied for decades.

One of the best ways to understand how to motivate your employees is simply to look at how they’re wired from a psychological level.

Psychologically, basic needs like food, shelter, and belonging must be met before higher-level needs like self-actualization can be achieved (according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

For HR professionals, this means recognizing that employees won’t be motivated to excel in their work if their fundamental needs are not being met, whether it’s fair pay, job security, or a sense of belonging at work. 

Similarly, Frederick Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory suggests that job satisfaction comes from motivators like recognition and opportunities for growth, while dissatisfaction is caused by hygiene factors such as pay and working conditions. 

This means that if HR wants to keep employees motivated in the long run, raising their salaries alone is not enough, especially if other intrinsic factors are lacking. 

Ways to Motivate Employees: 6 Strategies that Work

Creating a motivated workforce doesn’t have to be rocket science. Here are simple yet highly effective strategies on how to motivate your employees:

1. Find Out Whether Your Employees Are Intrinsically or Extrinsically Motivated

When you feel motivated from within, that’s called intrinsic motivation. It’s when you want to do something because it’s fun, satisfying, or meaningful.

Employees who are intrinsically motivated complete tasks because they find them inherently interesting, challenging, or satisfying. Some examples of intrinsic motivators are:

  • The sense of purpose or meaning in one’s work
  • Opportunities to learn and grow 
  • Recognition from leaders and peers
  • Autonomy over one’s work
  • Mastering new skills
  • Having an impact through one’s efforts

Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors outside of the individual. This could involve rewards like money, awards, fame, praise, or promotions. Extrinsically motivated employees work to get something in return, not because they necessarily enjoy doing them. Some examples of extrinsic motivators are:

  • Bonuses or pay raises
  • Perks like additional vacation days
  • Public recognition and praise 
  • Job titles or promotions
  • Competitions with prizes
  • Tangible rewards like gift cards

Identifying whether your employees are intrinsically or extrinsically driven can help inform what motivational strategies will be most effective for your team.

2. Create a Positive Work Environment

When it comes to creating a workspace that keeps your employees motivated, it’s not just about the office decor. It’s about giving your employees the feeling that they are valued, supported, and inspired. 

The physical space and culture of the workplace definitely have a huge impact on the motivation of employees. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Encourage collaboration by designing open office spaces with shared spaces for informal gatherings and team meetings. This fosters connectivity and idea sharing.
  • Allow personalization of workspaces with photos, plants, and other personal items. This helps employees feel “at home” and take pride in their space.
  • Promote wellness by offering standing desks, ergonomic equipment, and healthy snacks. This shows the company cares about employee health and comfort.
  • Maintain a clean, organized, and appealing aesthetic. A professional, welcoming environment subconsciously motivates.
  • Celebrate wins and milestones with parties, events, and gatherings. Social celebrations build camaraderie and energize employees.

3. Develop Recognition and Reward Systems


While financial incentives are important, they’re not the only way to recognize and reward employees. 

Think outside the box by creating personalized recognition programs that celebrate individual accomplishments and efforts. It’s a great way to show your employees you care about them.

  • Implement peer-to-peer recognition programs allowing employees to recognize coworkers for excellent work through monetary rewards, certificates, or shoutouts. 
  • Spotlight employees of the month/quarter through newsletter features, preferential parking spots, trophy awards, or other methods. Public recognition motivates.
  • For top achievers, use creative rewards like paid time off, gift cards, charity donations, or experiential rewards. Unique rewards are more memorable.
  • Celebrate work anniversaries and career milestones with special experiences, awards, or events. This makes employees feel valued. 
  • Send handwritten thank you notes recognizing excellent work and expressing appreciation. Personal gestures mean a lot.

4. Foster Autonomy and Growth

Empowering employees with autonomy and clear growth paths is essential for fostering motivation and engagement. 

Autonomy means giving employees the freedom to make decisions and take ownership of their work, which fosters a sense of responsibility and accountability. 

And, if you give them opportunities to grow and advance in their careers, it shows that you value their development and help them stay invested in their roles for the long haul.

  • Allow flexible schedules and remote work options when possible. Freedom over “how” work gets done increases engagement.
  • Set clear goals and standards, but give employees discretion over daily tasks and processes. Autonomy enhances ownership.
  • Provide development opportunities like skills training, mentorships, and tuition assistance. Growth potential is a key motivator. 
  • Support employees’ career goals through lateral moves, cross-training, job shadowing, and leadership pathways. Enable advancement.
  • Check-in regularly on career aspirations and offer challenging project opportunities. Employees want progress.

5. Implement an Employee Perks Program

An employee perks program goes beyond traditional benefits to offer additional incentives and rewards that enhance the employee experience. 

From discounts on gym memberships and travel to access to wellness programs and financial planning resources, a perks program shows employees that their well-being is a top priority. 

By partnering with companies like Abenity, you can provide your team with exclusive discounts and perks on thousands of products and services, helping them save money and stay motivated both inside and outside of work.

6. Adapt for Remote and Hybrid Workers

Remote and hybrid work arrangements have become increasingly common in today’s ever-evolving work landscape. 

While this change offers flexibility and freedom for employees, it also comes with its own set of challenges when it comes to motivation and engagement. 

Here’s how to motivate employees working outside the office:

  • Send care packages with branded swag, gift cards, and handwritten notes to remote team members. Make them feel included.
  • Organize regular video social hours for informal connection. Water cooler chats build bonds.  
  • Provide ergonomic equipment stipends and WiFi subsidies. Demonstrate investment in home office comfort.
  • Clarify goals and communication expectations for remote workers. Eliminate ambiguity that hinders motivation.  
  • Schedule 1:1 video conferences to provide feedback and discuss development. Out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind.
  • Bring remote team members onsite quarterly for team-building activities, strategy meetings, and face time with leadership. Feeling valued energizes.

How to Personalize Employee Motivation Strategies

Understanding Individual Needs

It’s important to tailor motivation strategies to employees to keep them engaged. To do this, you need to understand what motivates them. 

Try to get to know your team members on a deeper level by scheduling one-on-one meetings to chat about what inspires them. 

What are their goals, passions, and values? What do they find most meaningful and energizing about their role?

You should also adapt your leadership style to motivate different personalities. 

Some employees want more interaction and feedback, while others prefer more autonomy. Being flexible and attentive shows that you care about supporting each individual in the best way possible.

Practical Tools and Resources  

One way to keep your team motivated is to find out what drives them. You can use tools such as:

  • Values in Action Character Strengths Survey helps individuals discover their core values and talents. 
  • One-on-one meetings allow you to ask insightful questions and actively listen. 
  • You can create spreadsheets detailing each employee’s intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, preferred working styles, and other factors affecting their engagement. 
  • Schedule monthly or quarterly surveys to monitor changes in motivational needs over time. 
  • Use software that gathers and tracks employee feedback and measure progress. 
  • Invest in your team’s growth by providing access to training, conferences, or expanded responsibilities. 

With the right focus and tools, you can foster an environment where every employee feels valued and motivated.

Common Employee Motivation Killers to Avoid

Have you ever considered the best ways to motivate employees and the worst motivation killers that affect your team?

From lack of recognition to unclear expectations, these sneaky culprits can quietly sabotage morale and productivity if left unchecked. 

Let’s explore these motivation killers together and discover how to sidestep them to keep your team motivated and thriving.

Bad Leadership

Having a bad boss can be a major buzzkill for motivation at work. Good leaders set a good example, communicate well, and make everyone on the team feel important.

On the other hand, the wrong leadership style or lack of people skills can leave employees feeling disconnected, frustrated, and unmotivated. Don’t be someone who doesn’t listen to their employees or neglects their teams. 

So, take a moment to reflect: What type of leader are you? 

Are you inspiring and supportive, or do you fall into habits that may demotivate your team? 

It’s never too late to reassess and make positive changes that will benefit both you and your employees in the long run.

Micromanagement

Excessive oversight and control from managers undermines employee autonomy and cripples motivation. 

Micromanaging makes it even harder for them to take ownership of their work, be creative, and learn from their experiences. So, finding the right balance of guidance and accountability is important without being a total micromanager. 

Employees need to feel they have the freedom to decide how to get things done.

Lack of Recognition  

It’s important to give credit where credit is due. When employees work hard and do a great job, it can be really disheartening if their efforts go unnoticed. 

That’s why it’s important to show them that you appreciate what they do. Even a small gesture of recognition can make a big difference. 

Managers should praise good work, discuss accomplishments in team meetings, and celebrate work anniversaries and promotions. 

It’s all about making people feel valued and appreciated!

Poor Communication

When employees don’t know what’s expected of them, who’s responsible for what, and how they’re doing, they tend to lose motivation. 

Open, ongoing communication provides the information employees need to fully invest in their work. 

That means being clear about what they need to do, giving them feedback regularly, and ensuring they can ask questions and speak up if something’s not working.

Toxic Workplace Culture

When people are negative, unsupportive, or disrespectful, it can create a really bad vibe. Nobody wants to work in a toxic environment. 

Employees need to feel safe, included, and valued as team members. Promoting collaboration, modeling respectful communication, and cultivating a positive mindset helps prevent a toxic culture from developing.

Stagnation 

When people feel bored or stuck in their jobs, they lose motivation. Employees want the chance to learn new things and take on more significant challenges. 

Managers should give them new duties and training to keep them interested in the job. 

It’s also a good idea to switch team members around so everyone gets a chance to do different things. This will help everyone stay motivated.

Measuring the Impact of Employee Motivation Strategies 

Organizations must measure and track the effectiveness of any employee motivation program or initiative. As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” 

Without proper metrics on how to motivate employees, you won’t have visibility into what’s working and what’s not.

Some key metrics to monitor include:

  • Employee retention rate: The percentage of employees that remain at the company over a set time period. If your motivational strategies are successful, you should see retention improve.
  • Employee engagement: Regular surveys can quantify engagement levels across your teams. Look for increased enthusiasm and job satisfaction.
  • Productivity: Measure productivity based on relevant output for each role. Motivated employees tend to be more productive. 
  • Absenteeism: Track absenteeism rates over time to see if motivation initiatives help reduce unplanned absences.
  • Performance ratings: Scores on performance reviews may rise among motivated employees.

Measuring these workforce metrics can give you valuable insights into your motivation programs’ ROI. 

You can determine what’s working and what’s not and make changes accordingly. This will improve your motivation programs and help you get the most out of your employees.

Conclusion

Motivating employees is crucial for creating a healthy, productive, and innovative workplace culture. 

As we’ve explored in this guide, human motivation is a bit like a mixed bag of surprises — there’s no one magic formula that fits all. 

You can always learn a thing or two from motivation theories, avoid things that make people less motivated, and find strategies that work for each person. 

But, the most effective motivation strategies tap into both intrinsic and extrinsic drivers by meeting basic needs, providing autonomy and growth opportunities, recognizing achievements, and fostering a positive environment. 

While leaders can implement many strategies, one of the best ways to motivate employees is through an Employee Perks Program

With access to discounts on shopping, travel, movies, restaurants, and more, employees feel valued and supported. 

Boost your employee satisfaction and retention and create an awesome work culture that helps your business thrive. Learn more here.

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