How to Motivate Your Employees: 21 Leaders Share

by | Apr 29, 2016

How to motivate your employees? One of the biggest productivity struggles for any business is motivating employees. What can you do as an entrepreneur, manager, or leader to maximize your team’s performance?

If you create an “anything goes” environment, your productivity will come to a standstill. Meanwhile, if you act like a slave driver, it won’t be long before your talented employees find work elsewhere – leaving you with equally poor productivity.

Clearly, there are many leaders who create happy and productive teams. What’s the secret?

In an attempt to answer this question, we asked 21 leaders what their advice is for motivating employees. Particularly, we asked the question:

What are the best strategies, tools, and perks for keeping employees motivated between 9am and 6pm?

The respondents consisted of a variety of managers, entrepreneurs, HR professionals and consultants who shared the strategies that have helped them establish motivated workforces.

Take a look through the responses below to discover how you can maximize your own team’s performance, then share any tips we might have missed in the comments below.

Stephen Fean:

Find what motivates them

Vice President, Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers

The best way to motivate employees is to find out what motivates them…not you. Get to know them and what makes them tick. For a 23 year old it could be money. A 45 year old mother of 3 it could be freedom or flexibility to take time off in the middle of the day to see their kids Halloween parade. Creating an environment where employees can achieve what THEY want will motivate them and keep them engaged long term.

Marc Prosser:

Breaks are okay

Co-founder and managing partner, Fit Small Business

The best way to keep employees motivated from 9-6 is not to require them to work every minute in between. The notion that your ideal workers are going to be motivated and focused every second is a dated one, and not something that holds out in practice. You’ll be far better off if you can find hours that work for both them and your business than if you force them to work a set of predetermined hours. The best way to find that common ground is to adopt a goal-oriented mentality. Your team members should be focused on getting the job done and reaching and surpassing expectations in terms of results, not in terms of hours worked. Sometimes that might mean spending more time on the job, sometimes that means spending less time. It might mean taking a short break in the middle of the day to refocus their energies on the task at hand. In any case, you should push them to get results, not comply with an hours-based mentality dating from 20 years ago.

Barry Maher:

Show what’s in it for them

Speaker and Consultant, Barry Maher & Associates

Show them what’s in it for them. Business people understand they have to establish value when it comes to their clientele, but what they sometimes forget is that they have establish value just as consistently when it comes to their people.

You’re asking what your people can do for your business. Your people are asking what the business can do for them. We all know our people can achieve more than they believe they can achieve. So show them that. Show them the vision you have for what they can become and what they can accomplish: a vision you may have helped to instill but one you’ve worked out with them so it encompasses their hopes and dreams. If they think you have a high opinion of them, it’s amazing what they will do to maintain that opinion. And the more they respect you they harder they will work to hang on to your regard.

And show them the vision you have for the business, a business they’re a valuable part of. More important, show them how your vision for the business can help them get wherever they want to go.

You want to motivate people show them how your vision the business can help their dreams come true. Nothing is more powerful.

Another great motivator can simply be the chance to belong to a first rate team, an outstanding organization, to belong to something they can be proud of. One of my clients is the U.S. Army. Why do people perform so heroically in battle? Do they love their country? Of course they do. But when you ask them about it, the answer you get is often the same one you get from championship football or basketball teams. They did it for their buddies. For their teammates. Because they didn’t want to let them down. And they felt like they were part of something special.

Mark Twain said, Great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Make your people feel they can become great–or at least very good–and you might not be a great person but you’ll certainly get great results. No matter how tough times are. And it doesn’t cost a penny. Nowhere near as much as not doing it.

Bryan Clayton:

Rally around the central “Why

CEO and Co-founder, GreenPal

I’ve been in the landscaping industry for 15 years. I started cutting grass in high school. Over the 15 years I grew that business to over 100 people and sold that company last year.

My best advice to entrepreneurs for keeping the team motivated throughout the day is to rally everyone on the team around the central “Why”.

Why does our company exist?

When I was running an organization of that size proved it was daunting, however, creating something bigger than myself was a fulfilling experience. Our company created prosperity for our people and that’s why we did what we did. Much of our operating core was comprised of Guatemalan immigrants and these were the finest people I have ever known. Typically, they would come to the United States for several consecutive lawn mowing seasons, saving as much money as they could to improve the lives of their families back home by building homes, ranches, and setting up farms stocked with cattle.

This became our company’s purpose, our Why. In weekly meetings, we would get progress reports from our men on how projects “back home” were coming along. In the halls of our office and in the shop we displayed picture collages of all the homes, farms, and business that had been established by our people in Guatemala. Celebrating these victories gave us fuel to get through the tough times, particularly when economic recession that began in 2009.

Ashley Chatman:

Let your employees dance

Movement Specialist and Co-founder, Dance Break

Our company has researched and tested the benefits of offering short systematic breaks to employees throughout the workday. According to research from the University of Illinois and the Harvard Business Review, taking breaks is a scientifically proven method for regaining employee focus, sharpness and motivation. And when specifically taking a Dance Break, employees have been found to experience a boost in energy, creativity, productivity and overall work performance.

Roberto Hernandez: Do team squats

Co-Owner and Founder, Stffng Inc

I learned from a client something very simple and effective to reset the daily focus during work hours. Every 3 hrs at his office, he would make an announcement over the speaker to ask everybody to stand up and do 20 squats right at their desk, all together. At first I thought it might be disruptive to the work going on, but I decided to try in my office. To my surprise my team liked it. It really helps to break away from the monotony, the easy exercise keeps us from being sitting all day and quickly you regain your focus.

Not everything is money for most employees. Other successful perks to keep employees motivated and engaged at work that I learned from my different clients go from meditation rooms at the office, masseuses on demand, to other strategies such as flexibility in schedule, working from home a couple of days of the week, and longer time off periods.

Mike Provitera:

Use positive psychology and have an open door policy

Professor, Author, Consultant at DocProv.com

Five Ways to Motivate Employees at Work

1. Give people goals that they want to achieve. Make goals SMART -specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-framed

2. Use intrinsic motivation in the form of accolades and then back it up with donuts and coffee. People like to know how they are doing. Most people today have an internal locus of control and are high achievers. Let them know how important they are by recognizing them.

3. Use positive psychology by offering hope and getting people to focus on positive things that happen on the job. Ask people that are negative to give you 3 things that worked out for them in a positive way while working in this career.

4. Create an open-door policy and offer support when necessary. Be proactive. Participate in MBWA – Management By Walking Around.

5. Show people that you value their work more importantly than their time. People are paid for the value that they bring to work and not for their time. Help people realize their true potential by being authentic with themselves. Authentic leaders are people that take stock in their strengths and develop them while spending less time on their weaknesses.

Joshua M. Evans:

Keep things light

Founder/Enthusiasm Expert, Enthusiastic You!

Some of the best ways for keeping employees motivated is by encouraging lighthearted engagement among your team. Whether it’s high fives or a sense of humor, allow people to not take themselves so seriously has a huge impact across all levels of employees. Giving people permission to be enthusiastic and their authentic selves can yield huge results for job satisfaction and increased productivity. Get rid of complacency and mediocrity! Instead, embrace a culture of enthusiasm!

Chris Huntley:

Reward positivity and respect your team

Owner, Huntley Wealth & Insurance Services

We have a very specific recipe for motivating employees at Huntley Wealth. I truly believe that these ingredients are the glue that holds the company together.

1. Reward Positivity: You encounter peaks and troughs in every business. Not all initiatives go according to plan – BUT it is imperative to maintain a positive work environment. Complaining does nothing to alleviate poor performance, so I prefer to concentrate on what we learned and how we can apply those lessons to our future successes. When people come up with solutions to problems they are rewarded.

2. Respect: I treat my employees like the responsible professionals they are. Micromanagement has a tendency to stifle creativity and it most definitely does not raise morale.

3. Recognition: It feels good when the spotlight shines on you. I know how I feel about this and extend the same respect to my employees. When a job is well done I reach out to the person responsible. Everyone who works at Huntley Wealth knows that there is plenty of room for growth for those that seize the opportunities available.

4. Bonuses: When Huntley Wealth succeeds, we all succeed. I firmly believe in sharing the wealth. Someone who has a vested interest in our success is more likely to put in the extra effort it takes for us to grow.

Doug Claffey:

Have a mission worth believing in

CEO, Workplace Dynamics

Our organization surveyed 2.4 million employees at more than 6,600 organizations in 2015. WorkplaceDynamics partners with leading publishers across the country to produce regional Top Workplaces lists that recognize great companies based purely on the opinions of the employees who work there.

Motivation requires employee engagement; lack of engagement will kill productivity at any workplace.

Here’s one thing that we know: Pay and benefits, while of course meaningful, are the least important factors when it comes to workplace satisfaction and employee engagement.

Time and time again, our research has proven that what’s most important to them is a strong belief in where the organization is headed, how it’s going to get there, appreciation, and the feeling that everyone is in it together.

Chuck Blakeman:

Create ownership at all levels

Entrepreneur, speaker, best-selling author and international business advisor, Chuck Blakeman/Crankset Group

How can organizations improve staff engagement and build a great team?

1. Eliminate ALL managers and replace them with leaders (1 leader for every 10 managers replaced is plenty) and eliminate ALL employees (children) and replace them with self-motivated, self-organizing and self-managed Stakeholders (adults) who never need to be managed.

2. Create ownership at every level. Ownership is the most powerful motivator in business.

3. Push all decisions to the level at which people will have to live with them (the art of leadership is to know how few times the leader should make the decisions)

4. Replace all Time-Based practices/culture with a Results-Based culture – get X results, and we don’t care where you are.

5. Institute profit-sharing and/or other incentive programs.

Danielle Hutchins:

Use surveys and committees

Public Relations Specialist, FreightCenter

The most important thing to remember is that employee engagement is highly dependent on corporate culture. If you have low engagement it’s most likely due to poor culture. How do you improve corporate culture? That depends on your company – more specifically your employees.

The first step is to gauge your strengths and weaknesses. A great way to do this is to send out a monthly employee satisfaction survey. FreightCenter’s survey includes a Net Promoter Score to benchmark change as well as a comment box to leave feedback. We’ve learned from the feedback we received that we struggled with communication. Employees felt out of the loop and like their opinions didn’t matter.

Communication is a common issue among companies and can have a huge impact on their culture and therefore their engagement. To combat our specific issues, FreightCenter made a few changes. The first was to hold weekly company meetings. These meetings feature our CEO Matthew Brosious as well as guests from different departments. We always make sure to open the floor for discussion and questions at the end.

Another trick we found helpful in increasing engagement was putting together employee-led committees. These committees give employees the chance share their voice and ideas. We currently have two committees: Culture & Community and Health & Wellness. We are also planning to start a Philanthropy Committee.

To summarize, I’d say that while every company is different the best place to start when trying to increase employee engagement is to give employees a voice. Include them in the decision making process and value their opinions.

Brandon Adams:

Connections and snacks

Founder and CTO, Loftii

At Loftii, we have four key strategies we employ to keep employees motivated:

1. We hire people inspired by the greater good. Because Loftii is an aspirational company, we never want Loftii to just be a paycheck to people. The nature of our business (enabling people to save children, cure cancer, etc) has massive benefit in employee engagement and motivation. We foster that with frequent updates from our charities, pictures of successes, etc.

2. We intentionally motivate interpersonal connections. We hire people we think fit well culturally and also that we think will be liked as a person, then create opportunities for people to develop (appropriate) relationships – company-sponsored picnics, hikes, etc. We’ve found that if people at work consider each other friends, they not only work better together, they will do whatever it takes to make sure the other person succeeds. Rather than creating a competitive environment (which certainly has its benefits), it creates an environment of leave no man behind. I’ve seen people stay until 2:00am helping someone else (in a completely different department) make a deadline – it’s not uncommon in our environment.

3. Snacks. There are phenomenal employee morale and engagement benefits that come from simply having snacks available for people. After the people, it is the first thing people talk about when describing their employment with Loftii.

4. Bonuses. We pay people competitively, but make bonuses something they can work toward. They are always explicit and we spend a great deal of time reviewing the goals tied to bonuses because we don’t want to create incentives that motivate people contrary to the overall good of the organization. We also make sure that each person’s goals have components that are very team-oriented – again, driving the mentality that we succeed or fail as a team, not as a collection of individuals.

Jesse Harrison:

Communication and goals

Founder, Zeus Pre-settlement Funding

Here are some things I do to keep my team motivated:

1. Communicate every step of the way. Team members like to be kept updated regarding their progress. Imagine a football match, where the players (the team members) don’t know the score until the end. That would not be an exciting game for the players. That’s why at our firm, I always make sure that I communicate with my team members and let them know about how much progress we have made, and I will also give them feedback. This can be done via emails, text messages, or in person.

2. Set a goal, and a reward system. It has been long known that setting a big goal that seems impossible leads to procrastination. We like to break up a task into smaller tasks and give a reward when each smaller task is accomplished. This way, the team members don’t feel overwhelmed, and at the end, they will be amazed at how much they have accomplished one baby step at a time. The reward could be anything that seems reasonable. You could take your team to a nice restaurant, or give them a bonus, or even a simple recognition and appreciation can work. According to Dale Carnegie, people like to be recognized and appreciated for their work.

3. Be motivated yourself. If the team leader or manager is unmotivated, how can he expect the team members to feel motivated? We have seen many managers that appear to be out of touch with their project, and that’s not motivating. A manager who is unmotivated can be spotted from a mile away, it’s about the body language, the tone of voice, the eye contact. Lack of excitement shows. Here at our firm, we always make sure the team leaders and managers are excited about every project by having them be involved in the brainstorming stages.

4. Find the weakest link. Motivation is contagious, and so is lack of motivation. If there is a team member that is hindering performance, ask them what’s going on and try to see if you can motivate them. At our firm, when a team member seems to be unmotivated and spreading this lack of motivation to other team members, we will have a talk with them to see what’s wrong. If we feel that this person just doesn’t believe in this project, we will remove them and have them work on something else.

5. Believe in your team, and tell them that. I will go back to my football analogy. Imagine a football coach that doesn’t believe in his team. He would feel unmotivated to help them, and if the team finds out about the coach’s thought, they would lose their motivation. But you can’t fake this belief. If you don’t genuinely believe in your team, do whatever it takes to fix that.

Shaun Ritchie:

Set Expectations, require your team to set expectations, and revisit regularly

Co-Founder and CEO, EventBoard

“Empowering employees” is critically important, but often becomes more catchphrase than reality. Usually it’s because even though we know it’s important, we don’t know how to do it. For me, the best way to do this is regularly setting expectations with your staff. If you’re doing that at appropriate intervals, you’ll have the confidence that the right things are being worked on, that issues are addressed before they become problems, your team is held accountable, and that you have the information you need to make decisions. At EventBoard, this means having a clearly defined vision and strategy, but also making sure the right things are being worked on. Implementing OKRs at all levels in our organization is key.

David Batchelor:

Have everyone take customer service calls

President and Co-Founder, DialMyCalls

Staying busy and active helps a lot. Something we’ve done that helps keep everyone involved with the whole business is splitting customer support among everyone. While we do have a dedicated customer support team, when they get busy or are out of the office, support calls will roll through to everyone else in the company. Not only does it help keep everyone on their toes and allows them to engage directly with customers, it also really helps let everyone get a good perspective on how our customers use our software. It’s even been key for our management team which can easily lose touch with how customers think, to be in the support trenches and see where customers are getting hung up and ways we can eliminate that issue from our system.

Jennifer Garcia:

Offer the perks that you can

Partner & CEO, Red Bamboo Marketing

There are many ways we keep employees motivated. While we are a growing business, we really would like to implement the perks that you hear about at companies like Google and Apple, but the reality is that we just can’t afford it – yet. So we do things that work within our budget – some of the things included in our standard benefits package are:

  • “Take it as you need it” personal/vacation policy for salaried employees. There is no limit on vacation because we care about what you accomplish – not how.
  • Mobile phone stipend
  • Health/fitness stipend
  • Healthcare
  • Learning budget

Aside from the benefits package we implement social programs that keep employees engaged like:

  • Feel Good Fridays – share some positive vibes with your team mates in our company-wide newsletter, published bi weekly
  • Health Challenges – the water challenge, sleep challenge, daily team pull ups/planks/wall site
  • Employee Olympics
  • Holiday Potlucks
  • Group trainings and certifications (HubSpot, Google Analytics)

Leesa Schipani:

Flexibility and two-way communication

Practice Leader, Training & Development, KardasLarson, LLC HR Solutions

Six tips:

1. Flexible work arrangements: Provide employees with the ability to commute at non-peak hours, attend their child’s play, volunteer or take their dog to the vet without rigid policies and controls.

2. Two-way communication: Keep employees “in the know” regarding organization strategy, direction and results. Be transparent about successes and challenges. Ask employees for ideas to solve business problems and improve profits.

3. Recognition: Recognize employees at the department and organization level for personal milestones, accomplishments, support of your mission, vision and values.

4. Time for Innovation: Provide time for employees to collaborate and generate the next big idea, solve complex business issues, or enhance the current product.

5. Competitive pay and benefits: Pay your employees fairly for the marketplace and type of work. Be transparent with salary ranges and how you arrived at them.

6. Focus on results: Reward results rather than the path to get there (unless it was unethical or contradicts your values). Allow employees the opportunity to seek intrinsic motivation rather than carrot and stick motivations. Ask what you can do to help them achieve desired results and clear any roadblocks.

Lois A. Krause:

Be a servant leader and offer rewards

HR Consultant, Kardas Larson, LLC

Four suggestions:

1. Keep communication open — both ways — listen and discuss. Encourage open dialog.

2. Be a servant leader: ask how you can help them be successful, and act on the answers (don’t ask if you do not wish to act on the answers).

3. Find out what motivates each individual, and craft the proper reward for each person; develop a checklist of rewards for them to choose from (not everyone is motivated by money).

4. Give team rewards for smaller milestone achievements within the larger project. For example, a lunch paid for by the organization can go a long way to keep everyone engaged and collaborative. Publicize that this will happen ahead of the achievement to give employees smaller goals to work towards.

Sylvana Rochet:

Provide freedom

Founder & Leadership Coach, The Insightful Executive

Perks like ping-pong tables and gym memberships have not proven to motivate highly talented employees in the long-run. While coaching company leaders, I’ve found that giving employees freedom is one of the keys to optimal performance. Being at a desk all day decreases our physical ability to stay alert, and productivity drops.

Creating a culture where people can hold team meetings at the Bulgarian café down the street, or where they can work the schedule that best harvests their energy levels will be more useful than having company-paid Happy Hours each month.

Lastly, investing in leadership training for managers will help ensure employees stay engaged. Sure, it represents a cost up-front, but the long-term benefits of giving managers access to solid leadership tools will more than make up for that small investment. There is nothing more harmful to employee motivation than poor management in a company.

LEW BAYER

CEO and author, Civility Experts

While bonuses and other similar incentives might work to motivate employees short-term, most employees would agree that long-term, treating people fairly, being thoughtful and kind, keeping them safe and providing them with the training and tools they need to do their jobs goes a whole lot further towards building engagement and trust.

All of these elements contribute to an overall culture of civility in a workplace. And this is important because the benefits of incorporating civility into the workplace include up to 30% more revenue than competitors and four times increased likelihood that employees will be highly engaged. Further, civility training could result in your organization being 20% more likely to report reduced turnover – all of these outcomes are both measurable and
significant.

Closing thoughts…How to motivate your employees

Motivating your team isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be rocket science either. As you can see from the experts listed above, if your treat your team fairly, offer reasonable perks and compensation, and provide them with the tools and resources necessary to do their jobs, they will likely reciprocate with higher performance.

What are your thoughts on this article and the advice shared? Are there any suggestions or tips that we missed? We’d love to hear your feedback on how to maintain an engaged, dynamic, and productive workforce!

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