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10 Great Ways to Motivate Your Staff

Clueless on how to motivate your employees? Don’t feel bad, employee motivation can be a difficult concept to fully master.

That is why I have compiled a list of ten great ways to motivate your staff and kick-start your business to extra productivity.

Fulfill the needs of your employees

In order for someone to be motivated, they need to have an unfulfilled need. This can be monetary needs, social needs, a feeling of accomplishment, amongst many others.

If someone’s every need is satisfied, they have no reason to be motivated to work. People are motivated because they need something that they don’t have. Be it tangible or intangible.

Your job as a manager, entrepreneur or leader is to determine what these unfulfilled needs are (your staff isn’t always going to just tell you), and then fulfill them.

This is, of course the hardest part to motivating someone. Firstly, people usually have more than one unfulfilled need and it is up to you to determine what these needs are, if you can fulfill them, and which needs will best motivate your employees when fulfilled.

It gets even harder though. You have to determine which is the best way to fulfill these needs. You also have to determine which ways are the most cost effective. Once you answer these questions you must balance these out in order to be most effective.

Give them autonomy and empowerment

Here are some buzzwords that are thrown around all the time to employees, especially when recruiting: autonomy and empowerment. What do they mean?

Autonomy is giving an employee enough flexibility to do their job their own way and have the capacity to make their own decisions. This is a valuable motivation technique since many (not all) employees desire this flexibility and it allows them to truly shine when doing their work.

Empowerment is in many ways autonomy taken to the next level. When you empower employees, you grant them a level of autonomy to act more entrepreneurial in their tasks. They can make more decisions, are responsible for more tasks and they thus feel more connected and accountable for their work. This feeling of responsibility and accountability can be a very powerful motivator for some who have that entrepreneurial spirit but still prefer to work for someone else.

Please take note, however that some employees prefer no autonomy and like the stability of being told what to do. It is up to you (or your managers) to determine the level of autonomy that each employee needs.

Pay, recognition and benefits

The age old question: does pay motivate employees? Many academic schools of thought will say no, but the truth is: it depends. Some people tend to be very motivated towards incentive pay. Others are not.

I tend to lean towards the belief that pay does not motivate people. Being overpaid but hating your job will not motivate you. However, there is a much greater chance that money can motivate by linking recognition or status with pay.

For example, if certain pay levels for salespersons grants them certain tiers, recognition or status awards (that are publicly recognized), pay is much more likely to motivate your staff.

Delegate responsibility and accountability to your employees

This is similar to autonomy. Delegating responsibility and accountability to your employees will help them feel a greater degree of investment in their work.

This responsibility not only pushes your employees to deliver, but gives them a greater feeling of accomplishment when they do.

Generally, the employees that are most likely to be motivated by responsibility and accountability are those that are already motivated. However, delegating this will allow them to deliver even greater results for you and motivate them to perform even more.

Positive Culture and Atmosphere

Essential to any good working environment that fosters motivation is a positive culture in the workplace. If there is a feeling of misery and discontent, no one will be motivated.

Create an atmosphere for your company that is open, enjoyable and empowering to your employees and you will find it much easier for your staff to stay motivated.

An added bonus to this is that your employees that lack motivation, or the capacity to become motivated will self-select themselves out of your company. Thus you will retain your top employees while losing your weaker ones, just by maintaining a positively charged atmosphere.


Short and sweet: some employees just need some good old fashioned praise, a pat on the back for a job well done.

Reward their good work so they deliver again. Lack of praise however, will drain an employee’s motivation quick. Be sure to let your staff know when they are doing a good job.

Feeling of accomplishment

This is an example of a need one may have. Employees in search of a feeling of accomplishment will require projects that give them just this.

Assign these employees projects that give them this feeling of accomplishment and watch them deliver again and again.

Career Level

This isn’t so much a motivator as it is a potential indicator of motivation.

Someone who is invested in their career or career development is much more likely to be motivated or have the capacity to be motivated than one who is just looking for a job.

The difference between the two is that someone looking for a job is looking to fulfill one need: money. This need is fulfilled very easily once they receive a paycheck. The individual who is invested in their career is looking to fulfill multiple needs since they are more interested in long-term employment.

Working in Teams

Working in teams can be a very powerful motivator, since people have social affiliation needs and hope to be a team player. They want to feel as if they are contributing something to the team and feel more invested in the team’s success. A team is typically a smaller group of people, so the workgroup is more personal.

Ones own desire

Some people are naturally motivated. They may not reveal to you what their needs are, nor do you need to know them. They know what their needs are and they motivate themselves to try and get there.

These self motivated employees are frequently your superstars and will go extremely far for you and your company. Leverage their talents and make sure they are happy.

These are all examples of great ways to motivate your staff. These techniques wont work on everyone, as each person has different and unique needs. The most important thing, if nothing else it to ensure to reward good behavior by fulfilling your employee’s needs to incent your staff to keep up the good work.

4 comments… add one
  • Rachel Amo January 19, 2009, 12:09 pm

    Matt you are right on track! Focus on the positive. Performance bonuses and pay raises never hurt, but our employees are never more excited than on Monday morning when the awards are given out for the Wall of Fame. Drumroll please…..

    One topic you may want to cover is that of teaching your employees the ability to teach, that is, not just master the task/process but be able to teach it to another. This not only brings added confidence and recognition to the table, it feeds the heart with the reward of helping someone to learn.

    Great blog! I am grabbing the feed!

    • Matt Thomas January 19, 2009, 2:50 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Rachel! I will keep that topic in mind. Another added benefit to encouraging employees to teach others is that teaching actually increases the knowledge of the teacher. It also fosters a good collaborative mindset, teamwork, empowerment and a more helpful culture.

      And thank you for your kind words!

  • Rodger Menninger February 11, 2011, 4:41 pm

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  • Kristen Pursley April 7, 2011, 10:09 am

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