How To Motivate Staff | Stepshift

How To Motivate Staff

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

One of the most important jobs of any business leader or executive is keeping their staff motivated – creating reasons to want to come to work each day and a natural desire to strive for the success of the company. Almost everyone is willing to work in exchange for their wages, but the key is to take it a step beyond this, and create a connection to the workplace that extends beyond just an obligation to be there. Motivating staff is an important skill that can increase productivity, morale, and simply promote a healthier working environment for your team.


Key Tactics For Creating Staff Motivation

There are a number of different ways to create staff motivation, and the ones that work best will vary from workplace to workplace, and even from staff member to staff member. Being attuned to their needs and flexible about working conditions and what you can offer is the best way to strike a good balance for every employee. Here are some common ways to create motivation for staff that you may wish to mix and match:

  • Financial rewards. The main motivation for every worker is of course, to earn money. Working hard to seek a higher position is usually spurred as much by the income boost as it is about wanting to increase skills and take on more responsibility. This is natural, and it’s certainly true financial rewards and bonuses can be a great way of increasing motivation. Particularly in sales positions, it’s  considered a way of encouraging employees to perform to their best. However, you should be wary of creating an atmosphere of negative competition between workers, and the pressure to sell can sometimes create stress and anxiety rather than positive motivation.
  • Instil a sense of pride in the company. If you can get employees to understand and appreciate the values of your company, they’ll be much more likely to form an emotional connection and feel independently motivated to work hard and achieve success. Values could include being environmentally friendly, sponsoring local causes, or providing some kind of community service. Feeling like their work is earning more than a profit for the company is a great way to keep staff motivated.
  • Have some fun. Everyone likes occasional nice gestures, such as remembering a birthday and bringing food and drink, organising activity days or casual social events on a regular basis. This improves staff morale, creates a sense of camaraderie, and increases everyone’s sense of investment in the company. Having friends at work is a huge source of motivation for many people, rather than just feeling like they’re independently working for a corporate entity.
  • Encourage new ideas and welcome changes. Even for new or junior employees (in fact, sometimes especially in these cases), feeling like they have a voice and are listened to is a huge part of feeling values and motivated to become a strong part of the company. Listen to what they have to say, ask their opinion and make sure they feel like they matter even if they’ve only just been hired.
  • Build a strong, varied and cohesive team. People are hugely motivated (or otherwise) by the people they’re surrounded by. By employing dynamic, talented and motivated individuals, this will spread throughout your company. As an employer and leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure they’ll fit with the attitude of the company and staff, and be a positive force rather than a negative one.

Depending on your staff, you may find some of these methods more effective than others. Mix and match to find a system that works for you and your work environment.



How To Motivate Underperforming Employees

An underperforming employee can be tricky to deal with – you want to address the issue in a way that makes them feel more confident and excited to do better, rather than attacked and defensive. There are several things you can do to ensure you deal with this in a healthy manner, and turn it into an opportunity to create motivation rather than just merely course-correcting.

  • Address the problem as soon as possible, and head on. The longer an employee is left, the more they’ll think their behaviour or lack of productivity is being sanctioned by the higher ups, and will be more likely to become defensive and difficult to communicate with when it’s finally addressed. Rather than just working around their underperformance by reassigning their work or letting them be shifted around the company, address it fully and before it can get any worse.
  • Find out why. There are many situations where an underperforming employee is not to blame – such as if they simply don’t have the skills for the job, or if they aren’t the right fit, or if they don’t understand what you expect of them. In these situations, you need to look at yourself and the company structure to find out what can be changed. Is additional training needed? Do goals and expectations need to be more clearly stated? An underperforming employee can sometimes indicate a dissatisfaction with the business structure itself, so it’s a good idea to see whether it’s reflecting bigger problems down the line.
  • Be an objective observer. You need to be as unbiased as possible when dealing with employees, even if their behaviour or lack of performance or constant mistakes are an annoyance to you. Try to collect as much information as possible, and get the point of view of different managers and even other staff members. Try to see things positively, or at least from the perspective that it may be you who is in the wrong here.
  • Communicate and form a plan. Once you’ve identified what you think may be the problem, it’s time to open communication with the employee. It’s important to not put them on the spot or make them feel vulnerable – instead, sit down and ask for their thoughts on the matter – why they think they might be underperforming and what could be done to make it better. Brainstorm with them to come up with solutions, and then work together to find ways to put them into operation. The employee should always know that they’re valued and that you have confidence in them, and want them to achieve their best.

Dealing with a singular unmotivated employee can be difficult, as you have to ensure you come to them from a position of wanting to help and believing they can do better, rather than just accusing them of falling short. To do this, you need to identify whether the problem is with them or something more external, and work together to come up with solutions that will solve it.

Check out this video from TED on the puzzle of motivation


Staff Motivation Phrases To Use Everyday

As a leader, the words you use can be your greatest tool to create motivated employees. Without adding any financial incentive or other reward, simply changing the way you speak can have a huge effect. It’s something many people forget to think about or don’t realise is significant, so if you haven’t considered it before it may be time to reassess your vocabulary to try and create a healthier, more positive working environment.

Here’s a handy selection of phrases that can do exactly that.

1. “Thank you.”People want to feel appreciated – nothing feels more bitter than putting in extra effort or going out of your way to do something, only to get no recognition for it whatsoever. Simply saying “thank you” shows that you saw their effort and are grateful for it. Specifically, try to address exactly what they did, such as “thank you for taking care of that difficult customer”, so they understand you were really paying attention. Knowing that their efforts are recognised also motivates employees to try hard in future, as they know it will be noticed.

2. “What do you think about this?” Having your opinion asked for is an extremely flattering thing – it shows the listener values your thoughts and thinks you can offer something. Many people will take this as an opportunity to step up and try to provide something of value, and prove themselves worthy of being asked. You’ll often receive good ideas as well as creating a positive feeling in the employee, so it’s a mutually beneficial tactic.

3. “I need your help on this“. Some leaders feel like they need to appear in control and in command at all times, with all the answers and a firm idea of what to do. In reality, your employees don’t expect this from you. All they expect is a sense of leadership and being able to make the correct decisions for the good of the company – and it’s fine if you need help reaching these. Asking for help shows that you consider the employees valuable and an important part of the business, and it can create a sense of security and respect when everything isn’t happening behind closed doors.

4. “We all make mistakes, let’s figure out how to prevent this happening again.” When an employee messes up, they most likely already feel bad or guilty about it. Pushing this further by yelling or blaming them will only create negative tensions and undermine their self confidence. Get into the habit of looking for solutions to people’s errors, and figuring out ways to not only fix them but also ensure that they won’t happen again. This creates a more positive atmosphere, and motivates people to try (rather than being afraid to fail).

5. “What do you want to do more of?” Figuring out which aspects of the job employees enjoy is an important part of ensuring their role continues to suit them. People change as they get older, and also as they gain more experience in the job role, and it may be that the job they originally signed up for isn’t the one that suits them the best anymore. Find out which aspects of the job they really enjoy, and give them opportunities to explore this as much as possible – you can even sponsor training or other learning activities outside of work. Not only will this make them feel happier to be at work, their added skill in this area is of huge value to the company.

6. “You can do this.” As a leader, it’s essential you show confidence in your employees as much as possible.  Especially when the task is something of a challenge to them, it’s good for them to feel backed up and that you understand it’s going to be difficult, and it’s okay if they need help or struggle slightly. They don’t have to be perfect, as long as they give it their all.

7. “You did a good job.” Saying thank you is important to recognise effort, but it can also be important to let them know they did something particularly well, and especially if this produced a good outcome for the company, or if a client had good feedback. This makes employees feel their skills are up to par, and encourages them to try hard in future to continue meeting these standards. This is a great way to motivate positively and gently.

These phrases may seem small, but they can mean a whole lot to employees who may be used to simply turning up and doing the work, and feeling like a lot of what they do goes unrecognised. Make them a habit to use often, until speaking positively becomes the default for you. You’ll find it creates a general feeling of motivation and contentment among your staff, with very little effort on your part.

Business Desk With Laptop Smartphone, Book And Pen


How To Motivate Young People

Some leadership figures of the older generation complain that young people (usually millennials) are difficult to work with, accusing them of being lazy and entitled. However, rather than this being a problem of the younger generation, this almost always indicates that the leader or business structure itself is out of date. Motivating young people can be a tricky business for those who have relied on the same business practices for decades – they value different things, have grown up surrounded by efficient technology, and have little patience for archaic or old-fashioned structures. They bring a freshness and ingenuity, as well as having their fingers on the pulse of modern trends. For many businesses, having younger staff is essential for success and growth. It is true that they require different motivation tactics from their older co-workers though, so if you’re finding yourself disconnected from your 20-something staff, try some of the following tactics:

  • Listen to their ideas. First and foremost, you need to shed the idea that the most established method is always the best one. Young people can provide a new perspective, and it’s frustrating to them to be dismissed just because ‘we do it this way’. You don’t need to take onboard everything they offer, but listening to them and seeking to reach a middle ground can be a good way to compromise and bridge the gap. Particularly when it comes to technology, media presence and social marketing, their opinions can be very valuable.
  • Offer flexibility. Young people aren’t just in it for the money, they want to have better work-life balance, satisfaction from their work, and a sense of belonging and social connection to their workplace. By creating flexibility in these areas, you give them something in place of the traditional salary and bonuses that is nonetheless just as valuable. This can be a huge motivation, and employees of all ages are usually extremely grateful to be given this opportunity and work hard to ensure it’s deserved.
  • Be willing to try new things. Young people will have attended a very different school from the one older leaders grew up with, and a large emphasis is on challenging established methods and modes. It can be tempting to shy away from any drastic changes, but even trying out a new tool or software that they’re more familiar with can be a great positive change for them to see in their workplace.

Young people are a valuable asset to any company, providing new ideas and a new perspective. However if you don’t take the time to reach out to them and foster and understanding, you may find they become bored, underproductive, and may even leave to find somewhere else where they feel more satisfied.


Motivate Staff By Creating Sense Of Belonging

One of the best forms of motivation is to create a work environment where your staff feel peaceful, relaxed and encouraged by the participation and positivity of others. By belonging to a positive social work environment, they will feel a natural sense of camaraderie and desire to do well as a group. One of the most difficult things to do is to motivate an individual, whereas one of the easiest is to get an entire group feeling confident and excited.  Even though each worker may have their own tasks that they need to complete on their own, you can still draw everyone together and show them that their work is part of the whole. Where possible, show how their work directly affects other staff members, let them know who is relying on them, and most of all make sure the benefits of their work are visible to them.

You can create a sense of belonging by also having frequent social events for staff to participate in, as well as by opening casual conversation around the office. Encourage workers to get to know each other as friends, as well as co-workers. Enjoying a task can depend entirely on the people you do it with, so a strong motivation comes from simply going into work each day and being surrounded by good company. You can also foster this as an employer by seeking out employees who seem like they will be a good fit and bring a positive attitude. It also means you need to be alert and aware of any interpersonal issues between workers, and address them as soon as possible. Unnecessary drama can be a big distraction, and a very demotivational force if it makes someone feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, or even just unhappy at work.

Creating a positive environment and a feeling of inclusion is one of the best motivational tactics an employer has at their disposal – not only does it motivate, it makes your job as a leader much easier as everyone becomes more compliant and willing to be open and try their best.


The Importance of Staff Motivation

Motivating staff is a key role of any CEO, business leader, manager or employer. Motivated staff are happier, perform better, feel confident in their role and work for the success of the company, not just the financial benefits at the end of the day. In summary, here are the key areas you should consider when looking to motivate your workers:

  • Who are your workers, and what do they want from this job? Can you give them fulfilment of some kind?
  • Why should they care about the company beyond their pay check? Does it have strong values for them to believe in? Do they feel like the company also cares about them?
  • Do your staff feel recognised for the work they do? If not, what are some ways you could show recognition and make sure the people doing the work are properly rewarded for it?
  • Is your working environment fun and pleasant? Do your staff enjoy being there? If not, how could you make it more welcoming for them?
  • Do your employees know what is expected of them, and are they able to live up to these expectations? If not, is this because the bar is too high, or because they fail to reach it? Could something internally be done better to improve the system.


Ask yourself these questions and try to answer honestly – even though the end goal is employee motivation, in truth it can be just as much the responsibility of the employer and the company environment itself to foster a natural positive attitude.

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