How to Motivate Staff - 72 Things You Can Do Today

James Lintern

Mar 2015 ⋅ 9 min read

Too many managers fall into the trap of thinking that the only way their employees' heart is through their wallet.

Of course, a comfortable pay packet may be the ultimate reason thousands of us roll of out bed on a morning, but studies show that if you want to improve long term productivity and positivity in the workplace, increasing salaries is often the last thing you need to consider.

So what motivates a person, if not money?

Motivation isn't something that can just be handed out at will, it is intrinsic to everyone.

What motivates one person may be completely different to what motivates another, which is why a deep understanding of your staff's wants and needs makes it much easier to provide an environment in which they'll thrive, enjoy working for you, and ultimately, perform better for your business.

Some of these motivational ideas will work for your company, some may not - but implement even a few of these and you could be reaping the benefits for years to come.

Give Regular Rewards, Praise & Acknowledgement

1. Give praise when it is due and give it publicly - one of the easiest and quickest ways to boost morale is to recognise your employees' achievements and show that you appreciate them. Bonus points for giving praise in front of other staff.

2. Don’t delay rewards and praise - make sure you hand out the praise when the achievement is fresh on everyone's mind.

3. Pay for overtime - are your employees staying long into the night? If you’re not paying them for this time, you’re taking them for a ride, and ultimately they’ll become resentful. Don't have an accurate way of tracking working hours? Check out our Time & Attendance platform, where staff can clock in and out using their smartphone.

4. Show confidence in staff - showing that you are confident in their skills will boost their own confidence.

5. Executive recognition - this should only be used sparingly, but at times of exceptional achievement, personal praise from an executive takes recognition to a whole new level.

6. Let staff win time off for good performance or winning a contest.

7. Give credit - have certain employees been working for months on a project that has just launched? Attach their name to the project so they can be proud of their work.

8. Write a letter of appreciation - if a staff member did something particularly noteworthy, write them a handwritten note and slide it in with their payslip. This will give them something to hang onto that shows them that you value their time and effort.

9. Use manners - say hello when you pass employees and say please and thank you when appropriate. These are small words that require little effort but carry a lot of weight when making people feel appreciated.

Provide Freebies, Benefits & Perks

10. Surprise Free lunches - surprise takeaways cost little but brighten up everyones day.

11. Regular company days out - plan days out, such as go karting, paintballing or bowling. These days can work wonders for morale and staff bonding.

12. Throw an unforgettable Christmas party.

13. Provide free snacks and drinks for employees throughout the day. Fruit and other healthy snacks perfect for keeping everyone full, and focused.

14. Provide membership to a local gym or health club. Exercise is widely believed to improve mood, boost self-esteem and reduce stress.

15. Pay their expenses - heading to a tradeshow? Pay for lunch on the journey down or refreshments while you’re there.

16. Remember their birthday and give them a surprise gift.

17. Dress-down days - these cost nothing and are a great way to improve morale and allow a freedom of expression among your staff.

18. Offer a generous pension scheme. Knowing they're saving for the future will provide security and make people more comfortable in their career and life.

19. Offer paid sabbaticals - some companies are starting to offer paid sabbaticals, for example, tech company Capterra offers a fully paid, five week sabbatical every five years to each of its employees. This works out to a cost of only 2% over the course of 5 years’ employment.

20. Company retreats - hit a major milestone? why not take the entire company or office away for a weekend or a week?

21. Don’t forget to have fun - host a monthly games day. Table tennis tournaments, Wii tournaments, FIFA competitions and quizzes can all be great ways to get people to let of steam. Keep track of results in a championship table to foster a little friendly competition.

22. Encourage time off with a holiday reimbursements. A performance based bonus that can only be used to reimburse holiday costs is a great way to ensure your staff get a well earned break whilst providing an attractive perk.

23. Extend your lunch hour - consider extending you break times to give staff plenty of time to recharge and hit the ground running when they return to work.

Embrace Constant Feedback

24. Ask what would make them happier.

25. Ask for regular updates on how they are enjoying their job. This is particularly important for new employees.

26. Get feedback using tools like TINYpulse. Not only will you get some interesting insights, but using a system like this will show your staff that you care about them.

27. Ask staff what they think could improve the business and how it would be done. If viable, allow them to implement their ideas.

28. Show each employee what they could achieve, or where they could be in the future, based on how they are performing day-to-day and week-to-week. Do this regularly and keep records to show how they are progressing.

Allow Freedom

29. Give them responsibility.

30. Allow freedom to collaborate.

31. Team up colleagues who work together best - ask your staff who they enjoy working with the most and aim to team them up often. Just make sure they are productive and not simply enjoying themselves, however!

32. Occasionally team up colleagues who don’t often work together - working with new people can provide variety and a platform for sharing new knowledge, ideas and viewpoints.

33. Make them a leader - pick out top performers and tell them that you want them to share their expertise with others.

Be A Manager Everyone Loves to Work For

34. Learn about each staff member personally - Take the time to learn about their family, holidays etc. Ask about updates to show you are genuinely interested.

35. Admit it when you’re wrong - Covering your own tracks will only lose your trust and credibility. Admit mistakes and you will gain the trust and respect of those around you and position yourself as a true leader.

36. Don’t micromanage - allow employees to think for themselves and not act as a puppet for their boss.

37. Don’t nit-pick. In most cases, being a few minutes late is not going to hurt your business. Complaining when your staff show up at 9:02 will only harbour resentment and they'll be out the door at the first opportunity.

38. Stamp out problems raised, quickly.  Show you care by taking any complaints or allegations of bullying very seriously and show the actions you have taken.

39. Follow up to see if the problem was resolved, and if not, find out how you can help further.

40. Lead by example.

41. Encourage people to take a break - approach staff who haven’t used a lot of their holiday entitlement and suggest they have some time off to relax.

42. Don’t blow small mistakes out of proportion - if an employee makes an honest mistake, get over it. You can’t change what’s happened in the past and pointing the finger will only make the person responsible feel tense and anxious. Instead, provide useful feedback about how things should be done next time.

43. Let people go if they aren’t up to the job - if someone isn’t pulling their weight, it can be extremely demotivating for the rest of the team. If you’ve tried everything you can to no effect, you may find that they are simply not a good fit for your team. In those cases it is in everyones best interest that they find a position elsewhere.

44. Take the blame - if your team under-performed on a particular task or project and you feel that you could have done better, tell them. This will take the weight off of their shoulders and keep them fresh for next time.

45. Keep employees informed - if changes are being made, tell them what, when, how. They will feel valued and can give valuable input.

46. Take a photo of your staff and hang it in your office or feature them on your website. Often, only ‘important’ executives and bosses are featured on the website, but if you include everyone, they will themselves feel important, and part of the team.

47. Always do negative things, like handing out discipline, in private.

Encourage Personal Development

48. Encourage personal development. Your staff are humans who have goals and aspirations just like you. Find out where they feel their skills are lacking and do what you can to help them develop their skills.

49. Ask them what they hope to gain in their employment with you.

50. Help them reach their goals as much as you can.

51. Pay for them to attend conferences and workshops to develop skills - this will pay off as they will apply what they’ve learnt to your business.

Provide An Attractive Work-Life Balance

52. Give staff the day off on their birthday.

53. Don’t be stingy with time off. A couple of hours here and there for a dentist appointment makes hardly any difference to your business, but to the staff member it'll seem like throwing away annual leave if they have to take half a day of holiday for it.

54. Allow flexible working hours to suit personality types or if you have staff who are single parents.

55. Tailor work to each employee to provide a great work-life balance - they’ll never want to leave.

56. Allow employees to work remotely if possible.

57. Offer unlimited holiday - a trend being adopted by a lot of new companies, and being made famous by Richard Branson’s recent announcement, is to allow their employees to take as much annual leave as they want. This may not be applicable in a lot of industries but may be worth trying in those where it is feasible.

58. Try a four day work week - if feasible, work one less day per week. This gives everyone more time to handle their personal lives and give the equivalent of 52 extra days holiday per year.

Give Them A Work Environment To Boast About

59. Develop a culture with strong values and vision - establishing strong company values and beliefs, and sticking to them, can make your strongest employees stay at your company for many years, if they share these values.

60. Provide a comfortable environment where people actually want to be.

61. A quality desk and chair in an office environment can make the world of difference. A comfortable employee is a productive one!

62. Provide the equipment that your employees need, and make sure that it is always working. There is nothing worse than trying to do a job with sub-par equipment or tools that have long passed their shelf-life

63. Invest in technology and processes to make their lives easier. For example, if they work in sales, invest in an effective CRM system and communication tools. If you have hourly staff who are constantly swapping and reorganising shifts, deploy systems like RotaCloud to make it easier to organise work around their personal life.

64. Create a competitive environment - this is ideal for sales teams. A company leaderboard can have huge performance benefits, particularly among you top performers.

65. Foster a teamwork environment - allow your staff to create its own character and purpose which will help the team keep each other motivated and on track.

66. Keep your facilities up to scratch - make sure toilets are always kept clean and there are sufficient kitchen facilities to cater for everyone's needs.

67. Add some vegetation to your office - get some real plants. Not only to they increase oxygen levels in the office, but they can also improve the mood and demeanour of your employees, making them more creative/productive.

68. Decorate your office with positive energy wall art and photographs. This has been proven to boost morale as well as productivity.

Job Role & Work Day

69. Give staff job titles they’ll be proud of - giving people the right job title can provide status and self-esteem among your staff. You will also attract high quality candidates for new positions give people more reason to boast about their job and tell everyone about the company they work at.

70. Variety - if a job is repetitive, find a way to offer variety every once in a while - this will be a welcome break.

71. Set realistic targets - If your staff work to specific targets, make them realistic. Nothing can burn out an employee quicker than an unattainable goal.

72. Spread out your break time throughout the day. Encourage staff to take short breaks throughout the day - this can stimulate creative thinking and have a positive effect on productivity.

So there you have it! 72 ways to give your employees a better working life - and give you a more productive workforce.

What do you think? How many of these are you already doing, and which would you like to try? Let us know in the comments below!