Manage my business

What motivates employees?

If you motivate your employees, they’ll reward you with peak performance. Motivation is a challenging concept. Factors simple and complex affect how employees view their jobs.

How do you motivate employees?

It’s common to believe that money and enjoyment drive motivation. Research does not support this idea. Behavioral economists like Duke University’s Dan Ariely find that it’s not that simple.

If it were, how would one explain a disillusioned rock star? They do what they love and earn a fortune.

What about soldiers who join Special Forces units? They aren’t paid like rock stars. They train to painful extremes. They volunteer for terrifying missions. Possible outcomes of their work include injury, capture, torture, and death.

Its clear factors other than money and enjoyment affect motivation and satisfaction.

The true sources of employee motivation are straightforward. Employees want respect for themselves and their work.

According to views shared by Ariely, in a popular TED Talk, employees want to do significant work. They need to feel their contribution matters.

The good news is respect is free. The bad news is many employers don’t respect their employees.

Examine your perspective

Are your employees lucky to work for you? Or, are you lucky they work for you?

Do you see your staff as owing you something because you pay them?

Or, are you grateful you have the opportunity to work with them and nurture their careers? Do you hope to employ them as long as possible and ensure their job satisfaction?

It’s most effective to have an attitude of gratitude and take responsibility for your employee’s experience at work.

Three easy ways to show employees you value them

Learn their names and their goals

Know the first and last names of all your direct reports and anyone you interact with regularly. This is the absolute minimum you can do to respect your team.

Employees stay and invest in a company when they feel seen and heard. Respect also develops goodwill toward their employer.

For instance, let’s imagine you have a receptionist named Jordan. You’re heading out the door to catch an international flight and you pause at his desk to find your car keys. You greet him with warmth, as you do each day, and then head out the door.

You also leave your passport on the reception counter.

You treat Jordan with respect and he likes you. He sees the passport, jumps up, runs out the door and catches you just in time.

If Jordan feels he’s a nameless nobody in your eyes, that passport might be a source of amusement for him. What difference does it make to him if a rude person misses their flight, their connection, and their meeting?

An employee at any level might impact your bottom line one day. Never assume someone like Jordan doesn’t matter.

He may have a rich relative who’s an ideal customer. He might have a blog with 10,000 followers. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if he mentioned your business?

You should also learn the career goals of each of your direct reports and mentor them on that path. Even if they plan to leave your company for law school, or to start a landscaping business, help them reach their goals.

As long as they work for you, they’ll do their best. And one day, you might have an extraordinary rose garden and a loyal lawyer who’ll take your call 24/7.

Visit the offices or workspaces of all your direct reports as often as you can

If you have more than one physical location, visit them all. Your team members want to see you and want to show off what they are accomplishing. In your company, you’re the rock star.

Layla, the warehouse manager, reports to you, she’s good at her job but you never visit. You don’t think you need to.

Layla starts to feel neglected. How important could her work be if you never come by?

Should she apply herself? It seems to her, you don’t care one way or another about her work.

There are things you’ll never learn unless you visit in person. You know Layla upgraded your warehouse’s software and physical organization. Warehouse productivity has increased.

When you visit the warehouse it’s astounding. Layla has transformed the place.

Layla sees your surprise and enthusiasm. There’s no replacement for that.

When you leave, Layla thinks about how to impress you next time.

If some of your staff are remote, make sure to contact them face-to-face via software like Skype. Share good news if you don’t have a specific topic, to discuss with your remote employee.

“Hey Salvador, I wanted you to be the first to know, that thanks to your amazing presentation materials, we sold sixteen bulldozers to ExtraBig Construction Company!”

If it’s you aren’t a natural with soft people skills, it’s OK to cheat. Once a quarter, create a contact calendar. Schedule your visits and calls.

Bonus tip: when you visit other locations, it never hurts to arrive with snacks. Or send treats to remote workers. Money may not be a prime motivator, but breakfast tacos and dark-chocolate truffles are.

Value every role and acknowledge good work

In a well-run small business, headcount is lean. You hire who you need to get the job done.

If you own a restaurant, the chef and the dishwasher are both vital. Tell the dishwasher, “you are doing a great job and we can’t get through a day without you.”

You should mean it because it’s true. To deliver your service or get your product out the door you need each of your staff. If you can get through a day without one of them, cut their headcount.

Tell your well-educated employees with prized skills that they’re valuable too. Maturity, experience, and wealth don’t insulate humans from self-doubt.

Busy world leaders find time in their schedules to go to Sweden to accept Nobel prizes. Everyone likes attention and hearing, “well done!” It never gets old.

Insist those that report to you, follow the same set of rules. Motivate every employee in your company.

Get started with Microsoft 365

It’s the Office you know, plus the tools to help you work better together, so you can get more done—anytime, anywhere.

Buy Now
Related content
Manage my business

How to think about data protection & GDPR

Read more
Manage my business

How to manage all five phases of a project’s life cycle with visual tools

Read more
Manage my business

What are your chances of getting audited by the IRS?

Read more
Manage my business

Help your business succeed with efficient HR processes

Read more

Business Insights and Ideas does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.