SnackNation Office

22 Freakishly Effective Ways to Motivate Employees [Updated for 2020]

By May 6, 2019 July 22nd, 2020 103 Comments

Last Updated on

how to motivate employees

If you’re like a lot of managers and leaders out there looking to motivate staff members, the following scenario should sound eerily familiar:

You finally have your dream team in place. You’ve hired selectively, waiting for just the right fit for each role. These are people with stellar backgrounds and proven track records of success. On paper, these individuals are poised to contribute to your culture and help take your department – and your business – to the next level.

To their credit, your team started strong. They came out the gate with fresh ideas and energy.

But lately… not so much.

Free Download: Download this entire list as a PDF. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or print it for future company meetings.

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These days your team seems to be fine going through the motions. That star performer who put up those crazy numbers in her first three months? She’s hit a plateau, and lately her work product has the telltales signs of complacency – sloppiness, surface-level analysis, and an overall lack of creativity.

The frustrating thing is you know how great they can be. You’ve seen them at their best, but for the moment, the spark seems to have gone out

What’s going on here?

Well, it’s good news / bad news time.

First, the bad news: your team lacks motivation.

The good news? This is an entirely fixable problem.

Before you decide to clean house (a terrible idea!), remember that there are proven ways you can reignite that spark you once saw in your team.

We’ve talked to employee motivation and engagement experts to narrow down the 18 best tips to motivate your people and elevate their performance to optimal levels once again.

We’ve also tried to focus on the how as well as the why, so you can turn these ideas into action at your company ASAP.

Let’s dive in and start motivating employees!

Bonusly Vet Example1. Recognize a Job Well Done

How will recognition motivate my employees? Managers and HR pros may be on the fence about incorporating recognition programs at their companies, but here’s why it’s a great idea.

Recognition creates an emotional connection between employer and employee – a critical piece of employee engagement – and fulfills employees’ basic needs of esteem and belonging within a group.

Our friends at Bonusly, an employee recognition software, suggest using spot bonuses as they’re a simple and effective way to recognize and reward positive behavior.

If you’re new to spot bonuses, it’s a type of “on the spot” bonus where you provide your employees with a reward to show them an appreciation for their hard work. Rewards can be cash, gift cards, or money toward their Lifestyle Spending Accounts.

Because these are given “on the spot,” it helps employees to easily identify what behavior is appreciated by the organization and motivates them to work harder and to build upon these values.

dog wearing ribbonAs Charleston, South Carolina-based performance coach and employee engagement expert Liz Guthridge explains, recognition satisfies a fundamental need for all of us in the workplace:

liz_gutheridge_newprofile“People crave recognition. Recognition serves a worthwhile purpose. Recognition confirms you’re doing the right thing and encourages you to keep doing it. Plus the act of giving and receiving recognition makes both the giver and receiver feel good, thanks to the hit of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter.”

 

Failing to recognize people for their work is one of the biggest mistakes Guthridge sees in her work as a trainer and consultant.

Sarah Payne, Managing Editor at Globoforce, offers her take:

sarah-payne“One of the best ways to motivate your people is through appreciation and recognition – the more frequent, the better. In our 2016 WorkHuman Research Institute Report, 79% of respondents told us recognition and rewards makes them work harder.”

 

The best part is – recognition is essentially free! It can in the form of a formalized program, or can be as simple as sending a thoughtful email (or better yet, a handwritten note) to your team members calling out their amazing work.

So the question shouldn’t be “why should I recognize my people?” but “why wouldn’t I recognize my people?”

Tony Aldridge, a top-performing sales manager and expert motivator here at SnackNation, dives deeper.  He explains recognition needs to be personalized to the individual, “Some people like to have their name up in lights while others like a simple email. Remember that everyone likes their recognition in their own way and it is our job as leaders to understand that.”

Motivation is something that each of us experiences differently not all staff motivation ideas work for everyone. It’s important for managers to listen to their team and tailor techniques to fit each person.

Try this: Launch a monthly award program with Bonusly

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  • Have your company vote for the team member who displayed the best work ethic, grit, or attitude for the previous month. (Google Forms or SurveyMonkey make this incredibly easy.)
  • Use this as an opportunity to reinforce your company’s core values by tying the award to the team member who embodies one more of them that month.
    Reward the winner with a gift card, lunch with the boss, or creative trophy.

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2. Boost team spirit with matching swag

Why do athletic teams wear matching uniforms? 

Maybe when this practice first started, it simply helped signal who was on which team, but over the years, matching uniforms have been ingrained in both fans’ and players’ sense of unity, identity, and cooperation. 

When players match, they know they’re working together to achieve a common goal. 

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Make employees feel an even stronger sense of solidarity by giving out matching wearable swag. Looking like a team can make employees feel and act more like a team, enhancing their motivation to “win” at work. 

Try this: Get branded swag for your next company event!

  • Encourage teams to get matching t-shirts printed with their department names, their last names, and maybe numbers if you really want to play up the athletic team theme. 
  • Before your next off-site retreat, charity day, or group outing, get everyone matching branded hats that will help tell the world you’re a team. 
  • Hand out branded sunglasses that will make employees feel team spirit whenever they put them on. 

Get everyone matching baseball shirts and announce that you’re starting a company baseball or softball league.

 

3. Gamify Your Most Important Tasks

Want a proven motivator for everyone, no matter who it is? Looking for team motivation ideas that work? Try turning work into a game.

One way to inject some competition into the workplace is through gamification – i.e., introducing elements of gameplay to your team’s most important tasks.

One of the coolest examples we’ve ever seen is actually here at SnackNation.

Recently, SnackNation Member Success Team (MST) leads Chelsie Lee, Brendan Hannigan, and Clay Telfer unveiled a game-based Achievement and Rewards program that has the whole office buzzing.

Think of a real-life video game, where team members unlock badges for hitting milestones. Except, instead of digital badges for your gaming profile, these badges are actual buttons that Chelsie designed herself and that Clay punched using an actual button maker.

As Clay describes it, the program has three facets:

      1. Medals for participating in monthly team-wide campaigns.
      2. Badges that individual MST reps unlock for hitting certain milestones – like lifetime upsell, number of member issues resolved or total number of calls fielded.
      3. Monthly trophies awarded for outstanding performances, like delivering the best “wow” moment to SnackNation members.

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Part of the reason the program is so successful is that Chelsie, Brendan, and Clay put their own personal touches on it, designing and making their own custom buttons and awarding them in an elaborate ceremony.

Chelsie, who happens to be an amazing woodworker, actually built wooden poles that display each MST rep’s name and their area of expertise (as voted on by the team).

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Try this: Launch your own achievement program and reward with swag

      • This real-life gamification definitely has the “wow” factor, but we understand if you don’t quite have the bandwidth. Luckily, you can launch a virtual awards program via gamification platforms like Assembly – which is completely free!

 

4. Focus on Intrinsic (NOT Extrinsic) Rewards

Sure money is important – we’ve all got to eat and pay the rent. But as a motivator, money definitely has its limits. Here is

A study conducted by Princeton economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman backs this up. They demonstrated that money doesn’t contribute to our overall happiness above $75,000. Income beyond this threshold doesn’t really impact our day-to-day contentment and therefore isn’t a great motivator. Here is where intrinsic motivation comes in to play.

Author and Menlo Innovations CEO Richard Sheridan has seen this play out throughout his career. Sheridan is the architect of one of the most inspiring company cultures we’ve run across, which he chronicles in his book Joy Inc. Here’s what he has to say about money as a motivator:

richard-sheridan“The biggest mistake I see is when companies go right to extrinsic rewards to motivate … title, pay, stock options, incentives, office. We need look no further than Wells Fargo to see how badly this can turn out.”

 

Ok – so if extrinsic rewards don’t matter, what do?

Jenn Lim, the CEO and co-founder of Delivering Happiness offers an alternative:

jenn-lim“Intrinsic motivation that supports who that person is and what they believe in (e.g. purpose, values, autonomy, progress, relationships) is what matters not only most, but what makes the motivation last (i.e. sustainable happiness).”

 

For Sheridan, Lim, and others, it’s things like purpose and values that really move the needle over the long-term.

Try this: Rally around core values

      • Create core values that express the essence of why your company exists – who does your business serve? What problems are you solving? What are the norms and behaviors that drive your team’s approach?
      • Make these values highly visible, and ingrain them in your culture through quizzes, awards, and by practicing them.

 

5. Give Your Team Autonomy

How many times have you heard someone utter the phrase, “I really appreciate how my boss micromanages every aspect of my job.”

Unless you’re lying, I’m going to assume it’s … never.

Human beings value autonomy. We all want to feel in control of our time and energy, and a lack of agency is a surefire way to torpedo your team’s motivation.

Granting autonomy also demonstrates that you trust your team, which will go a long way towards forming the emotional bond between employer and employee that you see at highly engaged companies.

SnackNation’s winning leader, Tony, chimes in, “Autonomy is by far the most important motivator. Trust is the foundation of relationships, especially in business.

I let people own their work and ask for help rather than hold their hand the entire way.  In my experience, this builds our relationship and allows them to feel like I am here to help instead of constantly pushing my own agenda.

In the long run, this builds more self-sufficient teams because they create their own process and I learn how to work with them and for them.”

But despite these benefits, autonomy is not the norm for most businesses. Managers fear that giving their direct reports too much leeway will create a lax environment and employees will take advantage. Cracking the proverbial whip is seen as a way to prevent slacking off.

Even when employers acknowledge the importance of autonomy, it’s still might difficult to get the balance right. Officevibe’s Director of Content Jacob Shriar, explains:

jacob-shriar“The biggest mistake I see managers make when it comes to motivation is not giving employees enough autonomy. Employees often have what I call ‘quasi-autonomy’ where they don’t get to see a project completely through from end-to-end. This is a huge mistake.

When managers let their employees be their best selves and challenge themselves, they’re motivated, engaged, and excited.”

The key is giving your team a true sense of ownership – not just over their most important projects, but on things like schedule and time off. The ability to exert control over their time can be as motivating as the satisfaction that comes with seeing a project through to completion. An excellent tip on how to keep employees motivated and take complete ownership of their work.

Try this: Let employees set their own hours

      • This is a simple way to show that you trust your employees to get their work done without a higher up constantly looking over their shoulder.
      • If you focus on outcomes rather than rules, you’ll be surprised how motivated your employees will be to rise to the challenge.

 

6. Figure Out What Makes Your Employees Tick

One thing we can virtually guarantee: your employees are all very different.

Some are introverts, some are extroverts. Some are adventurous and are energized by the unknown, others prefer the security of the familiar. Some might require extra guidance, others are much more independent workers.

Some are probably fresh out of college. Others might be putting their kids through college.

The point is, your employees have different backgrounds, are at different stages in their lives, and are motivated by very different things. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to force a one-size fits all solution on your diverse workforce.

TaskUs president and co-founder Jaspar Weir concurs.

jaspar_weir“The biggest mistake we see is that one size does not fit all when it comes to management. Some people need more supervision and instruction, others need more independence and trust. A manager’s job is to assess and adapt to each individual.”

 

So how do you assess and adapt? Simple. By listening. Zoomshift co-founder Jon Hainstock advocates frequent check-ins.

jon-hainstock“The best way to motivate your employees is to figure out what makes them tick and align their personal and professional goals with their role in your company as best you can. To do this, you need to check in with each employee frequently and ask them questions about how things are going.

The goal of these check-ins is to understand what they are feeling, and more importantly, why they are feeling that way. Taking time to listen to your employees will increase trust and give you insight into how you can make things better at your organization.”

Try this: Make time to get to know your employees on a personal level

      • Set aside 30 minutes to get to know each person on your team on a personal level.
      • Don’t just ask about career goals, but find out what motivates them outside of work.
      • Questions you can ask:
        • What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from your parents?
        • Who was your childhood hero? Best friend?
        • Who is someone from your past that you haven’t spoken to in over six months? What’s stopping you from reaching out to them?
        • What gets you out of bed in the morning?

 

7. Focus on the WHY

Let’s imagine the following situation:

A manager needs to get his team members to share an important company announcement on social media. Which approach do you think is most effective?

Approach #1: “Please share this blog post on your Facebook page. It’s really important.”

Approach #2: “Please share this blog post on your Facebook page. This announcement is a game changer for our business, and the more shares we get in the first few hours after the initial launch will have a significant impact on how many people we reach overall.”

I’m guessing you picked #2. But do you know why?

Because when you take the time to explain the reason behind your directions, you’ll get much higher buy-in from your employees.

Ingrid Catlin, Marketing Director at WorkStride, sees this all the time with the companies who use their employee engagement software.

ingrid-catlin“The number one challenge we see facing managers when they’re trying to motivate their employees is the fact that the managers have not adequately educated their employees on why they’re doing what they’re doing, only what needs to be done.

To be motivated, an employee needs to realize the impact of his/her day-to-day work and fully understand how it affects the business as a whole.”

This idea also connects beyond simple directives. It extends all the way to your company’s primary purpose. Having a strong Why behind your company’s mission will help motivate every action your team takes.

As Simon Sinek so famously pointed out, the what and the how are easy for most companies to identify. It’s the why that’s hard – and that makes all the difference.

For SnackNation, our Why is to help people become better versions of themselves. We do this by giving people a convenient way to make healthier snacking choices at work and at home. This Why underlies every decision we make, every action we take, and every extra second we put in. It’s what motivates employees here at the snack castle.

Try this: Challenge your employees to identify the Why behind their most important tasks

      • This exercise helps clarify the reasoning behind their day-to-day activities and helps separate essential tasks from non-essential ones.
      • Make sure that they connect all of their tasks with the Big Why that underlies your company’s mission. This understanding will serve as a major motivator in the long run.

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8. Create an Awe-Inspiring Work Environment

Motivation and mood go hand in hand. That’s because your mood affects your energy, ability to concentrate, and overall sense of wellbeing.

If your looking for employee motivation ideas that work, then you might want to invest in your work environment.

Cool office ideas - HUMAN

According to a 2011 study from Ohio State University and the National Institute of Mental Health, your work environment seriously impacts your mood.

In the study, workers in older buildings with low ceilings and loud air conditioners were more stressed than those in newer buildings with things like more natural light and open layouts.

So it makes sense to invest in a work environment where people actually want to spend their time. (Crazy, we know.) That’s why so many offices are starting to resemble homes, and why the kitchen is becoming the center of office life.

Creating a homey atmosphere will motivate your company, minimize distractions, and have your team members looking forward to coming to work each day.

Try this: Make your own furniture

      • This is a great way to bond with your team while making one-of-a-kind pieces for your office and injecting a sense of whimsy into your office space. (Plus you’ll save a ton of money.)
      • Enplug CEO Nanxi Liu built custom desks out of reclaimed doors and basic hardware. She details the experience here.

 

9. Champion Friendly Competition

white board

Emphasis is on the friendly here.  Competition can be a great motivator but if you let it get out of hand, conflict will rise as you see morale and teamwork deteriorate.

If you decide to engage your team in some competition make sure it stays in the realm of fun and not cutthroat.

The challenge is not to get your top performers to perform better, it is also to train them to pull up everyone around them and build a well-oiled machine.

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  1. Plan your competition around a specific business goal
  2. Reward teams, not individuals
  3. Have a system of checks and balances

Stepha Cook, one of our star sales managers and respected leaders here at SnackNation, explains:

“The trick to keeping work competition friendly is to promote fair play.  Although individual successes can be hugely rewarding, often team wins can have an even bigger impact.  It’s important to find the right balance when incentivizing your team – a mix of individual and group goals along with clear rules that promote collaboration over sabotage are essential to long-term success.”

Try this: Host a case competition for a business challenge 

      • This is a great way to encourage innovation and support new ideas and will help teams bond over growth opportunities.
      • Harvard Business Review outlines 4 rules to maximize results.

 

10. Don’t Pit Employees Against One Another

As we’ve already seen, friendly competition can be a good motivator for your team. Things start to go awry when that competitive spirit morphs into a cutthroat culture of self-interest.

To prevent employees from merely “looking out for number one,” make sure that you’re not incentivizing moral hazard.

Here’s MenloInnovation’s Richard Sheridan again with an example:

 

richard-sheridan“The second biggest mistake [I see] is forced ranking systems and then cutting the bottom 10%. Any system that pits the performance of the individual against the rest of the team is bound to fail, and sometimes spectacularly.”

 

Try this: Celebrate successes as a team

 

11. Lead with Vision

Employees need to know that all their efforts are driving towards something. They need to know that there’s a destination in sight. That’s where vision comes in.

Shane Metcalf, VP of Customer Success at 15Five, reminds us why it’s important not skimp on vision.

Shane Metcalf“Without a compelling vision that inspires everyone to rise up and make it happen, you can try every engagement trick in the book and you will only have short term boosts followed by crashes in morale. With vision at the helm though, you create an intrinsic aspiration that taps into the human desire to realize individual and collective greatness.“

Sara Pollock, Director of Marketing at Clear Company, helps breaks this down further.

sara-pollock“Employee motivation and engagement is driven by a clearly communicated mission and vision. Without transparent goals that demonstrate to your people how their work contributes to company objectives, you will find it difficult to truly engage your workforce.

In fact, when companies engage top talent around company mission, their employees are 400% more effective.”

Try this: Create a company vision board.

      • Make a visual reminder of your company’s roadmap. Cut out words, phrases, and images that express the destination you have in sight for the business. What’s your BHAG? Where do you see the company in five years?
      • Encourage team members to add to it. Their participation in this process will give them a sense of ownership and help ingrain the vision into their daily activities.

12. Remember the Golden Rule

Employers sometimes forget that we don’t operate by a completely new set of rules just because we’re at the office. In fact, the lessons we learned as kids are just as relevant now as when we first learned them on the playground. Shawn Murphy – CEO of Switch+Shift and author of The Optimistic Workplace – explains:

shawn_murphy2“Too often I hear managers say they shouldn’t have to focus on motivating their people. It’s their job to do their best. Really?! Since when did kindness, thoughtfulness, and being human stop having relevance in the workplace?”

 

Likewise, Rieva Lesonsky, the CEO, President, and Founder at GrowBiz Media, reminds us that we’d all do well to remember that most of us were once employees too.

rieva-lesonsky“If you want motivated employees—remember the Golden Rule,” she says. “Most managers/bosses were once employees. Remember all the things your boss did that drove you crazy/enraged you/made you quit? Don’t do them.”

 

Try this: Think about the best and worst bosses you’ve ever had

      • Identify your least favorite manager throughout your career. Now make a list of everything that rubbed you the wrong way about him.
      • Now think of your favorite boss. What was it that made her so inspiring? Write it down.
      • Now go over those lists and look for traits or behaviors that you recognize in yourself. Develop a strategy to avoid the negative behaviors and do more of the positive ones.
      • Note – this exercise takes some serious self-awareness. We recommend working on it with a peer – someone who knows your managing style but isn’t a direct report (so they can be honest with you).

 

13. Give Your Employees Ownership in the Company

We’re not just talking about autonomy this time… we mean a real stake in the company. Make employees shareholders.

When employees feel like they are just trading their time for a wage or salary, the relationship starts to feel transactional. They’ll feel much less obliged to spend their discretionary time at work – they might think, “why should I kill myself working late just to make some shareholder’s stock go up a quarter of a point?”

On the flipside, when employees feel a tangible sense of ownership of the business, they’ll care that much more about its success, and be much more willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Try this: Propose an Employee Stock Option Programs (ESOP)

      • Yes, this won’t happen overnight. You’ll need significant buy-in from your company’s leadership to make this happen, but there are real benefits to letting your employees share in the success of the business.
      • Here’s a guide to help you understand what’s involved.

 

14. Offer a Clear Path for Advancement

Nothing saps an employee’s motivation like the feeling that she’s stuck in a dead-end job.

Solve this by delineating a path forward in your employee’s career with a learning and development program… even if it’s not at your company!

Some employers have a tough time committing to a growth plan that sees employees leaving their ranks. But in today’s economy, it’s essential to value “graduation” over retention.

That’s because the growth of your business depends on the growth of the individuals at your company, so it’s inevitable that people will grow out of their roles.

Sometimes this means they move on to different companies. If that happens, don’t get sad… it just means everything is working as it should.

Try this: Implement Individual Development Plans (IDPs)

      • Have team members identify three personal and three professional goals. Make sure they include both short and long term targets.
      • Next identify their current skill sets and compare them with the skills that these goals might require.
      • Meet on a monthly basis to hold them accountable.
      • Here’s a template of the IDP that we use at SnackNation

Individual-Development-Plan-screenshot

 

15. Create Stretch Goals

Stretch goals are ones that are set just beyond your team’s (or team member’s) current capability.

Dangling these goals will motivate them to push beyond their perceived limitations and make major breakthroughs that will help your business.

One thing we all have in common – we want to be successful! Achieving small and major goals keeps us going and feeds our desire to contribute and have an impact.  However, setting goals that are too big will put your team into overdrive which may lead them to feel overworked or burnt out.

Instead, focus on keeping constant and consistent stretch goals that motivate everyone but doesn’t culminate in a definite “end” that could be interpreted as a recovery or designated “slack-off” period.

We all have phases of intense work followed by maintenance.  After all, we can’t perform at 110% 110% of the time.  But giving your team permission to take their foot off the petal will create an even bigger problem when you want to ramp back up to a new initiative.

Try this: Shoot for 4% growth above your team’s limit

      • Growth within this range is generally considered the sweet spot – big enough to inspire real progress, but attainable enough to avoid undue stress.

 

16. Break big goals into more manageable chunks

low-employee-morale-overworked

Even if everyone on your team can’t wait to tackle a massive new project, when the time comes to get to work, motivation can falter. This doesn’t mean employees don’t care about the project; it might just seem too aspirational—so big that employees can’t imagine completing it.

In his extensive research on productivity, Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better and The Power of Habit, found that one of the most effective ways to successfully push progress is to divide work into a combination of big goals and S.M.A.R.T. goals. Remembering the big goals keeps your eyes on the finish line, and the S.M.A.R.T. goals light your way.

Consider S.M.A.R.T. goals the individual rungs on the ladder leading to your loftier goals. While S.M.A.R.T. goals are in fact smart, the name is first and foremost an acronym that tells you all the features your incremental goals should incorporate to get results.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timeline

Try this: Have your team record and report on a list of S.M.A.R.T. goals

Come up with a list of tasks that will help you achieve your major goals. Then make the tasks into S.M.A.R.T. goals by running them through the checklist above. You’ve done the exercise correctly when you know exactly what you need to do to start working toward your big goals.

For example, let’s say your company makes workout gear from recycled materials. Your big goal is breaking into an untapped Australian fitness market. One of your smart goals could be completing a SWOT analysis for your target market.

  • Specific: You’ll identify your company’s specific strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in terms of your target market.
  • Measurable: Easy; you’ll measure success by whether or not you complete the analysis.
  • Achievable: Absolutely; you have a five-person marketing team and an enterprise Nielsen license for market research.
  • Realistic: Yes; just last year, your team completed a SWOT for a Canadian market.
  • Timeline: You’ll allocate at least 2 hours per employee, per day for the project and set a deadline for one month from now. You’ll create a sense of urgency by letting employees know you would like to present the SWOT at the next board meeting.

 

17. Introduce novelty

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When your team can’t find the motivation to complete even basic, familiar tasks, adding more work to employees’ plates by taking on a new project is probably the last strategy you would consider. However, switching gears could be the solution to your team’s motivational rut thanks to neuroplasticity, your brain’s ability to change.

Your brain is pretty good at changing, and it actually likes change. When you give it a novel task or problem, it gleefully rises to the challenge. If fact, research suggests that to your brain, change feels like a welcomed break. When you switch gears, your brain becomes invigorated by all the new information it gets to take in and challenges it gets to tackle.

Try this: Give your team something fresh and exciting to work on

Present your team with a new project that is challenging and also completely different from the work that has gone stale. See what happens. By the time the new project is finished, the old project might have returned to a “novelty” state. Pull the switch again, and your employees might dive right into the old project with new gusto.

 

18. Change locations

As we learned in the tip above, our brains get excited by new things, including new locations and surroundings. One psychologist, Marvin Zuckerman, Ph.D., connected the love and desire for exploration to humanity’s earliest history:

“Homo sapiens were the only group of early hominids to emigrate over the entire world, which entailed great risk, so I think humans as a species are characterized by novelty, and intensity-seeking.”

When we go to new places, everything about our lives seems new, including our creativity and passion for work. On a company retreat, your employees might be able to rekindle the motivation they thought they’d lost forever.

Try this: Plan a retreat to reset your team’s creativity

Plan a retreat that takes employees far from the office and far from real life. If you work in an urban environment, then take the team out to the country to see green hills and blue skies. If your office is off the beaten path, then book a conference room in a swanky urbanite high-rise.

Plan an itinerary that mixes creative brainstorming with practical strategies. When your team gets excited about ideas generated during a free-form brainstorm, up the ante by challenging everyone to come up with ways to apply their innovative ideas to an existing company project.

 

19. Express Gratitude

First thing’s first – though similar, gratitude is different than recognition.

While recognition is about acknowledging specific individuals and their work product, gratitude extends much further. It involves being thankful for what we have in life – things like health, family, even challenges – rather than bemoaning the things we don’t.

Gratitude has been proven to elevate mood by releasing dopamine and serotonin, two of the brain’s feel-good chemicals.

motivational videos for employees

Gratitude also improves brain function. When we’re stressed, we activate our brain’s “fight or flight” response in the limbic system. This stunts activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for cognition, decision making, and creativity.

Expressing gratitude has the effect of creating a calm, safe environment in the brain, which enables your prefrontal cortex to operate at a much higher capacity.

Better mood and better functioning brains = a more motivated team.

Try this: Make gratitude a company-wide practice

      • At SnackNation we meet as a team every Friday to recognize one person who “Crushed-it” and to express gratitude for one thing in our lives.
        • It’s an incredibly simple practice but it’s a cornerstone of our culture and sets a positive tone for the weekend.
      • Handwritten notes are another great way to express gratitude. Our CEO often writes a hand-written note to team members on their birthday, expressing why he is grateful for them being part of the SnackNation team.

 

20. Practice Transparency

A lack of transparency can erode the trust and credibility that you’ve worked so hard to maintain at your company. Get ahead of this by enacting a policy of radical transparency.

The last thing you want is for your employees to misinterpret your fear of leaking critical info with a lack of trust. Plus, leaving your employees in the dark creates a space for them to think the worst.

At SnackNation, we share all important business metrics with the entire team on a monthly basis. This helps remind everyone of our goals, where we are in relation to them, and what we need to do to get there.

sean-kelly-presentation-feeding-america

Is there risk involved in this strategy? Absolutely. But the trust and engagement benefits far outweigh the potential risk of leaking numbers that you don’t want to get out there.

And a funny thing happens when you expect the best out of people – more often than not, they rise to meet that expectation!

Try this: Share your numbers internally – even the ones that scare you.

      • We know that certain figures – like revenue or losses – should stay within the walls of your company, but that’s no reason to keep them from your own team.
      • Resist the urge to sugarcoat or spin bad numbers. Your team will benefit more from a realistic appraisal than a fictional one. Plus, they’ll likely see right through it.

 

21. Get in the Habit of Self-praise

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There is a lot of talk about self-love right now but it’s all for good reason.  People who hold themselves in high esteem tend to be more optimistic about the future.

We all know those people who radiate positivity and good vibes.  They are great to be around because they share their happiness and reinforce feelings of purpose and fulfillment.  The opposite is also true, negative people can make us feel pessimistic and negative.

As a team motivator, you can have a lot of influence on your colleagues.  Make sure that you give off feel-good vibes by practicing self-praise.

Don’t forget to apply your motivation tricks to yourself too.  It’s important to make sure that you are recognizing your achievements.

Try this: Start your day by recognizing a personal accomplishment.

      • Reflect on your work from the previous day and recall a small success.  You will start your day on a positive note and your team will share your sense of achievement and confidence.

 

22. Celebrate Wins

Employee recognition idea: celebrate more

The “play hard” of “work hard, play hard” doesn’t have to stop at your office door. Gratitude and appreciation can go far, but don’t forget to take the moment to celebrate your success.  Nothing gets people amped up like a party.  You don’t have to go all out with a venue, DJ and catering.  Celebrations as small as a team lunch, Friday happy hour or even a coffee pow wow can mark a job well done.

Not only will it motivate your team to reach goals and engage in challenging initiatives, it will help keep the positive vibes rolling into the next project.  Gathering with friends and colleagues is deeply fulfilling and is sure to keep your team’s motivation buzzing.

Try this: Celebrate monthly wins with a breakfast social

      • At the end of each month, encourage your team to think of all of their collective wins.  Invite them to share at a breakfast social.

Conclusion

While there’s no one-size-fits-all way on how to motivate your employees, take some of the ideas mentioned here and see how they can benefit your organization.

How do you keep your team motivated? What have you seen work? What’s failed?

Let us know in the comments below.

Free Download: Download this entire list as a PDF. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or print it for future company meetings.

Motivating & Managing Employees Resources:

141 Inspirational and Motivational Quotes for Work

11 Insanely Powerful and Motivational Videos For Your Team

Managing Millennials in The Workplace: Stop Making It Complicated

17 Lessons Most First Time Managers Make the Hard Way

How to Run a Productive One-on-One Meeting

14 Essential Team Management Skills for First-Time Managers

Boost the Productivity of Your Meetings with These 26 Icebreaker Games

45 Insanely Fun Team Building Activities For Work

31 Things Successful People Do To Increase Their Productivity at Work

103 Comments

  • Si Quan says:

    Hey Jeff,

    This is an incredible post. I really enjoyed how you gave more resources under each chapter (and which influencer to follow!). It’s really helpful for people like us to get more inspiration and ideas on how we could potentially execute on your suggestions.

    Just have a quick question for you — if your company has been around for awhile now and have yet to create a company culture to motivate your employees, how should you start? Would your employees view the plans as a new gimmick the upper management is trying to execute?

    How could you convince your current employees that this is something they should embrace in the future?

    Anyway, really awesome post and I’m definitely sharing it on Facebook! 🙂

    • Jeff Murphy says:

      Hi Si, so glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for sharing!

      That’s a great question. Although we didn’t mention it here, the best way to get started is actually by listening. By that we mean either surveying the entire org or speaking candidly with a few employees from each department to find out what your culture is lacking.

      The effect is twofold – one, you’ll get valuable information about the problems your strategy will need to address, and two, you’ll signal to employees that you really care and want to create an environment that helps them do their best work. This will help employees overcome that initial skepticism. You’ll be surprised the positive effect the simple act of listening can have on morale.

      The first section of this post has a few tips on how to get started: https://snacknation.com/blog/ways-to-improve-employee-satisfaction.

  • Rochelle says:

    Great article! All of your points are clear, and the examples and additional resources are appreciated.

    I work at a small start-up and we have all hands meetings every few months so that everyone knows where the company stands. This helps create an open environment where people feel comfortable asking questions and it demonstrates that management is approachable.

    • Jeff Murphy says:

      Thanks, Rochelle! Very true for all-hands meetings. Have you considered doing it more frequently? There may be a benefit to a meeting once a week or every other week (though not necessarily).

      Glad you enjoyed this piece!

  • Wes says:

    Great article! This is a really useful resource for people at all levels to understand what makes a place appealing to work- and work hard. I will definitely keep this in mind when it comes to developing a motivational culture.

  • Katie says:

    We’ve been trying hard to come up with new ways to motivate our employees and promote teamwork. I’m going to bookmark this page, I love all of the additional resources at the end of each section.

  • Hannah says:

    Motivating workers is something that most companies can work on. There are some really good ideas here, some things our HR manager will love. <:

  • Shane says:

    Great stuff – we’ve found at 15Five that another powerful way of motivating our team and creating a deep commitment to the company and cause is by helping people reveal more of themselves to the rest of the team, creating trust and transparency. We play a game called Question Friday where we ask the whole company a non work related question like “If you were to go back to school to get any advanced degree you wanted, what would it be? The answers are always enlightening and it has everyone feel seen and appreciated for more than just their output.

    • Jeff Murphy says:

      That’s a fantastic idea, thanks for sharing, Shane! Those kind of exercises definitely allow people to open and be vulnerable, which is super important for trust and communication.

  • Laura Stevens says:

    Wow – This article is PACKED. I book marked it because I want to read every thread and just can’t do it in one sitting. Also, forwarding this to my boss… we are spinning our wheels a bit trying to get a consistent positive mojo going… so thank you. I think the leaving additional resources, blogger and influencer for each category makes this an AMAZING article. Good Work!

    Feeling Inspired…..

    • Jeff Murphy says:

      Thank you Laura! So glad you liked the article. Let us know what your boss thinks and if you end up implementing any of these tips, would love to know the impact they have.

  • Lauren says:

    This is a great article. I can say from personal experience that when a company does not try to motivate its workers it can reduce moral and make everyone less productive. Just being recognized for your hard work and given little incentives or going on special trainings really make a big difference. Great article!

  • jeanne says:

    Great article! Motivating millennials in the workplace is certainly a challenge.

  • Valerie says:

    Great article! I’m bookmarking this for future reference.
    We offer a lot of perks, team outings, parties, and we have our own championship belt in office too! Each department has their own award and a new winner is announced at our Friday company meeting for best effort, numbers, etc. They also have monthly contests as well. Company culture has a lot to do with motivation and boosting morale. I’m so glad I stumbled across Snacknation to keep our momentum going strong.

    • Jeff Murphy says:

      Valerie – love that you have a championship belt too! Do you have company-wide recognition programs, or just by department? Which work best for you?

  • The the power of purpose. You do have to tie it all together for employees now. Results + Purpose + Wellness + Culture + Customer

  • Armand says:

    I hope to see more of these tips around my office.
    Motivated employees promote teamwork and camaraderie

  • Christy says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I liked how happiness was included as a motivating factor. I have watched my dad go to work every day my entire life and hate every minute of it. It has always been instilled in me that you go to work to work, not to have fun. I have always had a hard time accepting that. It is good to see that there is a shift in workplace cultures to help create a happy environment where employees want to be. As mentioned in the article, happiness fuels success, not the other way around. I agree 100%.

    • Jeff Murphy says:

      Thanks for sharing this Christy. I think you definitely nailed it – our attitudes towards work are in part generational, as your story illustrates. Previous generations definitely saw work as something that wasn’t SUPPOSED to be enjoyable or energizing, while subsequent generations don’t take this for granted.

  • Jessica says:

    We have just started an employee recognition program. It’s still in the works, but we’ve been brainstorming with ideas from baudville.com. We purchased a few items and we are working on a shout out board where employees can recognize each other for going out of their way to help each other on a daily basis for thing like, cleaning up a mess that they didn’t make.

  • Rebecca says:

    Wow! So much information here. I love that companies are finally seeing that being happy every day work is life changing. Even the littlest bit of motivation makes employees get up and look forward to the work day. And I love the word “gamification!” Our office is mainly a sales environment and these guys are competitive at the core! We often hold competitions and events for them to show off their sales skills. Of course now I will have to make them a belt. 🙂 Keep up the good work! I’m really enjoying all the posts.

    • Jeff Murphy says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Rebecca! It’s amazing how turning your most important functions into a game can make them more motivating and exciting. Post a picture of the belt when you make it!

  • Christi Grider says:

    Great article, Jeff! I’m hoping we can do some offsite events for my company. Love that idea! And the simple act of high-fiving someone. Ummm, yes, we need more of those in my office! On it!!

  • Michelle Thomas says:

    I really enjoyed your article Jeff! I think companies focus on the happiness of the customer, and often times forget about the happiness of the employees as well. It’s amazing to see how much more productive and successful a company can be when the employees are valued and appreciated.

    • Jeff Murphy says:

      Thank you very much, Michelle! The irony is, the customer will actually be better served when employers treat their employees as the “first customer.”

  • Kelley says:

    Really great article! It is so very true about happiness, happy employee’s are will be more successful!

  • Chantelle Chase says:

    Great article to show employee retention strategies and moral boosters. I learned a ton! Much appreciated!

  • Aleeza says:

    Super interesting! How to keep employees motivated is an important topic

  • Giulianna says:

    I made my thesis on how employee motivation works in startups. This is an amazing article. Light and accurate. Way to go!

  • Sara Caban says:

    This is a great article it touches on many good topics. Specially happiness and incentives for employees.

  • Rachel La Scalla says:

    Recognition and perks other than compensation are always great to help boost employee and company morale – this is a great article.

    • Jeff Murphy says:

      Thanks, Rachel! Definitely agree, compensation is more of a threshold, beyond which there’s diminishing returns in terms of motivation.

  • Sophia says:

    Interesting read! For a morale boost and funny joke to lighten up the office – we have a Gif Belt. Whoever consistently posts amazing and perfect .gif images to our All Company group chat wins the Gif Belt (a costume heavyweight champion belt) and will decide who is worthy of the belt next, as well as carve their “King of Gifs” name into the back.

  • Kelly says:

    Super helpful guide to no only getting the best work out of your employees, but ensuring that they feel appreciated as well! A must read for all managers.

  • Rachel La Scalla says:

    I enjoyed this article – open communication plays a big part in employees’ comfort level and recognition propels each individual’s desire to achieve.

  • Darlene H says:

    This is really useful, I’m bookmarking it to come back to. Autonomy has been a big factor in my success, and I trust my company’s leadership as well.

  • Stacey says:

    Excellent read! I shared this out to some of our team and we are going to discuss some positive changes we can make to get our team more motivated. Thanks!

  • Ella Bane says:

    “Trust and empower your team to make decisions and work independently”. Thanks for this Jeff! it truly inspires my team to get going. Understanding, recognition, and trust boost their confidence in doing what they are most capable of. By giving them the motivation they need, they become dedicated to finding ways on how to work effectively as a team.

  • John Lee says:

    “After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.” – John Maxwell
    Very interesting Jeff!. I enjoyed reading this article.

  • baluku watsema says:

    celebrating the wins whether monthly or quarterly, motivates the employees very well and encourages efficiency in whatever work is assigned to them.

  • Ryan says:

    This is a great article with great advice absolutely, but what happened to self motivation and pride in an individuals work? From a young age I always had a job and I always showed up for work in a timely fashion and gave my complete effort to the task at hand, no matter how I felt about it. In today’s age, I see a tremendous sense of entitlement and the thought process that minimal work deserves maximum reward. I have always had a competitive perspective at any job I have ever had. Phase one, procure job, phase two work behind off to secure job of person ahead of me. Today, in a management role and person responsible for employees and a business, it’s like trying to coral a kid chasing a butterfly. Pride, reality, and competitive spirit have gone out the door. I find it extremely difficult to coddle and finesse employees to complete simple obvious tasks and then after they do finally complete them, they some how deserve the world. I find myself constantly trying to understand the differences in the workplace now as opposed to when I began in my chosen profession. The dilemma that I find I struggle with is that I have always taken pride in any task I have been given and always done it to the fullest of my capabilities whereas now, I have to motivate someone to complete a simple task and then reward them for doing so? I understand that times and things change, however self worth and self preservation shouldn’t change that drastically unless there is a problem in society that needs to be addressed long before people enter the work force these days.

  • I email inspirational quotes to my team. I arrive before my team and I spend a few minutes searching inspirational quotes that are relevant to current office events. The team looks forward to the quotes each morning and I enjoy searching for the perfect quote relevant to the current office circumstances. It’s challenging, rewarding, and very fulfilling. Win Win!

  • Emrick says:

    Motivation really increases work quality and productivity of the employee.

  • Bob Lee says:

    I enjoyed a lot. Thanks for sharing the information I always use open communication with my employees and you defined it well that it plays a big part in employees’ comfort level.

  • Lois says:

    Thanks for the information. We are coming out of a trying turn around and morale is low and I need all the great ideas out there to start perking up my team and moving see and believe in us and the great company we are!!

  • Amber L says:

    Jeff, this article is downright lovely! With just a little bit of effort, time, and positivity, you can accomplish such motivation. What a great message to send out. Keep it coming!

  • amit says:

    very helpful content. This will surely help people to stay motivated towards their goals. keep up the good work.

  • Very good content shared, very helpful and reliable. Thanks for sharing this and keep up the good work. Very much appreciated

  • Julian says:

    Awesome post!

  • Paul says:

    Fantastic article. Some real good takeaway ideas here. Thanks for sharing!

  • toptenbiz says:

    Thanks for sharing the information I always use open communication with my employees and you defined it well that it plays a big part in employees’ comfort level.

  • Kibera says:

    Fantastic Tips.
    Motivation is the key. Well explained

  • Phillip M. Steed says:

    The information is very well presented and I will try to work on this. I have some employees which are really very bad and not much of team players. Although I do not say that I am also perfect, but yeah I will try to improve on the things which you have mentioned. Thanks for the information, I have bookmarked it so that i can refer to things

  • jack mark says:

    awesome..Very good content shared, very helpful and reliable. Thanks for sharing this and keep up the good work.

  • Peggy Schempf says:

    There were some amazing things to try! Thank you so much

  • Karen says:

    Thank you for this article. I just moved into a supervisor role after the previous supervisor moved to a different location. So, I am in charge of people whom I had no role in hiring. I’m glad that this article has given me additional ways to get to know my employees so that I can figure out more on how to intrinsically motivate them.

    • Monica Linares says:

      Thanks, Karen! It’s great that you’re finding new and engaging ways to motivate your employees. Keep it up!

  • ritu ahuja says:

    Motivation really increases work quality and productivity of the employee.

  • modapkx says:

    I enjoyed this article – open communication plays a big part in employees’ comfort level and recognition propels each individual’s desire to achieve.

  • Linda says:

    There’s a lot of good information here. Thanks.

  • Muthahinga B Ben says:

    Celebrating what has been achieved by individual or staff as a team is very critical in motivating employees. This goes hand in hand with recognition of the best performers in an organization.

  • Snehil says:

    Amazing. When I started reading this article, I could relate and imagine myself from the very first line. I was a top performer in my last organization when I joined them. We used to be rewarded in terms of money for performing good and archiving target. But, just after 3-4 months, my performance went down and my rewards were stopped as I was not performing well. I am very sure it all happened due to lack of motivation.

    THe reward money, that I was getting was a small sum of money which couldn’t match my needs and hence the motivation to work hard lost my body.

    I had to take a long leave of absence to get a fresh start. But I already have lost too much of will power. Now I work in a different work environment.

  • Larry C. Santos says:

    This is really helpful.lots of good information Thanks a lot..You are much more motivated in an office where you feel comfortable, relaxed

  • Cristin says:

    This is really great! Do you have any ideas to motivate young people outside of an office setting? Here’s the scoop: small business with mostly young adults (early 20’s… first job other than fast food) working off-site (construction type job), often driving many hours between jobs. We’re having issues with compliance and submitting proper documentation, photos, and actually having them respond to inquiries. We’re at a loss.

  • Galvastrong - LGSF manufacturer and supplier says:

    That was really awesome article. It gave new insight about the subject employee motivation.

  • thetecsite says:

    Very good content shared, very helpful and reliable. Thanks for sharing this and keep up the good work.

  • Leadership is something that has all the methods you mentioned on motivating employees. Really liked this article. Amazing. I feel fortunate that I found it today. Thanks again.

  • Employee Motivation is a thing that every organization must follow. Really amazing article. Thanks for sharing.

  • I learned a lot from the article. Thanks a lot for the information. Its really wonderful.

  • Thats a really nice article. Thanks for sharing all the valuable tricks to motivate employees.

  • Super interesting! How to keep employees motivated is an important topic…

  • Liked this article. Motivation is really important and your blog has it all to know about employee motivation.

  • Employee motivation is what i was looking for. Thank you very much.

  • golf rival says:

    This is a great article on motivation tips, loved the way you explained everything. Thanks for sharing.

  • Red Verde says:

    Great article, managers in any field of work need to learn about this knowledge so they can always motivate their employees to be effective at work.

  • Jessie says:

    Most companies hold annual performance assessments, but feedback during these sessions is not always helpful if you leave employees without the resources and coaching they need to address areas of growth and improvement for the rest of the year.

  • Great article Lot’s of information to Read…Great Man Keep Posting and update to People..Thanks.

  • Motivating employees needs proper guts. Thanks for these amazing tips. loved the article.

  • Urbantg says:

    Am agree with your second tip. Transparency is very important with your employees when it comes to gain their trust on your work as well as for them to better understand what they are going to do under your leadership. Well, lots of the points you have mentioned are my priority from now. Its a great read. Thank you so much.

  • boreasband says:

    When your employees are happy on you, you will see an interesting growth in your business. So the very important thing for you to keep your employees happy and satisfied. Thank you for sharing the best ways to motivate employees and keeping them happy.

  • cmadroit says:

    We are coming out of a trying turn around and morale is low and I need all the great ideas out there to start perking up my team

  • Motivating your employees is really a skill which every entrepreneur must practise. Thank you so much for this amazing writeup. I will try to motivate my team in a similar way.

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