These employee motivation techniques come from what I learned from great bosses, college courses, seminars, and books. In addition, there are a number of methods that I created myself.
I applied these employee motivation techniques to a regional field sales organization and later to a national marketing team responsible for over 400 million dollars in sales to 900 retail outlets across the United States.
My regional field organization consistently led the United States in all performance categories and it increased sales by 120 percent. My national marketing team consistently met sales, product development, training, and customer satisfaction objectives.
I always worked hard to do what was in the best interest of those who worked for me. Perhaps this is why many of them came to me and said, “You are the best boss I’ve ever had.” Although I was always surprised, I loved hearing that. I also had a steady flow of people throughout the company who expressed interest in working for me. I ended up hiring several of them. These compliments came in an atmosphere of extremely high-performance expectations by me.
All of this may sound like bragging, but it’s only intended to give you some background and a few credentials, if you will, for the employee motivation techniques that I am about to present.
1. Lead by example
This is a well-known piece of advice, but it’s not always followed correctly.
Leading by example is not just about showing subordinates how to do the job. It’s also about showing them through example how to be optimistic, courageous, honest, courteous, punctual, and anything else you want to instill in them.
Be like, act like, and work like the ideal employee that you desire.
Leading by example is the first step in creating employee motivation.
2. Provide employee motivation IVs
Build a library of self-improvement books and promote their use to your employees.
Establish rules on their care and loan periods (I used 30 days). Encourage field staff who travel by car, truck, or airplane to take advantage of them. This turns travel time into a highly productive activity when personal development books and programs are playing.
The library that I built became popular not only with my staff but also with people in other departments. I was relieved when the other department heads put together their own libraries.
The information that my staff acquired from these materials was evident in their attitude, productivity, and performance. And it became a regular topic at staff meetings.
This library proved to be a key component in increasing and maintaining employee motivation.
3. Feed them inspiring quotes
Send them inspiring quotes from famous people. Send a quote of the month or week. You can find quotes by category in book form, on the Internet, and on this site.
I carefully selected each quote so that it matched current objectives, active program themes, and the time of year. I sent one out at the start of each month.
My boss would regularly forward a copy of my monthly quote to everybody in the regional office. This was a bit embarrassing, but I was encouraged by his actions.
4. Involve them in planning and development
By involving employees of all levels in planning and development, you get stronger support and crucial input.
Since you are responsible for the performance of the entire group and you are privy to information not available to your subordinates, it’s important that you create a blueprint of what you want in advance.
Here’s how I did it. I scheduled a planning and brainstorming segment for our final meeting of the year. I began by presenting our objectives for each of the things we needed to accomplish during the upcoming year. I reviewed my performance standards for each objective. I presented a list of proposed programs and methods for achieving each objective. I opened up the floor for Q&A and discussion. I broke up the group into 3-5 member brainstorming teams and let them pick a project to work on. Later I reassembled the group and each team presented their recommendations. Q&A and further brainstorming followed. Finally, I lead the group in a discussion that zeroed in on which programs and methods were the best.
What I typically ended up with were significant improvements and refinements to the programs and methods I proposed and several new ones to consider.
The most important aspect of this activity was how it got my staff to get behind and excited about our programs. I concluded that involvement in planning and development is essential to employee motivation.
5. Give them a reputation to live up to
Point out an employee’s strengths and capabilities even if they haven’t yet demonstrated such behaviors but you see their potential for them.
I learned about this method from a Dale Carnegie course I took. I applied it to a poor performing employee that I inherited when I arrived in the department. I pointed out to him what I believed he was capable of with absolute confidence. You can’t fake this stuff though. You really have to believe it yourself in order for it to work.
This person turned out to be one of my top-performing district managers. He was also one of the ones who told me that I was the best boss he ever had. He went on to earn a huge promotion to a national position that I helped him get.
Powerful employee motivation can come from simply giving them an inspiring reputation to live up to.
6. Approach managing subordinates like you work for them
Constantly look for and ask your employees for ways that you can make their job more efficient and enjoyable.
In order to create a highly productive team, you have to figure out how to make the duties of their job run as efficiently as possible. In order to do this, you must be willing to use the powers of your position to do what’s necessary to make this happen.
If you look beyond the traditional roles of a manager — leading, directing, teaching, guiding, planning, and creating — you’re left with serving. One of the jobs of a good manager is to serve those who work for them. How? By looking for ways to make their job easier and more satisfying. The more that these conditions are met the more energy and enthusiasm they will have for the really important tasks.
Employee motivation starts with a manager’s willingness to serve the needs of their employees.
7. Use performance reviews to teach, inspire, and guide
There are some advantages to performance reviews that don’t exist with any other communication opportunity with employees. Here are the advantages.
- Ability to communicate performance problems in writing. Written communication enables you to select your words carefully. This is a real advantage over talking when emotions can run high and communication can get distorted.
- Since it’s an ongoing record, progress can be more openly discussed and analyzed.
- Provides the opportunity to formally and specifically praise outstanding performance.
- Provides an ideal structure for assigning and tracking business and personal development goals.
I would have my staff select three business and personal development goals each year. The personal development goals were to be associated with improving their job performance.
8. Encourage and guide them toward greater achievement
Identify research projects that will benefit both the employee and the department. For example, you might have them conduct a research project that looks at improving sales in an underdeveloped area. Or you might give them an assignment that looks for ways to improve customer service.
Here’s a plan that worked extremely well for me. At beginning of each year, I presented a list of proposed projects to my managers. I explained that these projects were to be done in addition to their normal responsibilities, not in replace of them. The projects were identified as being for either one manager or 2-3.
Every manager was required to select at least one project. I explained to them that this project would be assigned as one of their business development goals in their annual performance reviews.
I created a concise reporting form. I designed it so that each of their progress reports would be included in the same form. I required them to send in a report every four months. At the end, they were required to assemble their project in a professionally written format and present it to their peers and me. That way the entire team would learn and benefit from each other’s projects.
I got a lot of valuable information from these projects. A few of them went on to be published by company headquarters and distributed across the United States.
When it comes to employee motivation, special projects can ignite the fire.
9. Make your wishes clear
Making your wishes known is crucial. This means that you not only tell them what you want them to accomplish but you also tell them what you want the end product to look like and when you want it done.
If an employee doesn’t understand exactly what you want, then you haven’t communicated to them well enough. Understanding what you want is not the employee’s responsibility as much as it is yours.
Nothing deflates employee motivation more than not understanding what their boss wants them to do.
10. Provide definitive guidelines, then let them go
Precisely communicate want you want your staff to accomplish and how.
The “how” part should include department policies and your business ethics. The rest of it should be suggested guidelines on how to go about achieving the assignments you’ve given them. Then encourage them to do it in the way that works best while staying within the guidelines you’ve provided.
It is a manager’s responsibility to make sure that their assignments are understood as well as the guidelines in which they are to be accomplished.
11. Continually provide an updated outline of current activities
One of the keys to ensuring that all of your employees know what you want them to accomplish and when you want it done is to regularly send them an updated outline of everything that is going on.
I produced and distributed a comprehensive outline highlighting all current objectives, marketing programs, training goals, meeting schedules, deadlines, and more. I sent it out in writing and I reviewed it during every quarterly meeting and conference call. Reviewing this information repetitively was the key to the success of this communication method.
I believe that this communication technique was one of the most important factors in creating a highly productive, efficient, and motivated group. A group that always and I mean always, achieved objectives and completed all projects correctly and on time.
Implementing communication systems that keep your staff informed and focused is an important component for maintaining employee motivation.
12. Supply an annual calendar for business and personal planning
Create and distribute an annual calendar prior to the beginning of the new year. Put everything you can think of on it including objectives, projects, meetings, and company holidays.
Providing this information will enable your employees to better plan both their business and personal activities. If an employee is able to enjoy a rewarding personal life, they are more likely to give a solid performance on the job.
13. Be considerate of their vacation time
When an employee is able to fully enjoy their vacation without being under any inappropriate pressure from their employer, they do a better job when they are at work.
Some companies put employee vacation time at the bottom of their priority list. This is a mistake. Companies will see greater employee motivation if they are considerate of vacation time. An employee is still expected to follow company guidelines when applying for vacation time, but once it is approved an employer should do everything they can to accommodate it.
14. Be humble but firm
Few things weaken employee motivation more than an arrogant boss. A manager needs to be firm about business matters, but humble at all other times.
Being humble is about not taking your position, title, or self too seriously. It is also about being a good listener and skilled teacher.
15. Favor love respect over fear respect
Many bosses demand rather than earn respect. They demand respect because they hold the financial and career future of their employees in their hands.
Respect derived through fear will push an employee to get their job done. Respect derived through love will inspire an employee to get their job done with excellence every day even through difficult times.
I know that love is a foreign concept for most corporations and businesses, but sometimes a few extraordinary leaders unwittingly attract it even so. I had a boss (one of the great ones) like that who went on to head one of the largest and most successful companies in the world. At one of several retirement celebrations, both his employees and customers wept during his farewell speech.
If you want to create powerful and unbreakable employee motivation, earn love respect.
16. Treat them with respect and trust
Few principles are more important in fostering employee motivation than respect and trust. If an employee feels respected and trusted by their supervisor they will give it back.
Many managers treat their employees with an attitude of disrespect and distrust. This only serves to create a history of resentment that may never fully heal.
If an employee is dishonest, you’ll soon discover it without much effort. Dishonestly is impossible to hide in the long run. This doesn’t mean that you should turn a blind eye to things, however.
Sincerely trust and respect them but keep your eyes wide open until they’ve proven themselves worthy.
17. See them in the best light
Treat employees at the level that you expect them to perform. In other words, see them performing as you want them to perform in the future now!
For example, if an employee is disorganized, first teach them the benefits and methods of organization. Then treat them as though they’ve already mastered it. If they stumble, do not reprimand them if it’s not too serious. Just offer them a quick tip and move on. On a day-to-day basis, treat them as though they are the most organized person in the world.
Employment motivation is often influenced by a boss’s unspoken expectations.
18. Get rid of bad apples
If an employee is resistant to your philosophy and approach and continues to demonstrate poor judgment over a significant period, don’t waste your energies trying to turn them around. Use your energies instead to get rid of them. Their presence will only contaminate the group and lower employee morale.
Clearly explain what you want and how to do it and then let them demonstrate their decision through their actions. Either they will follow your lead to the letter or they will move further away and continue to create problems.
In this situation, it’s best to make notes and keep records on this person, be cautious in your dealings with them (they are sometimes unstable), and start building a case for termination. I strongly recommend that you discuss the matter with your boss and human resources before you start this process.
19. Praise, recognize, and publicize outstanding accomplishments
Praise and recognition inspire a higher degree of employee motivation than money, bonuses, or gifts. Numerous studies have proven this.
So knowing how powerful praise and recognition are and their obvious low cost, you should apply them as much as possible. But you should only do it when the praise and recognition are genuine. The secret is to look for opportunities to praise and recognize your employees in a meaningful and sincere manner.
Be on the lookout for employee efforts that go the extra mile and praise them for it. Create performance challenges that give employees the opportunity to compete with their peers. Distribution program standings on a timely basis. And publicly recognize the winners with as much fanfare as is appropriate.
When it comes to employee motivation, praise and recognition is the indisputable champion!
20. Shepherd their advancement and promotion
If you do your best to help your employees advance in their careers, they will give you their loyalty and best performance. If they sense any reluctance on your part to help them advance because their loss would be an inconvenience for you, they will withdrawal their loyalty and maximum effort.
I helped many of my employees get promotions. Although I did not do it, for this reason, these promotions established a reputation for me as a boss who sincerely looked out for the best interests of his employees. This led to many top-performing employees from other departments wanting to work for me.
Helping your staff reach their career goals increases employee motivation.
The creation of employee motivation requires both mind and heart. Since employees are motivated more by being valued, appreciated, and respected than they are by money, those techniques that are associated with the heart are the most powerful.
Mind-associated employed motivation methods like objectives, guidelines, and activity outlines provide the “what” and the “how.” Heart-associated employee motivation methods provide the “why” and the “end result.”