How to Motivate Employees: 12 Tips

Updated on May 16, 2020
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Paul has been training and managing employees for most of his working life. Born and raised in the UK, he now lives in Florida.


Motivating employees is a crucial task for every manager. Happy, enthusiastic employees are more productive, communicate better, provide increased customer service, and tend to be more committed to their jobs. Staff turnover is also much lower if the employees are motivated.

Keeping morale high is not always easy, though, and a specific approach that works well with one particular individual or group, may not work so effectively with others. It's therefore best to be flexible and have a range of methods available.

In my experience, even the best and most experienced managers can get stuck for ideas sometimes. I've listed below 12 practical tips and ideas for how to motivate employees.

12 Ways to Motivate Employees

  1. Lead by Example
  2. Praise Good Work
  3. Provide Incentives
  4. Creative a Happy Environment
  5. Build Individual Relationships
  6. Trust, Don't Micromanage
  7. Provide Opportunities for Advancement
  8. Don't Set Employees Against Each Other
  9. Pay People What They are Worth
  10. Explain The Bigger Picture
  11. Be Transparent
  12. Have an Open-Door Policy

1. Lead by Example

I've put this one first because it really is vital in my experience. Employees look to their leader for inspiration and so the behavior of the leader affects the culture of the entire team. If a manager is negative or even just a little halfhearted, the effects on morale can be devastating. A leader should therefore radiate as much positivity as possible, be respectful to others, be honest, supportive, fair, reliable, and of course, hard-working.

2. Praise Good Work

Praising employees when they do a good job sounds obvious, but it might surprise you how many managers neglect to do this, often because they get too tied up and distracted by other matters. The praise can take many different forms, of course, but making a list of achievements to be highlighted at a weekly team meeting can be a way to make sure that no good job goes unnoticed. Needless to say, if a manager fails to praise, employees will begin to feel underappreciated and even resentful.

3. Provide Incentives

Rewarding employees for jobs well done can be great for motivation. The incentives don't necessarily have to be expensive or monetary bonuses either: things like profit-sharing schemes, paid time off, gift cards, free meals, creative trophies, or movie tickets can be good ways to express appreciation.

4. Create a Happy Environment

A positive work environment is crucial to creating a highly motivated team. It will affect not just the internal workings of the team, but also how they interact with customers and other organizations. Having a well-kept work area with equipment that is up-to-date and functioning is crucial, but also the layout, furniture, and decor can help too. Many modern offices are becoming increasingly homey to provide staff with a comfortable setting. Nobody wants to work in a dull and shabby, soulless office with devices that are out-of-date, or don't work properly.

5. Build Individual Relationships

Your employees need to know that they are valued. That means doing more than just sending out the occasional email to everyone. Building personal relationships is crucial and should be done face-to-face and as often as possible. Not only are staff more likely to be happier and more productive if they feel that they are appreciated, but you will also understand each employee better and learn what makes them tick.

6. Delegate and Trust, Don't Micromanage

Delegating responsibility and trusting employees to carry out their assigned roles can be difficult, but it's something that I would always recommend. If you show confidence in them, most employees will rise to the occasion and meet or exceed your expectations. Micromanaging, on the other hand, saps enthusiasm, because it suggests that you don't trust your employees and any sense of "ownership" that they have for their work is taken away.

7. Provide Opportunities for Advancement

Working a dead-end job can be dispiriting. Creating a structured career ladder for employees and giving them a clear route for advancement provides them with something to work towards. It also makes it easier for you to groom promising employees for more responsible and challenging positions.

8. Don't Set Employees Against Each Other

A little friendly rivalry is usually a good thing, of course, but pitting one employee against another is always harmful for morale. A culture of self interest can easily develop in this atmosphere, rather than what is good for the company. There is also a danger of the negative rivalry turning into a full-blown feud, with other staff being drawn in to create wider factionalism.

9. Ensure Employees Are Paid What They are Worth

There is nothing more demotivating than being underpaid for a job, especially if you see people around you receiving more money for doing less skilled or easier work. As a manager, you should always be trying to ensure that employees are receiving their just rewards, otherwise you may find that you start losing some of your best staff to rival employers.

10. Explain The Bigger Picture

Employees are more motivated if they have a strong sense of purpose. Understanding how their role helps to fulfill the end goals of the organization will make them more enthusiastic and promote a culture of pride. In my experience, some of the most talented employees will exceed your expectations if they know how their work fits in to the bigger picture.

11. Be Transparent

Keeping employees informed of events happening at a higher level helps them to feel involved and reduces the chances of them being surprised by developments. It enables them to ask questions and give their own input. Explaining the reasoning behind your own individual decisions is very important too. An inclusive approach can increase employee commitment.

12. Have an Open-Door Policy

Encourage employees to come to you with their input and suggestions. As well as providing you with ideas for implementing improvements, it empowers employees and gives them a sense of ownership. Make a point of telling them to come forward.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Paul Goodman


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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      19 months ago from UK

      These are all useful and what I would hope most would regard as good common sense pointers. Many years ago, as a young very inexperienced manager I was instructed to ensure each of my colleagues worked a day over Christmas to keep the office open. Although I didn't have to go in, I opted to, as I felt uncomfortable requesting others to do something I wasn't prepared to do myself.


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