When you launch or manage an online business, keeping your employees engaged can have a major impact on your success. Your growing ecommerce business relies on motivated employees. Whether it's hosting days when your employees get paid time off for hands-on learning and skills development or offering tuition reimbursement for professional development courses in leadership and change management, these tactics can go a long way to creating a driven workforce. You may even do things within your virtual or physical workplace, such as install Employee Resource Groups, to build personal and professional camaraderie.
In the ideal workplace, every employee would experience their work the same way you do when you’re at your most motivated. They would be engaged, conscientious, and take personal pride in positive outcomes. Unfortunately, this energetic and motivated workplace is unlikely to exist perpetually. But it is possible to use a variety of employee motivation strategies to inspire and benefit those with whom you work.
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Why is employee motivation important?
Keeping employees motivated can increase employee engagement and productivity, encourage innovation, and reduce employee turnover. All of these can reduce costs, increase sales, and support progress toward your business goals. Here’s an overview of the key benefits of staying motivated:
Increasing employee motivation can encourage creativity and boost employee engagement. Motivated, engaged employees are more likely to generate innovative ideas and work to implement creative solutions to business challenges.
Increased employee productivity
Gallup has found motivated employees have higher levels of job satisfaction and productivity. These attributes lead to more efficiently completed tasks and higher performance, increasing revenue and reducing employee-related costs.
Higher employee retention
Inspiring motivation can help you retain top talent . Businesses with more engaged employees had less employee turnover, according to Gallup.
Methods for motivating employees
There are two key types of employee motivation:
Intrinsic motivation refers to the gratification that comes from performing an activity without expectations of any reward or acknowledgment. In a business, you can see this in the satisfaction of improving a skill, performing a task well, or believing in the company mission.
For example, a product manager might have an idea for a new product launch, be personally invested in the success of the product, and have a strong belief in their unique solution. This person is intrinsically motivated to complete the work necessary to bring this product to market.
Extrinsic motivation is influenced by external factors and can include financial incentives, career growth opportunities, gifts, or other extrinsic rewards. The motivating factor is less about completing a task and more about the acknowledgment or resulting consequence.
Performance-based financial incentives are one example of an extrinsic motivation strategy. In this case, the possibility of a monetary reward motivates an employee to complete a task.
6 ways to motivate employees
- Provide regular feedback and recognition
- Unite employee success with business success
- Prioritize employee goals
- Provide autonomy
- Assume the best
- Manage workloads
Prioritizing employee motivation can help you build and maintain a happy, healthy, and productive team. These six strategies can help you increase employee motivation at your company:
1. Provide regular feedback and recognition
Providing specific, thoughtful feedback demonstrates you are invested in your employees and value their contributions. It’s also a form of employee recognition, which is any system or practice that celebrates employee accomplishments and skills. Other employee recognition strategies include awards, birthday or work anniversary gifts, or public acknowledgments of individual performance, such as regular shout-outs during team- or company-wide meetings.
Many businesses place a high priority on structured, change-oriented (or constructive) feedback. This can help employees identify areas for future growth and is often part of an employee's semi-annual or annual review. Reinforcing (or positive) feedback celebrates employee achievements and encourages employees to maintain their level of performance. You should deliver this type of feedback in formal feedback sessions or informally (such as during a casual break-room chat).
A 2022 survey found 65% of employees want more feedback, so consider incorporating feedback sessions into project cycles and delivering one-on-one insights when you meet with your direct reports. Even a quick work-related compliment can go a long way in making your employees feel motivated and appreciated.
2. Unite employee success with business success
As a business owner, it makes sense to prioritize your company objectives and goals. After all, one of your main responsibilities is ensuring the long-term sustainability and success of your business. Problems can arise when you forget your employees don’t necessarily share these goals. One way to get everyone on the same page is to consider providing an incentive structure that encourages business and employee success.
Many businesses adopt incentive programs that tie business success to employee achievement. These can include profit-sharing programs or bonus structures that reward employees when a business reaches certain financial or operational targets.
3. Prioritize employee goals
Another way to increase motivation is to identify individual employee goals and help each team member make progress toward them. To figure out an employee’s professional goals, simply ask. Use existing annual reviews for this purpose or set up an additional round of goal-setting sessions to jump-start the conversation. You might also provide a list of options, such as reaching a certain salary target, gaining a new skill set, or advancing within the company.
For example, let’s say an employee wants to increase their current job responsibilities and pay by 20% over the next five years. You can outline employee performance goals that align with your business’s targets and set interim benchmarks. Outline the necessary steps (such as skills development training and mentorship) for advancement. Schedule regular check-ins to assess progress.
By linking daily work with long-term career goals, you can help employees remain engaged and increase the likelihood they’ll stay.
4. Provide autonomy
Self-oversight can increase intrinsic motivation. Here are a few strategies to help give your employees as much autonomy as possible within the parameters of their job functions:
Set clear expectations
Spelling out what you need from your employees can empower them to make their own choices. For example, instead of saying “You can work flexible hours, but please respond to customer emails quickly,” try “You can work flexible hours, but please respond to customer emails that come in before 2 p.m. by the end of the business day.” While the first option will keep your employees guessing about what’s acceptable, the second clarifies expectations and gives an employee freedom to make work-life decisions.
Involve employees in decision-making
Consider asking your team to weigh in and contribute ideas on major business decisions. To prevent this strategy from backfiring, state upfront how you will be making the final decision—whether you plan on calling a vote or just seeking employee input to inform your decision-making. When it’s time to communicate your choice, be transparent about your process and the factors that influenced the final call.
Soliciting feedback from your employees is empowering. It allows them to take ownership of their work conditions and relationships. It can also provide you with new ideas and valuable data that you can use to inform business decisions.
5. Assume the best
Every business can expect to face challenges, whether it’s an employee missing a deadline or a project team not executing a successful marketing strategy. These types of setbacks in the work environment can have a negative impact on your progress toward your company goals. Their overall impact on company culture depends on your internal management.
If one of your team members is underperforming, for example, you should assume your employee is doing their best. It may feel counterintuitive at first, but taking this approach allows you to authentically communicate your trust and belief in them during the initial fact-finding process. Having positive assumptions while you gather facts about the situation can help strengthen the employer-employee relationship and increase employee motivation.
If the problem proves to be an external factor—like a family emergency—you might provide support through employee wellness benefits or personal time off. Alternatively, if the problem turns out to be the work environment or an unmotivated employee, you can leverage your improved relationship to work toward a solution.
6. Manage workloads
Long hours, unrealistic expectations, and lack of acknowledgment for a job well done are among the top three factors contributing to employee burnout. Therefore, managing workloads and maintaining reasonable employee expectations can help employees feel less on-the-job stress and exhaustion.
If you operate a remote team, you can keep track of individual work volumes through time management tools and software, such as time-management apps, or by asking your team to submit weekly or monthly workload check-ins on a numbered scale of one to 10 (one being the lowest stress level). You can use this information to reallocate projects based on fluctuations in individual employee responsibilities and to keep tabs on capacity. If employees express ongoing concerns, it may be time to make another hire or bring on contractors.
Flexible scheduling and work-life balance programs are also impactful initiatives that can increase well-being and prevent or alleviate burnout. For instance, if you offer team-building activities like a company rafting trip or a team lunch, it can ease the stressors of work. Additionally, devoting paid time to these activities can express gratitude for your employees’ efforts, boost employee morale, and encourage the formation of a healthy team culture.
How to motivate employees FAQ
How do you motivate unmotivated employees?
What causes employees to be unmotivated?
Here are a few common causes of low employee motivation:
- High workplace stress
- Unmanageable workloads
- Feeling unrecognized, unappreciated, or undervalued
- Inadequate feedback or support
What should be avoided when motivating employees?
Find alternatives to the following strategies when motivating employees:
- Comparing employees to each other
- Using or threatening negative reinforcements, such as dismissal
- Providing inauthentic praise
- Delivering vague constructive feedback