Offer ends in
2019-02-28 07:12:20HR and Management: Managing EmployeesEnglishThere are various reasons why employees can feel demotivated and disengaged at work. Here are top ways to motivate employees at workplace. Motivation: Top 13 Ways To Motivate Employees

Employee Motivation: Top 13 Ways To Motivate Employees

16 min read

Chris Gardner’s Story of Motivation

It was in 1982 that Chris Gardner, the multimillionaire stock broker and motivational speaker, was a working homeless veteran with a toddler son. Peddling hard-to-sell medical devices for a living, he could not afford housing and child care. This compelled him to take shelter either in cheap hotels or public dwellings like church or community bathrooms.

The turning point in his life came when in a parking lot, he saw a man who was driving a red Ferrari and was searching for a parking space. Chris reached out to the man and offered his parking space in exchange of details about the man’s profession. Having known that the man was a stock broker and earned $80,000 a month, Chris decided to become a stock broker himself.

After a while, he scheduled an interview with Dean Witter – one of the largest investment banking firms – for an internship program. One night before the interview, he was arrested on account of his inability to pay for the parking lot tickets. So, he went to his interview unshaven and shabbily dressed the next morning. Though carrying a low demeanor at that point, he was still given one chance to prove himself during the trial program at Dean Witter. With a yearning to become eligible for a full-time position, Chris left no stone unturned and made 200 calls a day.

After walking through the life story of Chris Gardner, there is one question that all you managers need to answer. And that is “How To Encourage That Sort of Motivation In Your Employees?”

Reasons For Low Levels of Employee Motivation

A recent report by Gallup on “State of the Global Workplace” showcases some stunning statistics about employee engagement world over. Accordingly, the percentage of adults who work full time for an employer and are engaged at work is just 15%. Where, employee engagement refers to the employees that are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace.

But why is the proportion of employees who are engaged in their work globally so low? The primary reason underlying such a scenario is the presence of low level of motivation among employees due to:

  • Rapid changes brought about by information technology
  • Rise of gig economy
  • Globalization of markets for products and labor
  • Unique expectations of young workers

So, this brings us to the conclusion that employee motivation is an issue that needs to be dealt with. But the good news is that all such research provides us with the insights into the ways to achieve employee motivation.

What is Employee Motivation?

Motivation refers to the process that accounts for your employees’ intensity, direction and persistence of effort in achieving the organization’s goals.

The components of motivation can be:

  • Intensity – This involves how hard your employees work in achieving favorable job-performance outcomes.
  • Direction– This relates to the quality of effort undertaken by your employees. By quality we mean, the consistency of an employees’ efforts with the organizational goals.
  • Persistence – This means how long your employees are able to maintain the effort.

How to Motivate Employees?

1. Focus on Intrinsic Rewards Over Extrinsic Incentives

An editorial cartoon published in the wall street journal in the year 1995 depicted a manager speaking to an employee. The image read:

“What do you mean money isn’t everything. This is a bank!”

This is a common behaviour that you as a manager come across from few of your employees at workplace. There is an explanation to such kind of behaviour. It’s called cognitive evaluation theory. Accordingly, if a manager allocates extrinsic rewards for an employee’s work effort that was previously intrinsically rewarding, it tends to decrease overall motivation. By extrinsic rewards, we mean tangible incentives such as increased pay, attractive bonus or high status. And intrinsic rewards refer to intangible factors like challenging job, achievement at work, job recognition, job responsibility etc.

This is to say that employees who pursue goals consistent with their interests perform better and are happy doing their work. That’s so because the process of striving to achieve such goals is fun. This is in contrast to the one where employees pursue goals for extrinsic reasons. The likelihood of such employees to perform is comparatively less. Moreover, they are not happy even if they achieve the set goals. It’s because such goals are less meaningful to them.

So, as a manager, you need to make the work interesting, provide recognition and support employee growth and development.

As far as designing work is concerned, you can describe any job in five core dimensions:

  • Skill Variety – the degree to which a job requires your employee to perform a variety of activities so he can use different skills.
  • Task Identity – the degree to which a job requires your employees to complete the whole piece of work all by themselves.
  • Task Significance – the degree to which a job has a substantial effect on your employees’ life.
  • Autonomy – the degree to which a job gives freedom to the employees in their work.
  • Feedback – the degree to which a job requires feedback.

After describing a job, you can calculate the requirement of employee motivation for a particular work through Motivational Potential Score (MPS). Thus:

MPS = (Skill Variety + Task Identity + Task Significance)/3 x Autonomy x Feedback

Then, you can also undertake employee recognition programmes. Such programmes play a considerable role in maintaining employee involvement and employee motivation. These programs can involve organizing events to reward hard work or just personally thanking your employees.

2. Set Specific and Challenging Goals

Set Specific Goals Rather Than Generic Goals

Say for instance, you run a corporate forex advisory firm. And as a manager, you ask your employees to sell more number of forex software licences each month in order to increase the revenue of the firm. Such a generalized goal make it difficult for your employees to fathom how many licences they need to sell every month to achieve the sales target. This is because they have no idea what is the exact amount of sales that your firm is aiming for every month.

Instead, you should tell your employees the exact sales target for a given month, say five hundred thousand rupees. This way, your employees would know the number of licences that they need to sell in order to achieve the monthly sales target. Hence, it is advised to provide a specific goal rather than just providing an abstract thing to accomplish.

Give Regular Feedback

Provide feedback for a given work as it can enhance the motivation of your employees to a significant level. This is because feedback helps your employees identify the inconsistencies between what they did and what they were supposed to do.

Set Challenging Goals

Challenging goals push people to work even better. This is because difficult goals focus the attention of your employees only on the work at hand. It keeps the distractions away from your employees and energize them to work harder. Moreover, the journey of striving for difficult goals lead employees to discover strategies that help them perform the tasks effectively.

3. Help Employees To Achieve High Levels of Self-Efficacy

An individual’s belief or faith that he or she is capable to perform a task can be termed as self-efficacy. Employees with high levels of self efficacy work harder to achieve challenging goals. Additionally, such employees are likely to respond to negative feedback with much effort and encouragement. Therefore, self-efficacy boosts motivation instantly.

So, as a manager, you can strive to increase the self-efficacy of your employees in the following 4 ways:

  1. Make your employees apprise with their past performance accomplishments. Such past performance success experiences tend to enhance self-efficacy beliefs among the employees. Whereas, the past failures have been shown to decrease self-efficacy.
  2. Undertake social comparison of your employees. This involves observing the performance of one or more individuals. It includes noting their performance and then using this information to form judgments about your employees’ performance.
  3. Convince your employees through verbal persuasion. This involves verbally communicating your employees that they have the required skill sets to perform a given task.
  4. Undertake employee arousal as it leads to an energized state that drives your employees to complete a task.

4. Reinforce Your Employees Positively

Employees exhibit the desired behavior at workplace when they are positively reinforced. Therefore, as a manager, you need to mold your employees’ behavior by systematically reinforcing each successive step. This will move your employees closer to behaving in a desired way.

5. Maintain Equity or Fairness In Pay

Ensure that you pay your employees according to the input given by them and the outcomes achieved by them for your organization. The input can be in the form of job effort, job experience, their level of education and competence. And the outcome involves salary levels, salary hikes and recognition.

Employees tend to compare their job inputs with their job outcomes. They try to understand the outcomes that they derive out of a job in relation to whatever they give to that job. Then, they compare their job input-output ratio with that of others in the industry. When that ratio turns out to be equal, a state of equity exists. However, if that ratio is unequal, there exists equity tension.

That is to say that if employees are under-rewarded, they get annoyed. And if they are over-rewarded, they feel guilty. Hence, as a manager, you should always strive to maintain equity in pay.

6. Tailor Rewards According To Individual Employee’s Needs

Employees become motivated to put in high-level of effort when they believe that such effort will lead to a desired outcome. This means that the tendency of an employee to act in a certain way depends on:

a) the strength of an expectation that a particular action will lead to a desired outcome and
b) The attractiveness of an outcome to the employee

Thus, the following three relationships help us explain why certain employees aren’t motivated at workplace:

  • Effort-Performance: This means the probability attached by an employee that a particular amount of effort will lead to performance.
  • Performance – Reward: This refers to the employees’ belief that performing at a certain level will lead to the desired outcome.
  • Reward- Personal Goals: This is the degree to which organizational rewards satisfy an individual’s personal goals. It also involves the attractiveness of those rewards to an individual employee.

Hence, to motivate your employees, you should tailor the rewards according to an individual employee needs. To achieve that, flexible benefits is a way of satisfying individual needs. Such benefits involve benefit packages that are customized according to the employee’s needs.

This consists of three benefit plans:

  • Modular Plans: Under such plans, employees get module packages solely benefiting their interests.
  • Core Plus Plans: These plans consist of a core package along with several option menus from where employees can choose additional plans.
  • Flexible Spending Plans: These plans allow employees to spend their stipend for some other purpose which in turn reduces their tax count.

7. Make Jobs Motivating For Employees By Redesigning Work

Redesign jobs for your employees to keep them involved. And the ways in which you can make the jobs motivating for your employees include:

1. Job rotation

Employees suffer from routine tasks as they are no longer challenging. Thus, you can use job rotation to reduce work boredom and increase employee motivation. Simply shift an employee periodically from one task to another at the same level, requiring similar skill sets.

2. Job Enlargement

This involves diversifying your employees’ tasks in terms of quantity and variety horizontally. Job enlargement therefore involves changing the nature of work itself. This keeps the employee motivated and excited.

3. Job Enrichment

It refers to expanding the job of your employees vertically. Such a job expansion leads increase in the degree of control, planning, execution and work evaluation exercised by your employees. This enables the employees to work on a complete activity, gives them freedom, increases their responsibility and provides them feedback.

8. Make Work Schedules Flexible

Allow flexible work hours to your employees. This gives some amount of freedom to your employees regarding when they can arrive at work or leave the workplace. Since each employee has to work for specific number of hours every week, they can vary the work hours to a certain extent.

This reduces absenteeism and improves productivity of your employees. Moreover, it gives them the leeway to schedule their work hours in accordance with their personal needs.

9. Give Employees The Benefit of Virtual Office

According to a report on “Indian Workplace of 2022”, 15% of the 2001 indians surveyed wanted to work in a virtual place by the year 2022. With the rise of technology, preference for flexible work and autonomy, managers will have to embrace the portfolio career.

Virtual Office or Telecommunicating enables your employees to connect with the office and work from home on computer. This makes the working procedure a lot more flexible for your employees. The value proposition for your employees in such a scenario includes flexibility and autonomy at workplace.

10. Supportive Work Environment

Work Environment is a significant factor in enhancing or hindering an employee’s functioning capabilities. A supportive work environment stimulates the performance of an employee. Hence, a workplace with well-equipped facilities eases the work of employees and makes them more effective.

There may be instances where few of your employees despite possessing capability and motivation still underperform. At such times, you need to check whether your employees are given 1) the requisite tools, 2) proper working conditions and 3) a supportive work environment.

11. Increased Employee Involvement

Employee involvement can be regarded as increasing employee participation in order to increase their commitment towards the organization. Therefore, to increase employee motivation & productivity, you need to involve your employees in the decisions that affect them. Moreover, you need to give them more autonomy and control over their work lives.

There are 3 major employee involvement programs that you can consider specifically:

1. Participative Management

This involves programs where subordinates are given power to participate in the decision-making process with their superiors. For such a program to work, you have to ensure that the issues to-be-discussed must relate to your employees interests. Moreover, your employees must have the knowledge and competence to help in decision-making.

2. Representative Management

Such a program involves a small group of employees acting as representatives for all the employees working in a team or organization. These representatives participate in the decision-making process rather than each employee participating individually.

This program may increase the motivation of the participants.But there is little evidence whether such a program would motivate the working employees.

3. Quality Circle

This is like a small authority group comprising of your employees and supervisors. This group meets regularly to discuss issues, recommend solutions and take corrective actions.

Although there are studies that show positive impact of quality circles on employee productivity. But such studies are not guaranteed and are quite less in number.

12. Recognizing Employees Work Through Monetary Rewards

Rewards are an important factor in maintaining employee satisfaction at work. Therefore, as a manager, you need to figure out what you need to pay your employees and how.

Ideally, the best pay system involves paying a job according to its worth as well as paying competitively in the industry. But according to the resources at your disposal, you can choose to pay equal to, higher or lower than the industry standards.

Now, how such rewards should be given is taken care of by variable pay programmes. Such programmes do not reward employees on the basis of time spent on the job or seniority level. Infact, these programmes base a portion of your employees pay on some individual or organizational measure of performance.

The various types of variable pay programs include:

  • Piece-Rate Pay
  • Merit-Based Pay
  • Bonuses
  • Skill-Based Pay
  • Profit Sharing Plans
  • Gain sharing
  • Employee Stock Option

13. Put In Place Employee Recognition Programs

According to a recent report by Shrm, 80% of the HR professionals surveyed reported that their organization had an employee recognition program. Employee Recognition Programs involve appreciating employees for executing great work. Such recognition efforts lead to increased employee morale and engagement at workplace. These programs also have a positive impact on employee experience and workplace culture.

A recognition program should not be designed independently. Infact, to make a recognition program effective, you should align the program with your organizational values and talent strategy. Such programs are likely to perform better as compared to the ones that do not tie recognition to organizational values or talent strategy.

There are a variety of employee recognition programs to choose from for your organization. These include:

  • Years of Service award
  • Annual Bonuses
  • Quarterly Bonuses
  • Peer-to-Peer Recognition
  • Workplace Recognition Programs
  • Employee Appreciation Day
  • Celebrating Employee Life Events


As managers, you need to focus on basic human needs in order to engage your employees. This includes 1) bringing about positive workplace relationships, 2) employee recognition, 3) ongoing performance dialogue and 4) opportunities for personal development. Since each employee has his individual needs, you need to understand what’s important to each employee. And then you need to align each employees’ organizational goals, level of engagement and rewards with their personal needs.
Give them regular feedback and link their rewards to performance. Also, allow employees to contribute towards decisions that affect them. All such strategies will help in motivating employees and keep their engagement level high.

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

Related Articles