5 Best Practices to Improve Employee Motivation

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Employee motivation is one of the most popular, yet most misunderstood topics in business. It’s a key competitive factor in the modern business world, and it’s no surprise that highly engaged teams perform much better than their peers.

Think about your own team. How motivated are they?

Motivated employees work for more than just a paycheck. In this article, we’ll demystify employee motivation, address its benefits, share data-driven methods for improving employee motivation, and challenge you to examine your own methods.

Ways to improve employee motivation

Employee motivation is a broad and complex topic. To start, here are 5 data-driven ways to improve employee motivation:

Early in my career, I worked as an intern in the car seat department of a baby products company and had a manager who loved talking to customers, researching the competition, and making the best car seats in the industry. How do you think that impacted my own employee experience? Their motivation was contagious!

The leadership team and managers of an organization have a huge impact on employee motivation. It may not be a surprise, but if your manager is motivated, you are much more likely to be motivated yourself.

To improve motivation, start by coaching leaders and holding them accountable. Think about who has taken on the leadership role and how they are impacting your team. Listen to leaders and equip them with the right training so they are motivated and can motivate your team. At the same time, encourage them to attend new hire training to set the right tone. And, when analyzing motivating engagement, consider the respondent’s level of leadership when possible.

A great book on employee management that I would recommend is Radical Candor by Kim Scott. In it, she talks about the management philosophy of caring personally while challenging directly. It’s a great foundation for building strong leadership and trust within teams.

Onboarding is a key time to connect new employees to their work, team goals, and organizational mission. Looking back at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, onboarding is an essential time for that middle step of belonging. Consider your own onboarding experience and what was particularly important. Do your employees have confidence in your onboarding program?

At Corning, maker of the famous Gorilla Glass, the organization wanted to measure the difference between structured and unstructured orientation programs to understand the impact of onboarding on motivation and other factors. They found that new employees who participated in a structured orientation program were 69% more likely to stay with the company for up to three years.

When planning your own onboarding program, be sure to follow best practices such as:

  • Introduction of mentors, who are not direct managers, to guide new employees in the first 12 months
  • Involving managers in onboarding presentations and events
  • Prioritize building relationships with new employees’ coworkers
  • Create smooth transitions from onboarding to regular work cadence

Without feedback, you simply can’t be motivated. That means both accepting and giving feedback from your team.

If you’re not already doing so, solicit feedback from your employees. Simplify it, offer anonymous methods, and test your feedback system to make sure it’s easy and accessible. Once you receive feedback, make sure management acts on it. Even if no changes are made, share the reasons why, if necessary at organization-wide meetings or privately.

When it comes to providing feedback, prioritize performance management. Consider a platform like Culture Amp or Small Improvements, and decide on weekly face-to-face meetings between managers and direct reports. If you already have a performance management program, revisit it and redesign it if necessary.

The strongest factor predicting employee motivation was recognition. In highly motivated organizations, employees are much more likely to be recognized for a job well done than their peers. When was the last time you were recognized for doing more at work than others?

It’s important to give recognition; it’s more important than the recipient feels recognized. Keep in mind that your co-workers may prefer to be recognized differently than you. Find out how your team prefers recognition and bridge the appreciation gap to maximize your benefits.

Effective recognition follows best practices and prioritizes peer recognition. Recognition is timely, frequent, specific, visible, inclusive, and values-based. When giving recognition, remember to use the SBI model rather than just saying “good job”.

You should consider a recognition platform that welcomes your team on-site and makes recognition accessible. HeyForm gives an employee recognition and rewards program that allows teams to enrich the company culture. It’s available on the web, through mobile apps, and by integrating with chat platforms like Slack and HRIS systems like BambooHR and Namely.

One of my best innovation stories comes from Frito-Lay, where the team’s janitor, Richard Montanez, invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos one day after experimenting with his family’s traditional condiments and some of the factory’s discarded puffed corn snacks. He was able to bring his idea to the leadership team and is now executive vice president of Multicultural Sales and Community Activation.

Think about how your company can protect time to work on new, creative ideas. At HeyForm, we set aside one week per quarter for our team to work on something outside of their normal daily projects. We are able to bring teams from different departments together to work on creative projects with the support of the entire organization.

Is that all? Are these the only factors that influence employee motivation?

Of course not! But it’s a good start, based on the research at hand. Employee motivation isn’t going away anytime soon, and for good reason. Successful companies can’t ignore the impact, and modern workers expect to stay motivated.

To organize and have a track of your workflow, increase motivation, employee performance evaluation, and much more, you can use the HeyForm workflow management form to ensure that your workers are on the same page to achieve organizational goals.

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