January 23, 2018
Performance Management 16 October 2017
Finding what motivates your employees
Dillon Chen
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Employee Motivation is an interesting thing. It is not easily measured but can have huge positive effects on your organization by creating higher levels of efficiency, reducing costs, and increasing employee retention rates.  

Not only do highly motivated employees work at a more productive level, they are better problem-solvers; have higher levels of innovation, creativity, and customer-centricity; and are more profitable. 

study by HBR asserts that employees who focus on the work and enjoy the job are three times more likely to be engaged than ones that focus on their salaries. The less that employees focus on their salaries, the more they can focus on satisfying intellectual curiosity, learning new skills, or having fun… which are the very things that make people perform best!

In a survey done by ProSky, the potential for growth is one of the main motivating factors for people in the workforce today. Setting up a pathway or succession plan that allows them to clearly see the growth opportunities available to them will go a long way to increase their motivation to work for your company long-term.

Try the following methods to find out what motivates your employees and improve your motivational process:


Ask them

Probably the simplest yet most effective way to get insight into your employees' motivations is to be upfront and ask them. More often than not, they will give you a straight answer and it could lead into a discussion about their goals and expectations from you. They will feel that they are better able to communicate their needs and concerns to you as a manager. 

Opening up these communication channels and allowing employees to approach you directly can be a good thing. If they feel like they can approach you, it can lead to even more benefits such as them sharing new ideas, proactive problem solving, and inventive solutions.


Use keen skills of Observation

Watch employee performance at work and see what their preferences and habits are at work. Are there tasks or responsibilities they like to do first or over other things? Do they work well with others or do they do things lone wolf style? Observing their performance at work is a great way to get valuable insight into what makes them work hard.

Offering office incentives is another good way to observe what an employee likes. Giving them a choice between different rewards for hitting milestones on their pathway is a good way to see what they want from you in order to give their best work. Allowing employees to make choices is also important to developing trust in the organization.


Personal life

Hopefully, your employees will be sticking with you for a long time, so it's best to start building that relationship early! Find out more about your employees and their personal lives. Learn what their interests and hobbies are outside of the office. Not only will you be able to relate to them on a more personal level, it may give you some ideas on how to motivate them to do their best.

Depending on the company culture, you may have some after-work activities that your company can do as a group. Maybe an office movie night, a sports event, or an office board game party. If it’s something they enjoy, they will stay and develop their relationships with coworkers and the company.

Keep in mind that this is a process! True relationships take time to develop, so make sure to adjust your process as you learn new things about them over time.   


Get Creative

The common belief with most managers is to use raises and paid benefits as a way to motivate employees to hit goals and work hard. Research shows that at a certain point, salary stops affecting employee engagement and doesn’t increase performance or the chances of an employee staying with the company. When it comes to employee motivation, money will only take you so far.

The key is after your employees reach the point where money is not an issue anymore, you must find other creative ways like recognition, autonomy, and opportunities to learn and grow to keep them motivated and working hard for your business. Try new things and see what works for you and your employees! 

To this end, figuring out what intrinsically motivates your employees beyond salary and then tailoring your development around those factors should be the core of your motivational planning. It's okay to use salary increases in the beginning of your motivation discovery adventure, but don't expect to fall back on it as some miraculous motivational cure-all.


Positive Reinforcement

Positive is always better than negative! Your approach should build your employee's desire to work hard on their own accord and not with you forcing them into it. Find ways to uplift and inspire your employees instead of beating at them from behind. (Think carrot vs. stick)

If mistakes are made, performance needs improvement, or behavior needs to be changed, approach it firmly but carefully. Imagine if you were the one to mess up, how would you want your manager to handle it? Freaking out or publicly shaming them in front of coworkers is not the right approach! Work together with them to help them see what they are doing wrong and provide the resources or strategies to improve or change.

Be careful of pushing too hard or pushing the wrong way. Just as motivation can have a good effect on your employees, demotivation can have severe negative effects. If employees become too demotivated, they may become actively disengaged and become a bad influence on other employees. Worst case scenario, they may actively try and cause the company harm in the form of bad reviews or purposeful poor quality work.


Personal and Unique

For one employee, working autonomously may be their biggest priority. Time off or a flexible work schedule may be how they thrive and do their best work. Another may want coworker recognition and to build friendships and connections in the office. Someone may be in your company for the challenge and the satisfaction of solving hard problems. 

Realize that what motivates one person may not always work with another employee. Everyone is different from one another, and finding those personal differences is what will set you apart from other employers. Without personalization, it could be a waste of resources trying to give employees something they don’t want or need.

Whatever it may be, do your best to find each person’s driving motivation. This knowledge will help you customize each plan custom to fit employee needs.


Once you find what motivates your employees, you will know how to reward and push them to do the best that they can. Knowing their motivators allows you to be better able to connect with employees and keep them working hard. Check out ProSky's Performance Management articles for more great info on ways to manage and engage your employees.