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How to Motivate Employees Every Day

Workers line up to race representing how to motivate employees

We’ve talked a lot about how money isn’t the primary motivator for most employees, how ensuring your employees have a healthy work-life balance and opportunities for professional growth increase morale and retention, and how compensation is about much more than the net yield at the bottom of a paystub.  All of these factors are important to consider when creating an effective, overarching policy for motivating employees in the long-term. But what about during the daily grind of the workplace? Does telling someone of their professional development options lift their spirits if they’re having a bad day? Does reminding them of summer hours transport them to a happy place when they’re burning the midnight oil in the dead of February? Although such benefits definitely do influence employees’ attitudes, especially when they’re deciding to join or stay at your organization, the following are ideas on how to motivate employees each and every day in more immediate ways.

Know your team

Motivating employees is impossible if you don’t know anything about them either professionally or personally. One of the most common mistakes new managers make is not taking the time during formal meetings, such as performance appraisals, to go over each of their team members’ professional goals in an effort to help them achieve those goals. But an even more common mistake committed by both new and experienced managers alike is keeping an entirely personal distance. That is not to say that you should become your subordinates’ friends, but knowing basic things about their personal lives – their children’s names, their favourite sports teams, or an upcoming vacation destination – allows you to make the kind of daily small talk that shows you think of them as people, not just as workers. And when you do that, they’ll think of you as more than just a boss they have to do things for, but as a leader they want to do things for.

Let them be freeAn office worker is excited because his manager knows how to motivate employees

Micromanagement, another common rookie manager misstep, is unfortunately something many managers make again and again because they feel insecure about relinquishing control. While you are the overseer of the big picture, your reports are not drones to do your bidding. As mentioned above, professional development opportunities are key to employee morale and retention. But the occasional special training or all-expenses-paid class, while valuable, only partially contributes to an employee’s sense of growth. If you’re telling them exactly how to do their job every day, you’re more than undermining those intermittent opportunities. Give direction, but trust in your team members to decide how they should best accomplish their objectives. Freedom begets trust, respect, loyalty, and determination.

Get your hands dirty

If one of your reports is stressed out by their workload, offer to assist them. Although you’re supposed to be focused on the big picture and allow your reports to handle their workloads independently, sometimes people really are asked to do too much primarily because the asker didn’t realize the work involved. Pitching in every now and then to complete some of your team’s groundwork is not micromanagement. If the task is within your skillset, helping out shows that you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves for the good of the team. In fact, it reinforces that you are a team, that everyone has everyone else’s back – and that goes a long way in motivating employees.

Feed them

Two workers talk over food in a good example of how to motivate employeesThe most primal way of motivating employees is – what else? – free food. Many highly creative companies, such as DreamWorks, Facebook, and Google, have embraced a free-food policy. Serving up fresh fodder in sociable settings not only keeps their workforces focused and energized, but it also encourages the kind of collaboration that leads to innovation. However, if a Willy Wonka-style refectory of wonderment isn’t in your budget, not to worry. Simply surprising your team with a box of donuts, cupcakes, or an order-in lunch to recognize a job well-done – or just for the heck of it – is sure to prove an excellent lesson in how to motivate employees. Just remember to take note of any food allergy or other restrictions some of them may have (see the first tip above).

Do away with drab

Everything about your office design, from the layout to the colour of the walls to the pictures you display, has an immeasurable impact on the motivation of your employees. The décor decisions you make should be based on the kind of corporate culture you want to nAn office wall looks like a smiley face, illustrating how to motivate employees using workspaceurture – are you a tech company reliant on constant collaboration and creative stimulation, or are you an accounting firm that prides itself on fastidiousness and classic sophistication? The environment should be an inspiring and perpetual reminder for your employees of where they are, what their professions stand for, and why they should be proud of their career choices. Artistic stimulation, whether exciting or soothing, also offers employees a welcome mental digression away from their eyestrain-inducing monitors and into their imaginations where they can come up with original solutions and return to their challenges with renewed enthusiasm. If your office’s décor is out of your hands, look into what kinds of acceptable art you and your team can bring in to hang around your area.

Dress down for the weekend

Casual Fridays vary from organization to organization; some allow employees to wear virtually anything they want every Friday while others allow jeans, but still expect to see dress shoes and a button-up collared shirt. Then there are some organizations that are strictly against it. It really depends on your industry, and sometimes it depends on an employee’s role. Those who are client-facing may not have the opportunity to strut their after-hours style, but for those who run things behind the scenes, being able to don some denim at the end of each week is a tacit acknowledgement of all their hard work that came before.

Have unconditional fun

An office birthday party shows how to motivate employees by having unconditional funCelebrations don’t just have to be about milestones and accomplishments. While the prospect of a celebration because your organization won a certain client or beat quarterly expectations is effective in motivating employees, all of your fun shouldn’t be contingent on business goals. Fun for fun’s sake is another way of demonstrating how you see your reports as people and not just workers. There are lots of reasons to celebrate throughout the year, including sunny summer weather, Halloween, and the holidays. Take advantage of these annual events to reinforce how fun it can be to work at your organization and for you.

Don’t say “Thank you” – show it

Manners motivate because they convey respect. Like taking an interest in your employees’ personal lives, saying Thank you shows you care about and appreciate them. But what’s the best way to say Thank you? Email is lazy and saying it in person, while good, is still too easy, over too quickly, and doomed to evaporate in the ether of fading memories. When someone on your team does a particularly good job at something, or if they at least made a valiant effort, surprising them with a personalized thank-you card – a physical memento that you took the time to buy and emblazon with your unique cursive and voice – is irrefutable proof of your gratitude. Chances are they’ll hang on to that card, maybe even displaying it on their desk where it will remind them of how special their team is better than a firm handshake ever could.

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