How to Motivate Your Employees

Portrait of a female executive

Getting your employees to work at their best can sometimes take some finesse and creativity. Many companies invest large amounts of resources in order to improve morale and motivate staff.

Though it may be challenging, the rewards are clear, according to Stephen Balzac, president of the organizational development firm, 7 Steps Ahead. "You can't threaten or compel people to perform at a high level; top level performance comes only from a highly motivated work force," he says.

Here are some effective ways to motivate your employees.

Create a positive work environment

Nothing stunts productivity like a sour working environment. Indeed, employee happiness is directly linked to motivation, according to a study published by the National Institute of Health. Creating a positive work environment can potentially have a big impact on employee motivation, and there are numerous steps a manager can take to facilitate this.

The managers themselves can create a favorable work environment through positive reinforcement, Balzac says. "Managers need to act as coaches and cheerleaders, helping employees maintain focus and remain upbeat even when things are going poorly.

"Managers must help the employee build confidence, establish routines, and set realistic, difficult goals. They need to remind employees of past successes, not past failures."

If used properly, even something as simple as decorations can help create a more positive work environment. For example, research shows that pictures of friends or family can be used to motivate people to work harder and more persistently at accomplishing their goals, says Balzac.

Share in the company's success

The feeling of contributing to the overall vision and progression of a company can be a great motivator for employees. After all, Balzac notes, "no one wants to feel like a bit part or that the work they're doing isn't particularly important." By allowing your workers to share in the success of the business, they may develop a stronger interest in the company, which can ultimately boost productivity. Profit sharing initiatives and stock options are great ways to involve your employees in the company's successes.

Setting Goals and Rewards Success

Goals should be set in concert with your employees, says Balzac, to ensure they remain part of the process from the outset. Employers should show how these goals fit into the overall business strategy, in order to demonstrate the employee's value.

In addition, it's important to focus on goals that the employee can control; instead of what they can't, he says. "In the late 1980s, IBM started evaluating engineers on how well certain products did in the marketplace," he notes. "However, the engineers had no control over the sales process; that was the responsibility of the sales department. This seriously damaged motivation amongst the engineering teams."

Rewards are crucial for maintaining employee motivation, however, Balzac warns, it's important not to let the rewards become the main goal. "Rewards are feedback that goals are being accomplished. When you make rewards the goal, the reward has to continually increase in order to just maintain motivation." Instead, try to structure rewards as feedback or appreciation for their continued hard work.