‘Motivating’ Employees – 5 Tips for Employee Engagement


“How can we motivate our employees to perform better?” That’s the question that plagues most businesses. “They don’t care” or “We’ll never please them” is the common conclusion. But if we take the time to consider the reasons the answers are usually staring us right in the face. The main problem is actually that we don’t want to do what’s required to unleash the motivation that already exists within them. “But that requires them to already be motivated” you might be thinking; you’re right they are.

As human beings we’re all motivated, the important bit is what we’re motivated by. Neuroscience tells us that our behaviour is driven by two things – ‘the desire to gain pleasure’ and ‘the need to avoid pain’. If the circumstances of someone’s employment are in fact more painful than the pleasure they believe they can get in ways other than serving you (be that by not performing, off on the ‘sick’, on benefits or employed by your rival) then what’s motivating them simply isn’t in your favour; but they are motivated – just the wrong way for the employer.

We consider people to be ‘unmotivated’ when their motivation doesn’t favour us

“So what can we do about it” is the question that comes next and as crazy as it may sound, the answer is often much simpler and cheaper than we think. Managers can’t ‘motivate’ their employees, but they can learn what does and help to create the circumstances in which they’ll find motivation. We should therefore train and coach our managers on the importance of relationship building and serving the needs of their team.


  • Value people. It’s said that people dedicate over 100,000 hours of their lives to work; that’s a hell of a sacrifice and even more so considering most of us do it to make someone other than ourselves rich. We’re expected to get out of bed at crazy o’clock, drag ourselves to a pointless job where we can have the indignity of being bossed around, told what to do and our character critiqued for little more than the ability to cover our rent or mortgage. Gee, I wonder why people aren’t motivated in our favour…

Thinking Emoji

We need to appreciate what people do for us and think more about what we can give back to them. Because if we look after our people, our people will be more likely to look after our business.


  • Get to know them. What do you know about each member of your team? All too often employees only hear from a manager when they’ve done something wrong, aren’t performing or are being given instruction. Building relationships and listening to what people say educates us because we learn exactly what motivates people when we give them an opportunity to tell us and pay attention to what they say. We’re all motivated by different things; our circumstances play a big part in it too and therefore as our circumstances change so too can our motivators. For one person it may be money, for another it may be opportunity.


  • Recognise their efforts. Regular one to one time is a must, but feedback and conversations must be personal and specific. “Great work today” isn’t enough. What did they do that you liked? Equally if there’s something they could improve on, can you help them rather than just telling them to improve?


  • Stop relying on money. Like the parents with the spoilt kid who expect him to behave because they buy him things, or the inept romantic trying to get a result by showering their partner with materialistic gifts – impersonal incentives will only go so far. Pretty soon bonuses become an expectation and then a demand. It’s also been proven that attaching financial incentives to anything beyond menial, tick box, process based tasks does more harm than good. It diverts focus and attention away from the skill and creativity required to solve problems and think outside the box. Think about it – the very nature of a ‘commission’ is to get employees’ attention and drive them toward it. Financial incentives lose their impact quite quickly when they’re ever present and then we lose the ability to call upon them in times of need.


  • Involve them. People want to do work that matters and they themselves want to matter too. Tell them why they’re important, why you need them and where they/ their responsibilities fit into the bigger picture. Trust them, give them responsibility and opportunity because when work has a purpose it’s much more fulfilling than someone belittlingly dangling a carrot and expecting you to perform tricks ‘because they pay you’.


For a bonus tip consider this – when we do implement schemes (as flawed as they are) to ‘motivate’ our employees we usually expect these plans to be executed by people who themselves aren’t motivated (in our favour). The support networks of our businesses – the managers, team leaders, trainers and coaches need to be recognised and rewarded too. If they haven’t felt it themselves, how would they ever be driven to serving the needs of other employees?


Vibrant Talent Development work with organisations to help create great places to work. We do that through tailored, engaging, outcomes driven learning interventions that make a difference.

Check out our website www.vibranttalent.eu for more information or drop us an e-mail info@vibranttalent.eu

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