How To Increase Employee Motivation at Your Business

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Saphia Lanier
Saphia Lanier



Want to attract great talent? You’ll have to offer great salaries and incentives. Want to keep your talent motivated once you’ve got them? Unfortunately, high pay and great perks often aren’t, on their own, enough to keep your employees motivated and engaged in the long term.  

Employee motivation

In today’s business cycle, where employees have embraced “quiet quitting,” it’s critical that you find ways to keep them engaged with and inspired by what your business is trying to accomplish. Failure to do so will mean they’re more likely to “leave” mentally. When that happens, it’s downhill for your company. 

But how do you increase employee motivation in your business? There are several strategies companies use to keep their best workers engaged. 

What is employee motivation?

Employee motivation is the desire or willingness of an employee to do their job — and to do it well. It’s this motivation that pushes an employee to keep working, and to go above and beyond in order to excel in their roles. 

In other words, it’s the exact opposite of quiet quitting, which is when workers do the bare minimum just to get by. 

Benefits of employee motivation

Having unmotivated employees is bad for business. Not only does it hurt company culture, but also it can put a dent in your ability to attract, retain, and serve customers — and, ultimately, to make money. 

Case in point: If you’ve ever been to a restaurant where the waitstaff is mistreated by management, you’ve probably also noticed that those abused workers do their job more poorly than well-treated workers. Mistreatment leads to a lack of motivation to go above and beyond, hurting the customer experience and the business as a whole. 

If you want your business to thrive, then you need workers that are enthused to help your business grow and succeed. 

Here’s a look at the direct benefits of having motivated employees:

  • Increased productivity: When employees are motivated, they tend to work harder and more efficiently, leading to increased productivity. For example, if an employee is motivated to meet a sales target, they may work longer hours or design creative solutions to close deals.
  • Higher job satisfaction: Motivated employees are more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs, leading to higher retention rates and lower turnover. This can save businesses time and money on recruiting and training new employees.
  • Improved quality of work: Motivated employees take pride in their work and strive for excellence, which can lead to higher-quality output and happier customers. For example, a motivated graphic designer may spend extra time perfecting a design rather than rushing through it.
  • Better customer service: Motivated employees are more likely to provide excellent customer service, leading to increased customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth marketing for the business. For example, if an enthusiastic and helpful employee greets a customer, they’re more likely to return to your business again.
  • Increased innovation: Motivated employees are more likely to develop new ideas and solutions, which can lead to innovation within the business. For example, a motivated software developer may create a new feature that sets the business’s products apart from its competitors.
  • Improved teamwork: Motivated employees tend to work well with others and collaborate effectively, leading to improved teamwork within the business. This can result in better communication, increased efficiency, and higher-quality output.
  • Higher profits: When employees are motivated, they work harder and better toward achieving business goals. This means better quality, productivity, and profits for your company. 

Types of employee motivation

Motivating workers can happen in several ways. Here’s an overview of the different types of motivation and how you can use them to inspire your workers. 

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the internal drive that an employee has to complete tasks or reach goals. It comes from within and is driven by the personal satisfaction of achieving a goal or mastering a skill. Intrinsic motivation is often seen as more influential than extrinsic motivation because it’s rooted in inner desires and interests.

For example, if an employee is intrinsically motivated to master a new coding language, they may study it in their spare time and ask questions during work hours.

Some ways companies can use intrinsic motivation to inspire their employees include: 

  • Providing clear instructions and expectations. This helps employees stay on task and be motivated to complete them.
  • Giving feedback. Giving employees honest and timely feedback lets them know what they are doing right and where they need to improve. This helps keep them motivated to reach their goals.
  • Encouraging autonomy. Encouraging employees to take ownership of their work helps them feel empowered and motivated to do their best.
  • Setting meaningful goals. When employees understand the purpose of their work, and the organizational goals they are working toward, they are more likely to stay motivated and engaged.
  • Offering employee development. Training workers in areas they care about makes them more likely to stick to the program. As a bonus, it can help employees get promoted and increase retention.

Pros and cons of intrinsic motivation 

Intrinsic motivation comes with advantages and disadvantages.

The pros:

Intrinsically motivated employees tend to be more self-directed and proactive in their work, reducing the need for micromanagement and freeing up managers to focus on other tasks.

Intrinsic motivation can also help employees develop a sense of mastery over their work, leading to increased confidence and job satisfaction. This can help boost morale and create a positive work environment.

When employees are intrinsically motivated, they’re more likely to take ownership of their own professional development and seek out opportunities for growth and learning. This ensures the company has a skilled and adaptable workforce.

And the cons:

Intrinsic motivation can sometimes lead to employees becoming overly focused on their goals and priorities, creating conflicts with other team members or the company’s overall objectives. Employers need to ensure employees remain aligned with the company’s mission and values.

Some employees may become unmotivated if they feel their efforts aren’t being recognized or rewarded, even if they’re intrinsically motivated. Employers need to find ways to acknowledge and celebrate employee achievements to maintain motivation levels.

Intrinsic motivation sometimes leads to employees taking on too much responsibility or working too hard, leading to burnout or other negative consequences. Employers must be aware of signs of burnout and provide support when needed.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation is when an employee is driven by external rewards such as money, bonuses, recognition, or some other external source of motivation. These rewards can be used to incentivize employees to reach goals or complete tasks in a timely manner.

You can leverage extrinsic motivation to encourage employees to follow instructions and complete tasks correctly and efficiently. For example, if an employee is given a bonus for meeting a certain goal, they may be more likely to focus on that specific task and to give it their all.

Several ways you can use extrinsic motivation to inspire your employees include:  

  • Acknowledging employee achievements with recognition or rewards can help show them that their hard work is appreciated and valued.
  • Offering bonuses or commissions for meeting sales targets
  • Providing promotions or raises for employees who consistently perform well
  • Recognizing employees with awards or certificates for outstanding performance
  • Creating a leaderboard to track employee performance and encourage friendly competition
  • Offering paid time off or other rewards for achieving specific goals or milestones
  • Offering flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, as a reward for meeting performance goals
  • Providing public recognition through companywide emails, social media posts, or other channels 

Pros and cons of extrinsic motivation 

Extrinsic motivation also comes with advantages and disadvantages. 

The pros:

A well-designed extrinsic motivation system can create a structured environment, clarifying expectations and goals that allow employees to focus on what is important.

Extrinsic motivation can be effective in providing immediate productivity boosts in specific tasks and projects by providing incentivizing rewards, such as bonuses or recognition programs.

Employees primarily motivated by external factors, such as compensation, are likely to be motivated by the extrinsic motivation system. By providing monetary rewards and incentives, management can effectively motivate a larger percentage of the workforce.

And the cons:

Employees solely motivated by external factors can lose sight of the intrinsic value of their work. This could lead to a lack of dedication or enthusiasm toward the job, and a disconnection between the work and its impact, resulting in lowered levels of job satisfaction.

Extrinsic motivation systems typically focus on short-term incentives, such as immediate rewards or bonuses. This may encourage employees to focus on completing specific tasks that satisfy external factors. However, this may also lead to neglecting the long-term impact of their work on the company’s overall goals.

When extrinsic motivation doesn’t deliver expected rewards or incentives, employees may become frustrated or dissatisfied. This could lead to a diminished work ethic, lower levels of commitment, and a negative mindset impacting employee morale.

Examples of employee motivation techniques

In the real world, many companies leverage employee motivation tactics because they understand it’s critical for retention and growth.

Zappos, for instance, uses fun and playful recognition programs to engage workers. Its Zappos Dollars program gives “Zollars” to workers when they're caught doing something amazing. 

It looks like Monopoly money, but can be used in the company’s ecosystem to buy sites like water guns, fidget cubes, and charcoal grills. Or workers can use it for charity, such as donating to a local food bank. 

It also has a Hero and Sidekicks of the Month, which is a recognition program. A panel of employees votes on the hero and sidekicks of the month. The hero gets a $250 Zappos gift card plus an “experience,” such as jumping off the Stratosphere tower, luxury-car driving, or ziplining from the top of the Rio. 

When selecting your employee motivators, keep your company culture in mind. Get your employees involved to see what they like so you know your programs have a higher chance of success. 

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