11 Techniques to Motivate Employees 

By Kim Hegeman 

Managers play a key role in employee engagement and motivation. Too many good employees quit a job because of their boss. You, as a leader, can make a difference in employee motivation and, ultimately, retention. 

Why do you want highly motivated and engaged workers instead of those who simply “put in their time”? Engaged, motivated workers are more likely to stay with an organization. That means less turnover. Engaged and motivated employees also are more productive. Unmotivated employees can drag down the whole team. 

It’s important to note that employee engagement and motivation are two different things. In a recent Wisconsin School of Business webinar, CPED instructor and executive coach Vicki Kampmeier defined employee engagement as a sense of purpose, belonging, and commitment to an organization. Employee motivation is the willpower and drive to act on those feelings. 

8 Signs Employee Motivation is Lacking 

Leaders need to pay attention to signs that employees are not motivated. According to Kampmeier, these are eight common signs of lack of motivation in the workplace. 

  1. Higher rates of employee absenteeism 
  1. Employees showing up late or getting a slow start to the day 
  1. Only doing the bare minimum required for the job 
  1. Not contributing to project ideas or team meetings 
  1. Withdrawing from coworkers 
  1. Mood or attitude changes 
  1. Decreased employee productivity 
  1. Acting bored or not caring about their work 

Techniques to Motivate Employees 

“We know we need to motivate employees. But understanding there’s actually definitions and a science behind it helps us as leaders,” Kampmeier says. When it comes to employee motivation, leaders often know, in theory, what they should and need to do but sometimes forget to do them.  

Put some, or all, of the following motivation techniques into application and watch your employees’ motivation, performance, and productivity grow. 

  1. Ask them for their feedback. “This signals to the employee that their words and feelings matter,” Kampmeier says. “Regular feedback keeps work on track, develops deeper relationships, and enables managers to coach in the moment. Make the art of giving and receiving feedback your superpower.” 
  1. Give them freedom of choice. Autonomy is critical to fostering motivation in many employees. Allowing them true freedom of choice can result in the employee putting in more energy and effort into their work. 
  1. Minimize meetings for greater productivity. 
  1. Provide resources for continues professional and personal growth. 
  1. Engage employees in setting individual and company goals. Research has indicated setting goals can increase productivity, Kampmeier says. “When employees feel they are part of that conversation they are willing to put in the extra effort,” she adds. 
  1. Let them know you care. Empathy is one of the most important qualities of a great leader, Kampmeier says. “Caring about employees means genuinely listening to their feedback, providing them options and alternatives with choosing how they want to work, and allowing them to make decisions on their behalf freely.” 
  1. Give praise in public, critique in private. As a manager you need to give your employees feedback. But how you do it matters and affects both the individual and the entire team. 
  1. Be transparent. Transparency produces trust. 
  1. Motivate individuals rather than just the team. “People love being part of a team, but they also love personalized attention,” Kampmeier points out. “Use one-on-one coaching where you encourage the employee, give them pointers about growth, and acknowledge their contributions. When you do this you’ll find that your employee will become highly motivated,” she adds. 
  1. Learn what makes each employee operate. Learning personality types is one of the best ways to help increase employee motivation. 
  1. Be inclusive. This isn’t just a buzzword. People want to be included. “Instead of fearing the conversations [about inclusion] engage in it,” Kampmeier says. “It’s about being listened to and heard. If a person doesn’t feel heard or included in your organization, this lack of connection has serious ramifications.” 

Improving employee motivation doesn’t mean complicated employment engagement strategies. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking the right questions that yield valuable responses, listening to those responses, and applying that knowledge. 

You can find more tips on engaging and motivating your employees from Vicki Kampmeier’s one-demand webinar, The Leader’s Role in Employee Motivation and Engagement.” If you’re ready to further develop your own motivation techniques, CPED’s Coaching and Motivating in the Workplace program is designed to help supervisors, managers, and individuals improve their skills in developing and motivating their staffs. You’ll also learn how to create a climate for self-motivation in the workplace.