How to keep your employees motivated all year round

by Jen McKenzie

Business owners ideally want to keep productivity and profitability high throughout the year, and this means that you need to take regular steps to keep your team engaged and motivated. Some business owners and managers target morale only when productivity drops, but waiting until that happens can be detrimental to your company. A better idea is to focus your attention on boosting employee morale, satisfaction and motivation on a regular basis throughout the year. By following these helpful steps, you can enjoy truly beneficial results from your employee engagement efforts.

Employee Motivation Step #1: Let them know what to expect

It’s easy for employees to feel out of the loop in some workplaces. When employees feel lost or frustrated in their position, they can easily lose focus and motivation. Likewise, when they do not feel as though their efforts are meaningful or important, they may not work as hard or as efficiently as they could.

A smart idea is to regularly educate your team about the company’s goals  and explain how each member’s contribution is important to achieving that goal. You should ensure that each employee has a realistic workload that corresponds well with her or his skills and training.

Furthermore, focus on your own actions. As a manager or boss, your actions should always correspond with what you say to your employees, and they should also be aligned with the company’s overall goals at all times. Overall, your team needs to see that their own efforts as well as yours are unified toward a common and identified objective.

Employee Motivation Step #2: Build trust with your employees

In order for your employees to put forth their best effort on a regular basis, they must feel attached to the company as well as to the team and company management. Each time you see a team member, smile and greet him or her personally by name. This simple step will help you to develop a stronger, deeper connection to your team. They will feel less like a general worker and more like a valued individual in the office.

Take time to chat idly with individuals periodically to learn more about their vacation plans and personal lives. Send gifts or cards to celebrate a birthday, wedding or arrival of a new baby to deepen the personal connection they feel toward you and the company.

Just ensure that you don’t cross that line and get too personal. You should always remain at a professional distance from your team members. Just remember that when your team feels as though you care about them personally, they may be more motivated to work hard for you and for the company.

Employee Motivation Step #3: Nurture their personal growth

Employee morale and motivation can decline when individuals feel as though they are spinning their wheels without cause or benefit. Workers naturally want to improve their skills and advance in their careers, and they want to feel as though their efforts are benefiting their own lives in some way rather than just helping the company to make money.

Provide your employees with ample opportunities to improve their skills and knowledge, such as through massive open online courses (MOOCs like Coursera.org) or affordable and convenient technology-based training. You can also offer them foreign language courses and enroll them periodically in seminars and conferences they’re interested in.

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When your employees regularly improve in different ways, you may find that their level of job satisfaction increases. As you encourage them to develop personal and professional skills over months and years, their morale and productivity will also improve.

Employee Motivation Step #4: Give feedback and acknowledgement

Some of your employees may stand out by putting forth extra effort in different ways. For example, someone may work extended hours over the weekend to complete a major and important project. Another may work to motivate other teammates. This is the type of behavior that you want to encourage in your team, and you need to recognize these efforts when they are made.

Provide feedback. A simple public acknowledgement and word of thanks can go a long way, but you may also provide them with additional small gifts. For example, an employee of the month award, a gift card for a free dinner and other tokens may be well-received by your hardest workers. These can encourage employees to continue to work hard, and it can also motivate those who are putting out less effort to ramp up their productivity.

Promotions should also be provided based on merit and effort — and can be done top-down or peer to peer like with Merit Money.

In the event that you need to discipline or criticize an employee, always do so in private to avoid embarrassment and to keep morale as high as possible.

Employee Motivation Step #5: Be supportive and flexible

Workers often struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance. They have responsibilities at home, but they spend a large number of their waking hours at the office. This can create a great deal of stress for many people, and stress can further detract from morale and productivity.

Your team members may feel happier about their jobs and more willing to work hard for you if they can achieve a healthier work-life balance. Therefore, emphasize the importance of taking a vacation periodically, and avoid measuring their performance based on attendance. Allow them the opportunity to take time off without guilt or scrutiny.

When possible, offer employees flex time and the ability to telecommute as needed. Telecommuting may decrease stress levels and promote productivity, and it may even reduce your overhead in some cases. It can also boost morale considerably. Your employees should always feel as though you support their need to balance different aspects their lives, and they should never feel guilty for asking to take time off or to work from home when needed.

Employee Motivation Step #6: Encourage team spirit

Creating a team environment can also promote productivity and improve morale. Set up structured team activities, such as volunteering for a related cause on the weekend. Encourage collaboration in the workplace and acknowledge the efforts of an entire team when warranted.

Give your team paid time off to join together outside of the office for team-building activities during the work week. These simple steps can help your team get to know each other better and can build collaboration and cooperation. Teamwork is essential to enhanced productivity in the workplace.

Employee Motivation Step #7: Have fun

While you definitely want your team to work hard and to focus intently on their tasks and responsibilities, remember to have fun periodically as well. Your team should enjoy being around each other, and setting up fun activities can ensure that this happens.

From time to time, host a seasonal party, or schedule a happy hour event after work. At least once per quarter, plan a movie night, a paintball event or some other fun, team-building activity. Office morale will be higher, and you may also boost employee retention in the process.

As you can see, it is not enough to simply plan one team-building event or recognize a single employee for extra effort. These and other steps described here must be taken regularly if you want to maximize productivity and boost morale as much as possible. Now is a great time to start planning special events for the next quarter and to identify employees who should be awarded, promoted and more soon. By doing so, you will find that engagement and morale may skyrocket.

What steps do you take to increase employee motivation? Tell us in the comments below!

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