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Everyone benefits from a motivated workforce. Read these employee motivation ideas to get inspired about how to turn on your people’s desire to go beyond their basic responsibilities and contribute their best to your company. s

What Is Employee Motivation?

Employee motivation is the willingness, energy, and commitment that an employee brings to their job. When an employee is motivated, they know why they go to work every day, and why they want to do a good job. A motivated employee does not necessarily excel at their job, but they are willing to try their best and improve. Therefore, your company benefits from having motivated employees.

Extrinsic motivation

There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors such as salary, benefits, bonuses, prestige, and recognition. Generally, the extrinsically motivated employee expects:

– a good job to be properly recognized and rewarded

– their pay scale reflects their credentials

– extra bonuses for extra effort or contribution

– their position earns them proper respect and privileges

– their association with the company brings them a good social reputation. 

Encouraging an extrinsically motivated employee can be argued to be ‘simpler’ because their motivation factors are visible and measurable. There is an element of fair exchange of labor and reward in extrinsic employee motivation. If they stop being motivated or decide to leave the company, the reasons are quite obvious: they may be scouted for a better offer elsewhere, or the company passes them over for certain benefits and recognition that they think they deserve.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation comes from internal factors such as personal interests, conscientiousness, the desire to maintain a good relationship, or other personal reasons. An intrinsically motivated employee expects:

– receive praises and recognition personally delivered from direct management

– to find their own good reason to do the job, regardless of the promise of pay or benefits

– they feel positive feelings about their job, position, and membership at the company

– the job to not just deliver a comfortable living standard, but also fulfilling certain personal needs.

– their position and job descriptions to reflect who they perceive themselves to be, and they derive personal meanings out of their job

– a promotion to reflect a change they have witnessed within themselves

Encouraging an intrinsically motivated employee can be argued to be less straightforward than motivating an extrinsic one. As a manager, you should first seek to understand the particular employee as a person, know their likes, dislikes, and professional aspirations. The common reasons for an intrinsically motivated employee to quit or lower their performance is because they do not identify with major parts of the job and all the things that come with it.

Just like energy and interests, employee motivation waxes and wanes. So to continue benefiting from a motivated staff, below are some ideas to maintain and increase employee motivation.

Employee motivation is different from employee engagement

Employee motivation is the will to do the job. A motivated employee wants to excel at the job as an individual. They tend not to be as satisfied with group success.

Employee engagement is the willingness to contribute and engage more than just their core obligations. An engaged employee tends to be intrinsically motivated. They take pride in their membership in the company. They are the best employer brand ambassador for employee referral programs, because they tend to have positive things to say about working at your company.

Ideas For Employee Motivation Plans

The ideas to motivate your employees are as varied as your employees themselves. You know your team best. Choose the ones that work for your people. Effort counts, and they may even tell you what works for them. 

Extrinsic motivation ideas:

– Accountable hybrid work

– Overtime pay

– Holiday bonuses

– Special perks

Intrinsic motivation ideas:

– Best-fit tasks and expectations

– Tailored and timely compliments

– Small gestures of gratitude

– Tolerate reasonable mistakes

Read below for a quick dive into each idea.

Accountable hybrid work

These days, if you could offer hybrid work, you would attract more employees from a wider talent pool. But you need mechanisms and technological tools to ensure accountability and fairness. Extrinsically motivated employees may see the lack of accountability in remote work as unfair, because they tend to believe in fair rewards. How do you ensure that the on-site and online teams pull their weight according to their compensation? Or, how do you recognize and reward a remote employee who is working extra hours outside the office? 

Overtime pay

This is best for a short-term surge in demand, when you need to motivate your team for quick results, usually in peak seasons. Working overtime is at best an inconvenience, and at most a hindrance, for those who have other commitments. Make sure your have a fair overtime policy to enjoy a scalable workforce.

Holiday bonuses

Depending on the positions, holiday seasons are busy. Employees are under strain to perform, and to spend extra for on holiday purchases such as gifts and trips. This also takes into account the employees who do not enjoy company-wide teambuilding activities (the introverts, parents with young children, or carer of an elderly parents) so that they can afford to enjoy the kind of holiday suitable for their life circumstances.

Special perks

What makes it special to work for your company? Maybe you offer some unique perks, such as pleasing interior decor, a great window view, nap rooms, healthy snacks, convenience in transport, exclusive membership, or privileged access. The perks really depend on your industry and company culture. Do a survey of what makes your people feel special. Make it fun, casual, and light-hearted, but make sure to deliver on your promises. Making your employees feel special to be a part of your company is a great way to put a smile on their faces whenever they are asked to talk about their workplace.

Best-fit tasks and expectations

We often consider personality fit for leadership roles, but not enough for more junior roles. Personality fit is one of the strongest indicators of employee turnover. This is especially true for some younger workers, millenials and Gen-Z, who are more driven to seek jobs that better align with who they are. Authenticity is important for them. 

Are there employees you absolutely want to keep? Modify their job descriptions to better fit their personality and work style, and adjust your expectations and KPIs accordingly. This is a clear indication that you value them for their authenticity and amazing abilities, and you are willing to go out of your way to honor what they bring to the table.

Tailored and timely compliments

This takes a lot of emotional and social intelligence from the managers, but it is worth it. When done right, compliments make the employee feel understood and seen. They feel understood because their challenges, no matter how individual or seemingly small it is, are acknowledged and sympathized. They feel seen because they do not have to play a role, and can show more of themselves at work. This also increases employee engagement.

Small gestures of gratitude

Sure, your staff is well compensated for their job. But small gestures of gratitude showing how grateful you are to work alongside them would make them feel appreciated. The gestures do not have to cost anything – you could use post-it notes, cards, messages, or small gifts. The key is in the message that comes with it: a thank-you with a smiley face, a brief pep talk when you notice they seem down in the dumps, a quick no-pressure catch-up when they feel comfortable. Doing this to let your employees know you see them as people and not just impersonal staff.   

Tolerate reasonable mistakes

Motivated employees are willing to give more than necessary. They are curious and willing to take risks, to stick out for what they believe in. As a leader, you should encourage this by tolerating reasonable mistakes. Mistakes are chances for everyone to learn what does not work. From honest or intentional mistakes, your employees are humans and they may have justified reasons for making them. When you are merciful and try to elicit the reasons for their mistakes, you may just earn yourself a chance to improve your system, industrial know-how, or techniques.

Get To Know Your People To Have Good Employee Motivational Ideas

Whether internally or externally, your employees motivate themselves to come to work every day. Employee motivation is an art because you have to really get to know your people. Your employee motivational ideas and plans have to come from the heart of understanding your employees’ experience in working for you. From there, you can see ways to improve it and bring your people along for the ride. Consider using HR management reports that can shed light on your employees without too much effort. Use them and become the leader people want to work for.

Hieu's avatar
Hieu Nguyen
Technical/Content Writer
Hieu is a content writer who loves to learn and share interesting ideas about human resources.
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