What Motivates Employees? How to Keep Your Staff Engaged

Smiling young businesswomen using laptop at meeting while discussing ideas with her business team Gladkov / Deposit Photos

As an entrepreneur, you are always looking for ways to grow and improve your company. You put your best foot forward every day, and you expect those around you to do the same.

Sometimes, however, not everyone around you will share your enthusiasm for hard work. You may find that your employees are having a hard time staying as invested as you would like them too. This may not be entirely their fault – after all, if the stakes aren't as high for them as they are for you, their motivation can falter.

That's why one of the key challenges of being an entrepreneur is keeping your employees' enthusiasm high. Let's take a look at what motivates employees and what you can do to keep them productive and engaged.

Develop a Deep Understanding of Your Employees

To get the best results from each of your team members, you need to take the time to get to know them on an individual level. Find out what their professional goals and priorities are, and identify what you can do to help fulfil them. This will give you a good idea of how to motivate them.

Try and isolate what about their job makes them satisfied in their work. This way, you can task them with action items that will not only achieve the best results, but keep them interested in the work and maintain their motivation.

Encourage Friendly Competition

The business world is a competitive place and, if you're smart, you can use this to your advantage by inspiring good-natured competition between your employees. For example, you could arrange prizes for goals that are mutually beneficial to the business, such as lead acquisition or sales targets. Competition is also an excellent way to spur innovation and growth in your company – the added incentive of a visible competitor can help your staff find new ways of achieving their goals.

However, when using competition as a motivator, you need to make sure that you are not pitting your employees against one another. Ensure that the playing field is fair, and give out rewards to teams as opposed to individuals. If you let competition become too cutthroat, you risk allowing fractures and infighting to divide your business.

Allow Employees Autonomy

As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to resist the urge to be involved in as many aspects of your business as possible. However, micromanagement can significantly hurt your team's overall motivation. As a result, despite your best efforts to be proactive and get the best results from each area of your company, over-involvement may ultimately make individual departments less efficient.

Allowing your employees the autonomy to get the best results on their own will increase their engagement in their tasks. The sense of ownership that accompanies employees dictating their own path to success is invaluable. Learn how to elevate and trust the people that you hired, and you will find that their motivation will improve.

Create a Positive Environment

Your employee's mood will dictate their motivation and morale. While you cannot control an individual's mood, you can certainly work to create an environment that promotes a positive state of mind. Invest some time into designing a workspace that employees want to come back to, day after day, and find décor that makes your office a place that employees want to be a part of.

You can also improve your work environment by offering perks that your employees can enjoy. These could include:

  • Free snacks and beverages
  • Upgraded equipment such as monitors
  • Allowing a casual dress code
  • Providing a lounge for employees to relax in

Fostering a positive environment isn't just about buying some nice furniture or new gadgets, though. Make sure the atmosphere of your office is a positive one as well. An open-door policy can help employees feel at ease and help to ensure that your corporate culture doesn't rely on intimidation to be effective. Employee motivation is nearly always higher when they are contributing to an organisation is inviting to them.

Provide a Path for Advancement

Few things are more draining to an employee's motivation than the feeling that they aren't going to be able to advance their career with your company. Your employees are always going to be thinking about what their next move is – it benefits both of you to have that next move be within your business.

To help make this a reality, it is a good idea to make it clear what sort of future responsibilities can be in store for individuals. This can be tough for a new startup, where duties are growing and changing as the business expands, but you can emphasise that as the business grows, so will the available opportunities for motivated employees. This will help your employees see their own success as tangential to the success of the company and help boost their motivation.

Keep Employees in the Loop

While it can be tempting for you to keep mid-range goals to yourself, this can actually be very demotivating. If you shield your staff from the direction you're heading in, they can start to feel like pawns on a chessboard, being moved about without a clear sense of purpose.

Instead, be transparent about the goals you have for the company's immediate future and keep them in line with your company’s overall vision. Let them know what the challenges are and how you and the business will face them. 

Once you transition your team from pawns to players, you will find better solutions to your company's problems, as well as a motivated team to execute those solutions.

Be Worth Following

To keep your employees motivated, take the time to perform some introspection. Is your leadership style setting an example that your employees can look up to? Do you understand how to get the best out of each team member? Be critical of your strengths and weaknesses; you set the tone for your employees, after all.

If you create an honest, focused work environment by bringing those qualities to work with you every day, your employees will not only respect you for it but will be engaged at a higher level, too.

Give Them What They Want

It may seem simple, but if you want your employees to be motivated, you need to find out what they want out of their jobs and find a way to make that happen. If your employee is motivated by money, find a pathway that leads to them making more of it. If they want credit, ensure that they receive it. If your employees are unable to get what they want out of their position in your company, you will find it impossible to keep them adequately motivated.

While you are doing this, however, make sure that it is happening across the board. You can't just satisfy the desires of a select few without the risk of upsetting the motivation of your other employees. Be fair and equal to your entire staff, and you will nurture an office that is full of motivated employees who are ready to help you meet your company's goals.

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Keeping your employees motivated is a critical component of being a successful entrepreneur; after all, an unmotivated workforce is also an unproductive one. Good recruitment is key to this as well, of course, but there are certainly steps - such as the ones outlined in this article - that can allow you to get the maximum out of your team.

What other motivational tips would you give? Let us know in the comments below.