12 Best Ways to Motivate Employees

Regardless of industry or the size of your business, your employees are your company’s backbone. They are the ones who are responsible for the results; without them, your operation would grind to a halt. But simply having them show up to work isn’t good enough. In order for employees to reach their potential, it’s important that they feel motivated and fulfilled by the work they’re doing. Below are twelve ways that you can motivate your workforce.

1. Maintain a Positive Attitude
The only thing worse than not enjoying your job is having a boss that doesn’t enjoy theirs. As a manager, you have a responsibility to your team to keep their spirits high and maintain a positive mindset when things get tough.

For example, if you didn’t hit your quarterly results, don’t dwell on the negative. If you do, you’ll soon see that negative energy reflected in your team’s effort and performance. Find a way to turn negatives into positives, and ALWAYS be the most positive person in the workplace.

2. Give Them the Tools to Do the Job
If you want your team to perform and feel fulfilled at work, it’s essential that you equip them to do the job that you’re paying them to do. Never assume that they know how to complete a task just because you think it’s straightforward. Take time to check-in with your team, ask them if they feel they’re able to complete all aspects of their job role. If you notice somebody doing something incorrectly, find out whether or not they’ve been trained properly. Lack of training is not their fault, so it’s important that you don’t make them feel like it is. Make sure that they get the proper training, and make it clear to them that you always have time to help them if they need it.

3. Incentives
Most of us go to work every day for the paycheck at the end of the month, so it’s hardly surprising that most people will put in extra effort if there’s an incentive, such as a bonus, up for grabs. If you’re not in the position to offer a cash bonus, don’t despair. Get to know your team and find out their likes and dislikes. Try incentivizing them with a bottle of their favorite wine, or a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant. You’d be amazed at how effective smaller incentives can be when it comes to motivating employees to achieve results.

4. Career Development
There aren’t many people who would be happy doing the same job their whole life. Many employees constantly look upwards towards the next rung of the company ladder. It won’t take you long to figure out who these employees are; more often than not, they’re your top-performers. Find out what they have in mind for their career and whether progression within your company is part of that plan. Even if they’re not quite ready for promotion, discuss with them about the areas they need to work on in order to make sure they’re ready when one becomes available.

5. Be Honest
Nobody likes a brown-noser, but working for one is even worse. As a leader, you have a responsibility to be honest with your team at all times. If someone on your team isn’t performing or they’re not doing something correctly, be honest with them and help them to improve. Give them feedback. I’m sure they’d much rather be aware of the problem and have a chance to improve, rather than have you pretend there isn’t one and end up letting them go. Don’t sugarcoat things for fear of being disliked for what you have to say. Always be honest.

6. Show Appreciation
Say ‘thank you.’ All of us want to feel that the work we do is meaningful, that we’re contributing to something larger than ourselves. Taking the time to give thanks to your team will go a long way towards creating a culture of increased performance and job satisfaction. But remember, not all forms of communication were created equal. I’m certain your team would much rather a personal face-to-face ‘thank you’ than to receive an impersonal email. Show your appreciation, and your team will show you the results you want. Don’t underestimate the importance of those two small words.

7. Create a ‘Safe’ Environment
It’s important that your employees feel safe at work. By this, I don’t mean that they need to feel safe that they won’t be eaten by a grizzly bear in the staff canteen, although that’s a bonus. By ‘safe,’ I’m referring to an environment where your employees feel trusted to do their job without fear of repercussions if they make a mistake. Mistakes happen, but how you react to them is critical. If you deal with mistakes by blowing your lid and disciplining your team harshly, they will respond by showing up to work every day scared that they will get in trouble if they make another mistake. Allow your team the freedom to do the job without micro-managing them; they’ll thank you for it. If they do happen to make a mistake, give them the opportunity to learn from it, so they don’t make the same mistake again.

8. Lead by Example
The most respected leaders live by the mantra of ‘I wouldn’t ask my team to do anything I’m not willing to do myself.’ Your team will be able to tell a lot about your leadership style by how you react when things get tough. Do you hide in your office until the storm has passed, or do you roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty? Doing the latter will act as a huge motivation for your team, as they will see that their boss doesn’t see themself as being ‘too important’ to do the same job that they do.

9. Get to Know Them
None of us want to go to work and feel that we are just a number. Avoid your team ever feeling this way by getting to know them. Find out their children’s names, or what they like to do on weekends, treat them like an equal human being as opposed to an employee. Don’t find out this information just for the sake of appearing to show an interest. People are incredibly perceptive, you have to honestly be interested. If you’re not, they will know you’re not being genuine, which will have the complete opposite effect than the one intended.

10. Ask for Their Input
If you have a problem, don’t tell your employees what the problem is and how you think it should be solved. Let them know what the problem is, and then listen to their ideas and suggestions. Even if their suggestions aren’t necessarily feasible, the fact that you’ve given them the opportunity to be heard will make them feel valued, like their voice matters. You should be the last person to voice their idea of how the problem can be solved.

11. Don’t Confuse Rank and Responsibility for Importance
Many people get this one wrong. If you oversee a team, no matter what the company does, you have responsibility. For better or worse, the buck stops with you. But too many managers confuse responsibility for importance. They think that their job is more important than that of their employees. It isn’t. The more responsibility you have, the less important your job becomes. You are responsible for your team, they are responsible for the results. Don’t act as if your job is more important than theirs; they will get the impression that you feel you’re above them, and that’s a sure-fire way to lose their respect.

12. Share the Company’s Vision
We all want to feel as if our work matters, don’t we? Sometimes, it might feel like we’re asked to do things at work that don’t make sense. Avoid having your team feel this way by sharing with them the company’s vision. Showing them how their role fits into the ‘bigger picture,’ by explaining why they do what they do will go a long way towards creating a motivated and fulfilled workforce.


There you have it, twelve ways to keep your employees feeling motivated at work. Your employees are the most important aspect of your business. Make use of these tips to keep them feeling happy and fulfilled at work, and then sit back and watch as they take care of the results.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.