How to Motivate Employees to Do a Better Job


A 2008 study published in the Harvard Business Review concluded that businesses should fulfill four emotional needs of their employees to keep them motivated on the job: the drive to acquire, bond, comprehend and defend. The challenge is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Before you begin to put programs in place to help your employees do their best on the job, spend some time gaining an understanding of how your employees’ age, job function and company position impacts their motivation.

  • Make your employees feel valued and trusted. Involve them in the planning and decision-making when appropriate, encourage positive and negative feedback and allow them to do their jobs without anyone micromanaging them.

  • Understand the individual motivators for each of the demographic and departmental groups in your company and act on them. A more comprehensive sales incentive program might work best for your sales team, while your accounting department might find stock options or a 401(k) match more appealing. “Inc.” columnist Bob Nelson has identified typical motivators for different age groups, including flexible work schedules and part-time schedules for more mature workers, sabbaticals and retirement planning for baby boomers and feedback, training and support of work-life balance for Generation X.

  • Allow telecommuting or flexible work schedules where appropriate, particularly if your company is located in an urban area and many of your employees commute from the suburbs. This approach not only shows that you trust your employees to get the job done, but it can help them to maintain a good work-life balance.

  • Give your employees a piece of the pie. Stock options and performance bonuses will give your employees a vested interest in the company’s well-being and motivate them to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

  • Reward your best performers with more challenging projects and assignments to keep them motivated. Employees who manage to stand out from the crowd can quickly become bored and disillusioned if you expect them to perform the same tasks over and over with no advancement. Work with these employees to create a clear career path for them to keep them performing at their best.

  • Lead by example. If you encourage feedback and solicit your employee’s opinions but then do not act on them, your employees will see you as insincere. Be a good coach, mentor and cheerleader for your employees and follow through with the promises that you make.


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