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Keeping employees happy, engaged, and motivated should be a priority for every employer. According to a recent SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey, only 69 percent of employees consistently put all of their effort into work. This means companies have to find ways to keep employees motivated.

Motivated employees work harder, give better results, and are more productive. They’re also more likely to refer their company to others, bringing more talent into your hiring pool.

Here are five unique ways to motivate your employees:

1. Give them purpose.

The term “company culture” gets thrown around a lot these days, but it hits at the crux of motivating employees to work for a purpose. It’s difficult to measure company culture with actual numbers, like productivity or revenue, but this term has come to encompass what we think of as a common goal. It helps employees feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves, making their work feel more meaningful.

A strong company culture drives employees to work for the common good. A recent study asked 2,500 workers to analyze medical images for “objects of interest.” One group was told the results would be thrown out, while a second group was told the images were of cancerous tumors. The latter group spent more time on each image and showed a greater quality of work, even though they earned around 10 percent less.

Whatever your company’s purpose—the best customer service, unbeatable reliability, or stellar social responsibility—make sure it is deeply rooted in your employees.

2. Buy them all lunch.

Offer an onsite gym, or more paid time off, or a more robust healthcare option. Employees who work at companies with attractive perks tend to stay longer and work harder.

It makes sense: if you feel like your company is taking care of you, then you’ll want to take care of it back. Countless of companies, especially in Silicon Valley where there’s a high demand for the best talent, depend on their perks to attract candidates and motivate employees.

According to a Glassdoor survey, 57 percent of respondents reported that benefits and perks are among their top considerations when accepting a job. Companies with the best perks include Netflix, which offers one year of paid maternity and paternity leave; Airbnb, which gives employees $2,000 a year to travel and stay at an Airbnb listing anywhere in the world; and Accenture, which covers gender reassignment for their employees as part of its commitment to LGBTQ rights.

3. Give them the Yelp treatment.

Employees often get too lost in the minutia of their day-to-day tasks to realize how their work is affecting others. One way to motivate employees is to remind them of how they are making a difference in other people’s lives.

This type of outsourced motivation gives employees’ a boost in morale and purpose. According to organizational psychologists, David Hoffmann and Adam Grant, employees generally see end users as more credible than leaders as sources of inspiration.

Customer reviews and feedback are an excellent motivator, reminding employees that what they do matters in the lives of others. In most companies, only a few employees come face-to-face with customers or clients, so consider establishing a platform to share customer feedback with all employees.

Many companies have come up with ways to share the impact of their work on the workers themselves. Wells Fargo shows bankers videos of customers describing how low-interest loans helped them avoid debt.

4. Make each employee CEO for the day.

Okay, not literally, but employee empowerment is more important than most people think. Employees crave challenge and thrive when given more responsibilities.

According to a recent Gallup report, two-thirds of employees strongly agreed that they are more engaged when their manager helps them set work priorities and goals. More engaged employees tend to be more motivated and more productive.

By empowering employees to take control of their professional careers, you can keep them motivated to reach higher. This only works if there is an actual possibility for them to ascend within the company, so make sure your company has a clear career path process.

5. Keep the downers down.

In their breakthrough book, Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior, University of Rochester professors Edward Deci and Richard Ryan identified the six main reasons why people work.

Three of the reasons—play, purpose, and potential—are positive motivators, while the other three are negative and hinder motivation: emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia. To motivate employees effectively, you must minimize the negative factors and maximize the positive factors.

For instance, research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that a group of poets motivated by play reasons (“enjoying self-expression” or “like playing with words”) wrote poems that were 26 percent more creative than the poems written by a group of poets motivated by emotional and economic pressure reasons (“want to publish a financially successful book of poems” or “want writing teachers to be impressed”).

What are some ways you’re motivating your employees?


  • Alana Grace says:

    In my opinion, one of the best things we can do to identify how to motivate employees is to be part of their team. Ask them what they like and what they don’t, then start implementing their opinion, even for small things that might not seem too important. In this way, they will feel that their views are understood and valued.

  • James P. says:

    Motivation has everything to do with giving employees what they want and more. It’s important to hear their opinions about the company and to offer them more than they request. For example, award a holiday to top performers, give anniversary bonuses, or even offer smaller encouragements like a weekly pizza day.

  • Jessica M. says:

    To prevent job dissatisfaction, one of the most important steps is to communicate with the employee about his position regarding his job and desires. Generally, employees want to be treated right, to be observed, and to be paid fairly. 

  • Kristina Minyard says:

    This is a great list! I really like number 5, its easy to get caught up in the negative so I think this is a great reminder.

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