How To Motivate Employees In The Workplace: The Complete Guide

If you’re looking for some strategies on how to motivate employees in the workplace, then you’ll love this article.

The access to information we have now is leading to flatter organisation structures, particularly as millennials and post-millennials enter the workforce. Leadership and management styles must therefore shift to align with these changes to ensure the greatest employee motivation ergo company success is achieved.

A primary problem in achieving high employee motivation is the exclusive top-to-bottom relationship most managers enforce in organisations. This creates ineffective managers who rely on position rather than competent leadership. It stifles employees and lowers morale, this means lower work ethic, less care, and employees who are less creative and productive.

When novel situations arrive and resourcefulness and inspiration are essential, they will fall into the habit of seeking approval and inaction. These deficiencies resulting from poor leadership clearly have negative business outcomes.

There is also the attitude among employees that they are there to earn, not learn, when learning and improving are synonymous with gainful employment and company success, and should therefore be the goal of employment.

It is clear that the problems to address regarding how to inspire employees are:

  • How to manage.
  • How to give real and ongoing training.
  • How to build an environment for success.
  • How to change habits.

A key focus here is to explain how to make workplaces motivate, social, and creative. People want to be creative, and appreciated.

How To Motivate Employees In The Workplace:

In this an article we discusses how to identify where your people belong and how to communicate with them. Next, outlines the five things you must do to use this information successfully. Also talk about job structure and how to make employees more fulfilled, and how to align your own outlook.

We discusses how to use social awareness to improve employee happiness and success, for them and your business. And at the end, we gives you the tools to improve habits in the workplace and encourage creativity in employees by giving them ownership and therefore engagement.

Combining the principles and completing the action tasks given will give you the skillset and understanding to effectively create a work environment for employees to be engaged and motivated. Understand that for this to be effective, it is you who needs to change first.

Some principles will be touched on multiple times – this is to provide a broader perspective on their usefulness and how to approach them.

What are your strengths?

The only way to succeed is to leverage your strengths.

Perhaps you can dot point some words or phrases which encapsulate what you imagine your strengths are. This is a good starting point but it won’t give you the full picture.

How can you discover what your strengths really are? Feedback analysis. This means that when key decisions are made, or actions taken, write down what you think will happen, the expected result. Three months later reflect on your predictions, do this three times; specific time intervals depend on the scale and nature of the prediction.

Comparing these predictions with what actually happened immediately sheds light on what are and are not your strengths. Gaining this first understanding is crucial to the success of the following sections.

How does this apply to your people? Teach them to practice feedback analysis. All of you must then share the results to give greater insight into the strengths of your people so can leverage this later on and so they understand it for themselves.

Begin performing feedback analysis constantly, having a dedicated notebook is good practice and set dates in your diary to reflect on predictions. Have your staff in decision making positions do the same and keep tabs on their progress.

How do you perform?

How you take in information and where you fit best in an organisation is so rarely discussed effectively. To ensure smooth communication and appropriate positioning, ask yourself this: are you a reader, listener, speaker, or writer? This is your dominant modality for learning. Through what method do you retain information and work through problems best?

Understanding this about yourself means you can be efficient, and learning the same about your staff means you can give them information in the way they’ll process it best. Perhaps in the past they haven’t been stupid or lazy, you were telling them the information ineffectively.

Do you work well with others, or are you a loner? If it’s with people, in what relationship?As a subordinate, a team member, or as a mentor?
Do you perform best under stress or in a structured environment?
Do you perform best in a small or large organisation?

Answering these questions points you to where you belong within the organisation. Now do the same for your staff, they’ll never perform well in the wrong role. This process will need to be repeated in the future as the roles suitable for any individual may become fluid.

Answer the questions, and have your people do the same. Reflect on the structure of the organisation based on the results.

What are your values?

What decisions in the past do you feel good about? Why? Your actions reveal what’s important to you.

If you’re not sure, ask the inverse by using the mirror test. If you do something how will you see yourself in the mirror every day?

Do you know your staff’s values? For people to care about their work, their individual values and the organisation’s values must be aligned, or at least compatible.

Identify where there are conflicts of values, and work to resolve these.

Where do you belong?

  • Acknowledge your skills.
  • Define your goals.
  • Decide where you belong.

You must be working to help your staff achieve their goals and utilising their skills. Position them appropriately as a subordinate, team member, mentor, or loner.

Find out what their goals are, combine this with their skills and best position to get the most out of them.

What should you contribute?

  • What does the situation require?
  • Given your strengths, ways of performing, and values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done?
  • What results need to be achieved to make a difference and be meaningful? These results should be difficult, and skill realistic.

These three questions give you the framework to decide:

  • What to do.
  • Where/how to start.
  • What goals and deadlines to set.

When delegating use this framework by having the person complete it themselves. You’ll learn more about them and they’ll work harder.

Take Responsibility for your relationships.

Most of your staff will work best with other people, and likely you do too. However you probably don’t really understand what others are doing or how they work. Take responsibility for communication by telling them and asking them:

  • What you’re good at.
  • How you work.
  • What your values are.
  • What is your contribution and planned results.

Clearly to obtain meaningful discussion points here, the previous sections must be worked through.

Beginning with decision makers, communicate with them these points.

The second half of your life.

The notorious mid-life crisis occurs when someone has great domain knowledge and skills, but has no challenge. To keep your people from leaving to take up a new second career you have two choices:

1. Help them find, and make accommodations for, volunteer style work and social clubs.
2. Give them a challenge. In following the previous sections you’ll know how to do this.

Success here relies on planning and early implementation.

Through your communication with people, think of ways to keep them challenged, or in what areas of volunteer style work they would thrive.

SEE ALSO: Top 4 Management Tips For New Managers: The First-Time Manager’s Guide

The five keys to success

1. Develop a Definiteness of Purpose

The importance of this cannot be understated. This is the guiding principle from which all company and individual actions should be inspired. Successful companies base their Definiteness of Purpose around people. The principle is not the goal, but a map to achieving the goals.

Define the company’s Definiteness of Purpose, its ethic, its guiding armature. It needs to be absolute and employees must work towards it. Within the company every individual has their own Definiteness of Purpose. To improve amenity, seek to discover theirs, and figure out how you can help them get there.

2. Establish a Mastermind Alliance

You need to approach hiring and maintaining your staff with the attitude “this is a Mastermind Alliance, we’re all on our purpose, helping each other achieve success.” This can only take place after establishing your Definiteness of Purpose, as in order to vet for the Mastermind’s, you need to know what makes the best people also compatible people.

Meetings must be set for the purpose (1) of working towards the participants Definiteness of Purpose. In working with staff towards these goals internally, they will be more focussed and loyal.

3. Assemble an Attractive Personality

Develop learning tools and build the job so that employees cultivate and build an attractive personality. A key component of this is to lead by example, so all managers must tread this path first.

Determine what an attractive personality is within the context of your company.

Invent informational pieces and tools which enable staff to work towards this.

4. Build a Positive Mental Attitude

The action here is to internalise these mindsets through your everyday decisions and in internalising and understanding them, teach your people how to do the same.

  • Replace fear with hope. Train yourself to recognise that a challenge is actually an opportunity.
  • Go the extra mile and create personal initiative. Become indispensable – understand how increasing your efforts beyond what is required benefits you more than anyone else.
  • Build controlled enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the fuel for positivity, the constructive force that puts the attitude to use, create positive upward spirals by practicing enthusiasm.
  • Enforce self-disciple. Learn about how you operate and use this information to put yourself in positions for success, where you will follow routines and processes that guarantee results.
  • Think accurately. Always be learning, study broad fields. A great starting point is to understand cognitive biases.

5. Inspire Teamwork

The action here is the same as above.

You’re in the people industry so make it about people. Encourage energy and ideas, and build business around this attitude.

Help to budget your staff’s time and self-inventory. This builds doers and expels drifters. A doer is someone who thinks ‘work is a source of opportunity’, a drifter is someone who doesn’t.

Teach your people to see themselves as executives. Executives see all the moving parts of an organisation is their totality. Executives understand that with regards to their performance in all areas, they are their only boss who matters.

Have them maintain sound health. They’ll perform better when they feel good.

Fulfilment at work

1. The Job Characteristics model

In the Job Characteristics model, there are five elements which contribute to motivation, performance, and satisfaction.

  • Skill variety: Developing a variety of skills and talents.
  • Task Identity: Identifying the work done as a contribution to final outcome.
  • Task Significance: The influence of the job on other people’s lives
  • Autonomy: The degree of significant freedom to plan and execute the work.
  • Feedback: The provision of clear, specific, and actionable information about performance.
  • Problem: Most employees are highly replaceable and specialise in totally insignificant ways.

Identify to what degree the negative results exist in your company and implement the how to fix it points (small scale to begin with if necessary).

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Where should work be fulfilling a person’s needs within Maslow’s Hierarchy?

Physiological, Security and Safety Needs:

There must be perceived fairness in rewards given the work input. Perceived unfairness will trigger the amygdala and jeopardise efficiency and relationships. This perceived fairness can only be achieved by a leader who effectively communicates with staff.

Social Needs:

Think of building the workforce as building a team, you must employ compatible people and provide time for socialising. (Social, Esteem, and Self-Actualisation Needs are all built on an effective Job Characteristics Model).

Esteem Needs:

Build their confidence. Always praise when performance and attitude are good, and never undermine them.

Self-Actualisation Needs:

Communicate with each individual to learn what their definiteness of purpose is, and their goals in being employed under you. Then help them achieve this by aligning their employment conditions with their goals.

From the employee’s perspective, determine how much their work is fulfilling their needs.

SEE ALSO: How To Become An Effective Manager: 5 Key Tactics You Should Know

Your outlook

How do you think about your people? The Theory X/Y Model says there are two types of manager:

Theory X Managers:

  • Employees need to be controlled.
  • Employees don’t like work.
  • Employees need to be pushed to be more productive.
  • Employees need incentive schemes.
  • Employees have to be directed to do things they don’t enjoy.

Theory Y Managers:

  • Employees want to be involved.
  • Employees can think for themselves and make decisions.
  • Employees want to share ownership of tasks.
  • Employees will find work more rewarding if given responsibility and variety of tasks.
  • Employees have good ideas.
  • Employees can engage in some level of self-management.

These two mindsets of the manager are often self-fulfilling prophecies as to how the staff think and act.

Draw these two as lists and have on your desk for constant reference. How did you behave in recent situations? Adjust yourself accordingly to be a Theory Y manager.

Their social needs

Mirroring refers to mirror neurons, where you watch someone act and your neurons fire as if you were doing the act yourself.

Mentalising refers to the ability for people to understand what others are thinking by observing their actions.

Mirroring and mentalising are done for social harmony. In terms of healthy brain functioning, social harmony is as important as food and shelter. Therefore, you must seek to maximise social harmony in the workplace, done by building the company around a focus on people. After all, you’re in the people industry, you just happen to sell X.

Mentalising plays a large role in information retention, which is why peer-to-peer learning is shown to be so effective. Utilise this by installing systems where staff have the freedom to engage and teach each other in more natural and relaxed environments.

As you work towards a Theory Y mentality, you’ll understand how you must seek to make your people better and happier individuals. The benefits to your company are of course more actively engaged workers who will also be more creative.

This creates a positive upwards spiral you all involved, as the people you surround yourself with are highly influential towards your health and wellbeing, and in the collective improving individually, they excavate the improvements of others.

Influence can be diluted into a model of two factors: strength and warmth. Strength here is basically assertiveness by competence and willpower. Whereas warmth here is empathy, familiarity and love. Use this understanding of influence to reflect on your management style.

A strength/warmth balance (2) is ideal, but what is the best balance for your situation? It depends on you, your company’s, and your employees’ Definiteness of Purpose, positioning, and values. When those factors are considered, the answer becomes clear.

Think of ways to improve social harmony in the workplace and encourage peer-to-peer learning. Start by putting these systems into place in your work. Observe for situations where the outcome of your management is a resentful, unconcerned, or ambivalent response.

Reflect on what you could have done to work towards a balance given the Definiteness of Purpose, positioning, and values in play during that situation. Come up with ways to make future encounters more likely to be a balance.

Overcoming bad habits and inspiring creatives


After building a people-centric Definiteness of Purpose which is simple, clear, and inspiring, all company habits must be developed around it. Two actions to regularly take here are:

1. Always self-assess the company’s goals and habits. Purge the unnecessary and superfluous.

2. Build learning tools to mentor employees to develop the habit of willpower.

Watch for negative or improvable habits in the company and individuals. What exactly is a habit here? A habit is a routine done by a person in search of a reward with a cue that is usually unconscious. How to resolve this:

  • Identify the routine.
  • Experiment with rewards.
  • Isolate the cue.
  • Have a plan.

Cues are an internal or external event that causes us to seek a routine action in order to achieve a reward. This is guided generally by an underlying desire. For example: A gambler has a negative emotional experience and seeks numbness through blackjack (cue: experience, routine: blackjack, reward: numbness).

In order to rectify, alter or create new habits, we must first identify the routine. E.g. eating cookies is a bad habit when you want to cut down on calories. When this routine is identified experiment with rewards.

Rather than the reward being the cookie, when you feel like a cookie try doing something else and observe the outcome, like having a chat with a friend, doing jumping jacks, watering the garden, etc. Find one that replicates the same feeling as eating the cookie while being a constructive action.

Then isolate the cue, done by noting the factors of: Location, time, emotional state, other people and immediately preceding action every time the urge to enact the habit occurs. Over time isolate the patterns, e.g. Most factors are irrelevant to cookie cravings besides that it always occurs between 3-4pm.

Then have a plan to fix the habit. E.g. I know I will crave cookies at around 3:30pm and talking with my friend is a better routine to attain the same reward. So every day at 3:30pm I will talk to my friend.

Start identifying the habits all around you that control most of you and your people’s daily actions. Start to separate the constructive from the unconstructive and begin putting plans in place to correct these flaws.

Przemkas Mosky started Perfect 24 Hours in 2017. He is a Personal Productivity Specialist, blogger and entrepreneur. He also works as a coach assisting people to increase their motivation, social skills or leadership abilities. Read more here