Despite the coronavirus pandemic where most businesses ended up closing their doors, we’re currently in the midst of what many are calling ‘the great resignation’. Countries worldwide are reporting their highest level of open vacancies, with four million Americans quitting their jobs in July 2021 and a record-breaking 10.9 million positions available at the end of that same month.

What’s causing this to happen? Even though the pandemic isn’t entirely over, why are people taking such risks? One of the reasons you can pinpoint is employee motivation.

It’s simple — happy employees are more engaged. And more engaged employees result in lower employee turnover. That’s why employee motivation needs to be at the top of your agenda. Here’s why it’s important and how you can improve, measure and maintain it.

Why employee motivation is important

Motivating your employees is a vital aspect of the workplace. It’s how you identify high performance as, ultimately, motivated employees drive the business forward. This shouldn’t be something you do once a quarter — motivating your employees needs to be the norm.

Unfortunately, some organizations don’t grasp how vital employee motivation is, with studies showing only 13% of employees tend to be engaged at work. So, why should you care about employee motivation?

Increase productivity

Happy, engaged and motivated employees work faster and are efficient. This combination increases their output and they’re keen to do more as they buy into the organization and its goals.

Boosts innovation

More production leads to better ideas. When employees are motivated, they’re likely to make your offering better than ever. They’ll come up with new ideas and processes to continue improving. In the end, it’s the business that benefits.

When they’re motivated, they see a future at the company, meaning they’re invested in its success. It’s why you’ll find that the most motivated and energized employees are responsible for crafting new ideas and optimizing processes.

Improve performance

You want high performers in the company. Disengaged employees will distract others and hold you back. On the other hand, motivated employees tend to work hard. They’re punctual and motivate those around them. Not only does it lead to high productivity, but the work itself is also to a high standard.

Lower absenteeism

Motivated employees want to be in the workplace. They’re happy in life and have goals that you’re helping them meet. When this is the case, employees aren’t taking many days off for sickness or other reasons, as they’re willing to work knowing they serve a bigger purpose. They want to progress and if you’ve done good by them, they’ll want to return the favor, so they continue to grow.

Lower staff turnover

A high staff turnover rate suggests to potential candidates that the workplace is toxic and they won’t enjoy their time there. If employees are motivated, they won’t leave to join other companies. By keeping employees motivated, you can increase retention rates. This way, you keep happy, high-performing employees while reducing the high costs of training and recruitment.

Strong recruitment

When you’re trying to hire new candidates, your motivated employees are your advocates, naturally shouting about the company positively on social media. This makes talented candidates more eager to join you, ensuring you continue to hire the best people.

Better reputation

Employees aren’t shy about calling out poor workplaces that make them miserable. Even though they might shout about all of the incredible things your company does to motivate them, they’ll also share your failings to discourage others from following in their footsteps. If this happens, it’s your reputation that suffers, making it challenging to recruit exceptional talent.

Better relations

You want to get on with your employees and not be resistant to change. Motivated employees are likely to accept any changes you propose and even get involved. They’ll also create stronger bonds with each other, meaning you have a stronger workforce firing on all cylinders. 

How to improve employee motivation

Thankfully, you can take steps right away to begin motivating your employees and reap the benefits mentioned in the section above.

  • Map progression plans: Employees want to know you care about their development. Take time to sit with them and map out their vision and progression path so they can see a clear future in your business.
  • Be transparent: What’s your vision? Whether it’s sharing the financial aspect or the company goals, share this information with employees, so they know you have a vision and you’re relying on them to help achieve it.
  • Improve communication: The easiest way to motivate employees is by having regular, positive communication with them. Don’t stick to emails. Speak to them face to face and on a personal level to understand each other.
  • Encourage teamwork: Encourage employees to work closely together and pair relevant skillsets together. When employees see a motivated team, they’re likely to receive a boost themselves and become motivated.
  • Make targets clear and realistic: Always share what your targets are and what needs doing to achieve them. This way, you’ll achieve buy-in easier. However, make the targets attainable, too. If they seem impossible, employees will continue to lose motivation when goals are never achieved.
  • Show recognition: Whenever you notice employees are going above and beyond, publicly recognize them. You never know who needs that boost and this confirmation can cause them to continue performing at a high level once they’re motivated by your praise.
  • Offer motivating rewards: Your benefits have to be more than a pool table and vending machine in the office. Looks for perks and offer more than what competitors do. When employees feel like you’re looking after their needs and well-being, they’ll want to work harder for you.
  • Don’t micromanage: Micromanage makes it feel like you don’t trust your employees. You hired them for a reason as they’re a specialist in their field. Give them the autonomy they deserve as this trust you display makes the job more satisfying. When employees are satisfied, they’re motivated and engaged.
  • Create an energizing work environment: The work environment can make employees lose motivation. Let the natural light in, create unique breakout places for them to relax and turn it into a space that makes employees look forward to coming in.

By following these tips, you’ll quickly see the mindset shift in your employees. These actions show you genuinely care about them on a deeper level than just focusing on output. In turn, they’ll be more motivated for you and you’ll benefit greatly.

How to measure and maintain employee motivation

There isn’t a straight yes or no answer for a metric that measures employee motivation. However, there are some HR-related metrics you can regularly analyze to see just how motivated and engaged employees are.

Sudden working from home changes

If you offer a flexible working policy, keep an eye on when employees suddenly start working from home and are reluctant to come into the office. Of course, there are genuine reasons why somebody might want to stay home, but regular office attendees that suddenly stop coming in can be an early warning sign.

If the patterns have changed without explanations, it could be because tension at work, lack of motivation, team dissent or burnout is playing a part.

Monitor absences

Have absences increased randomly? Again, there are always genuine reasons why someone is absent, but keep an eye on patterns if there’s a deeper meaning. An employee could be stressed or has lost interest. Pinpoint this early and manage the situation sooner.

Keep an eye on output

The same applies here. Happy, positive and motivated employees are engaged and will work through their tasks at speed, quality and with minimal fuss. However, the opposite can occur. If employees become distant and don’t clear their tasks, they might have lost interest. Track this on an individual basis and spot possible carelessness early via data.

Analyze behavior

Has a usually-happy employee suddenly become antisocial, blunt and distant? While other factors could contribute, it could be that they don’t see a future in your company and lose motivation to try as hard as they don’t know where they’re going. Monitor this, too, via line managers and reviews and raise any noticings.

Conduct surveys

To find out how employees really feel, send out anonymous surveys for them to complete. Do this every quarter so you don’t leave things too late as it can be hard to fix an issue or problem an employee was facing months ago.

You can keep them short and to the point to encourage responses. You never know, you might also get some great ideas on how to motivate employees from the people it’ll impact. By having this information, you know exactly what to target and the positive changes to make so your workforce stays motivated in your company — and less likely to head for the exit door.

It also shows you’re willing to change and improve. When employees notice this, they’ll be more open to speaking out about what you can do to motivate them.

Create a positive workplace and your company will instantly do better. It won’t be an overnight process, but the sooner you begin motivating your employees, improving it constantly and measuring it, you’ll see the difference.

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