How To Motivate Employees: 5 Forward-Thinking Approaches

Corey Bleich
5 min read

Your employees’ skills are pretty solid, but you know that a company-wide training in some new areas could really push your business into the next decade. So how to motivate employees to get on board with your vision for the future? Motivating employees isn’t easy, but it’s vital. As we’ll see, organizations have found that it works best by building a company culture from the ground up. Here are five creative ways to motivate your employees.

1. Build a better overall employee experience

Every year, Fortune posts a ranking of the 100 best companies to work for. In 2019, the number one company to work for was Hilton, and their secret was simple: they motivate employees by building a better overall employee experience.

Hilton’s CEO, Chris Nassetta, started with something as simple as changing the uniforms in housekeeping. This made them lighter and more comfortable to work in. He believes that in order for the company to do well, employees need to feel taken care of. That translates into not only more comfortable uniforms but also better employee meals and more welcoming employee breakrooms.

Josh Bersin, industry analyst and leader in human resources training, refers to this as the employee experience (EX). With a shortage of highly skilled workers, Bersin points out that enhancing the EX at your company results in more satisfied, balanced, and productive employees.

This is a philosophy that is wholeheartedly embraced by all top five in the Fortune list, including:

  • Salesforce: Equity in pay across genders and well-being objectives in addition to work goals
  • Wegmans: Tuition assistance and a commitment to employee training
  • Workday: Uses data to ensure diversity and equity in terms of pay and advancement
  • Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants: A “thoughtful” corporate culture that goes above and beyond to recognize excellent employee service

Building a better employee experience takes time, thought, and effort. Making employees feel welcome at work is crucial to retention, productivity, and motivation, though.

2. Rethink rewards in your organization

Even the best employee experience cannot ignore the basic truth: employees work to make money. Sure, they may love their work, and your efforts to support them as people have paid off in their loyalty to your company.

In the end, though, they must pay their mortgage and keep the lights on. In thinking about how to motivate employees, it’s important to look first at salaries. Are they in line with the job, industry standards, and the employee’s skillset? Consider a quarterly review of pay scales that considers equity across gender and race. Include annual adjustments for cost of living (in addition to regular raises).

Once you address any issues in basic pay rates, it’s time to rethink rewards in your organization. You need to develop creative ways to motivate employees that go beyond a simple “do this task; get these dollars.” Most companies follow the tired old road of rewarding individuals for individual performances. New research indicates that the best way to reward performance is through team-based achievement.

Remember the saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats”? The same is true in your company.

Recognition of a team may be a more effective strategy and help everyone stay motivated. It’s a bit like peer pressure and competition, except way better. Carefully crating teams with a variety of skills and strengths plus setting clear goals equals groups that work together towards a common goal.

3. Incorporate self-directed learning when possible

Not every person on your team needs to learn the exact same information at the exact same pace

Contradictory to the last idea about how to motivate employees comes this next tip: incorporate self-directed learning where possible. Think back to being in school and receiving the required reading list. Maybe you loved reading, but the books that were required were just not your genre or style. The fact that they were required regardless of your interests or needs made reading them a slog.

Training can be the same way for your employees. Let’s face it: even the smallest companies have employees with a wide range of skills and life experiences. Not every person on your team needs to learn the exact same information at the exact same pace.

When possible, offer employees opportunities for self-directed learning that is based on their interests and career goals. Maybe employees can design their own reading plan or course of training. This could include cross-training in different departments or paid volunteer or mentorship days where they learn from a professional in their field of interest.

4. Personalize training through intrinsic motivation

This idea about how to motivate employees might be the most explosive one on the list.

Stop. Don’t even try.

Many employees come to your company already intrinsically motivated. Prescribing a daily dose of information they already know and calling it “training” is one way to suck all of the motivation (and joy) out of employees. Consider, instead, giving employees time and space to explore the things they came in already motivated to do.

Personalize training to the employee in front of you – not the one you wish you had

Claire Lew of Know Your team offers these suggestions for capitalizing on the motivation employees already possess:

  • Get to know employees to see where they are already motivated
  • Consider employee strengths as you plan tasks and trainings
  • Allow a high degree of choice in task and timing
  • Back off and let employees do the work
  • Acknowledge that sometimes certain types of training just aren’t all that fun
  • Get clear on targets and expectations

5. Incorporate flexible scheduling

Chances are your employees are already way busier than they ought to be. Adding a new training program to this workload could kill anyone’s motivation. So, get flexible. You’ve already decided that training is crucial to the success of your company. Give employees the time, space, and flexibility they need to participate with a motivated mind.

Maybe everyone gets a regular, rotating half-day paid to study independently (and a half-day as a team to collaborate and move towards targets). Or, designate the first hour of every workday as independent learning time where employees can dive into something they have wanted to know more about. Or maybe every employee is paired with a mentor of their choice that they meet with once a month.

Regardless of what it looks like, flexible scheduling goes back to honoring an employee’s time and still getting the training done.

Cultural change kickstarts individual change

The above suggestions require deep, creative thinking and an overhaul to the way your company approaches motivation and training. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. These practices go beyond getting employees excited about training to cultivating a cultural shift in the way your business looks at training.

It’s a big job. At EdgePoint Learning, we know how to motivate employees and can help you incorporate high-quality training design into your learning programs. Get in touch today to learn more.

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