Why You Can’t Seem to Motivate Your Employees — and How to Change That

There’s an art to employee motivation. Learn the benefits of motivating employees and discover strategies that don’t work — along with a few that do.

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Why You Can’t Seem to Motivate Your Employees and How to Change That

Burnout, stress, and fatigue affect workers in many organizations. The continuing trend of remote work hasn’t changed anything. So just how does a leader keep their office, hybrid, and work-from-home team members excited to keep working?

A Deloitte study reported that 84% of workers and 83% of executives felt engaging and motivating employees was a top factor contributing to a successful company. Yet, not every leader is successful at doing it.

Motivating employees can be easier said than done. Let’s dig into why it matters, what might be wrong with your motivational strategies, and what you can do to improve them.

84% of workers and 83% of executives felt engaging and motivating employees was a top factor contributing to a successful company. Yet, not every leader is successful at doing it.

Benefits of motivating employees

For continued success in business, it’s important to keep your team filled with happy, satisfied workers. According to Forbes, engaged employees are intrinsically motivated. That is, their work becomes their passion because they really enjoy what they’re doing.

A recent Gallup study mentioned that businesses with highly engaged employees witness a:

  • 10% improvement in customer ratings
  • 17% increase in overall productivity
  • 20% increase in sales
  • 21% increase in profitability
  • 24% reduction in turnover rates
  • 41% reduction in absenteeism

Despite these benefits, employee motivation isn’t automatic. Leaders need to learn what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to motivating their team to keep them committed and engaged.

Motivation methods that don’t work

Are you a victim of using old-school motivation methods at your organization? When your tried-and-true methods are no longer working, you may be guilty of using these unproductive motivation methods.

Setting unrealistic deadlines

Strict deadlines do little to motivate staff. Instead, setting unrealistic goals may have the opposite effect. Employees feel discouraged when they see a due date approaching on a project that is only partially completed.

To take some of the pressure off, it’s better to set smaller milestones for each phase of the project. A project management tool such as Trello or ClickUp can help you set more attainable goals.

Disengagement or micromanagement

Absent managers and micromanagers are at opposite ends of the spectrum. One entails a lack of guidance while the other is an overabundance of involvement. Yet, neither style of management works as an effective employee motivational tool.

Micromanagement as motivation fails because you never give your staff a chance to learn from their own mistakes. On the other hand, a complete lack of guidance leaves employees struggling to find a clear path to success. You need to strike a balance between these two extremes.

Competition among coworkers

On the surface, a little friendly competition among coworkers may seem like a good thing. But this usually couldn’t be further from the truth. Nothing spells out a lack of motivation and not caring like pitting your own team members against each other.

Stress as a motivator does nothing to improve retention rates. In fact, a toxic culture is one of the main driving factors of the Great Resignation. Some people may thrive in this type of environment. Yet, competition can actually result in nervous, anxious, and stressed out employees.

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How to actually motivate your employees

So, now you know what not to do to motivate your staff. It’s time to take a look at what works. Follow these top 4 recommendations to discover better ways of motivating employees.

Show you care

According to a recent Gallup poll, team leads account for up to 70% of problems with team engagement. Instead of making employee motivation an HR task, managers and team leads must be the driver.

A caring manager acts as more of a coach or mentor rather than barking out orders to follow. Providing support when needed and letting each member of your team know how their work supports the company’s goals are both signs of a great leader.

Take time to understand the problem

Many workers are reluctant to share information in a group setting. Instead of Zoom conference calls and mandatory team meetings, meet with employees one on one. Taking time to get to know each person on your team will help you better understand what’s causing the lack of motivation.

Underperforming employees could be dealing with anything from an overwhelming workload to not feeling challenged in their current position. Private meetings help build trust and should eventually help reveal the underlying issue. Once you understand the cause, you can help each worker come up with a plan to help them meet their business objectives.

Show your appreciation with small gestures

more than 40% of workers in the U.S. said they would work harder if they were recognized more often.

Don’t only share positive feedback during the annual review. Try to recognize achievements throughout the year. Celebrating small wins and special contributions as they happen will help your staff feel appreciated.

Harvard Business Review reported that recognition is the easiest way to boost team morale and motivation. It noted that more than 40% of workers in the U.S. said they would work harder if they were recognized more often. Schedule regular employee appreciation days or highlight the employee of the month to show your team how much you appreciate their efforts.

Provide room for growth

When employees don’t see a clear path for improvement, they will eventually feel unmotivated. Investing in employee training programs helps prevent boredom and gives your team room to grow into new positions. Provide professional development opportunities, so they can learn new skills.

If you’re not sure where to start, ask your staff what interests them. A Lorman employee training statistics study reported that 74% of workers feel they aren’t reaching their full potential as a result of a lack of training opportunities. Access to job training helps improve motivation levels and can improve retention rates by providing a clear path to career growth.

A happy workplace equals motivated employees

Once you figure out what factors get your employees excited to come to work every day, you can use your skills to keep them motivated. Successful leaders know how to tap into the talent of each member of their team to keep them engaged at work.

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