6 Creative Ways To Motivate Your Employees That They’ll Actually Appreciate

September 14, 2017

There are ebbs and flows at every workplace, but when morale is low there is a noticeable negative impact on results.

In worst case scenarios, this can create a vicious cycle in which failure to meet milestones causes morale to sink even lower, leading to plummeting workplace motivation. Ultimately, low motivation can destroy your company’s culture and negatively affect your ability to retain great employees.

Fortunately, there is a way to break the cycle. Develop a plan to implement policies and programs designed to keep employees engaged and to improve motivation. Keep in mind though that they don’t have to be based on money! 

Here are 6 creative ways to motivate your employees that they’ll appreciate: 

1. “Gamify” your workplace.

There has been growing interest in the concept of “gamification,” in which regular tasks are turned into a game. Scientific research suggests that our brains are wired to respond strongly to certain types of rewards and recognition. Learning to “gamify” your workplace can keep employees happy and motivated to perform.

In practice, this means setting up an incentive structure that employees buy into. Begin by breaking a bigger task into smaller subgoals. Perhaps you work at a market research firm that owes a big client the results of a product evaluation. Set smaller benchmarks related to recruitment of focus group participants. For every milestone achieved, employees get a small reward. If everyone meets the overall deadline on time, provide a team-wide reward.


2. Provide leadership opportunities.

Employees feel more motivated when they are given autonomy and respect. Providing opportunities for leadership is a great way to do this by also boosting motivation. Along that same vein, we’ve found in our own data that the companies that ranked best on kununu (by their own employees) tend to have significantly better scores related to leadership support than those that performed worse – in other words, companies that fared well seem to all prioritize leadership:

  • Among highest rated companies on kununu (4 stars or higher), the average rating for “support from management” is 4.52 stars
  • Among lowest rated companies on kununu (2 stars or less), the average rating for “support from management” is 1.22 stars

It’s important to note that this does not necessarily mean a formal promotion and salary increase. Rather, designating team members to take the lead on specific projects can give them a sense of autonomy and the ability to take ownership of their work. It also provides you an opportunity to assess which employees have the aptitude for management.


3. Demonstrate your trust in their work.

Everyone hates to be micromanaged. Part of motivating your workforce is placing trust in their abilities. Designate tasks and provide appropriate feedback, but trust that your employees are doing their part. You may be surprised how well employees respond when they don’t have a supervisor double-checking every aspect of their work.


4. Promote work-life balance.

It can be challenging to design meaningful metrics of employee productivity. In the absence of such measurements, managers often rely on hours worked as a reflection of how productive employees are. However, just because your salaried employees put in long hours does not mean they are being maximally productive during that time. Furthermore, feeling pressure to work long hours each week leaves many people feeling less and less motivated over time.

Take action to promote a culture of work-life balance. This might include formal policy changes about flex time, working from home, parental leave, child care, or paid sick leave. Alternatively, it might include supervisors encouraging employees to take their vacation days, promoting self care activities, providing at-work wellness activities, or having a more flexible attitude about unpaid leave for emergency life events.


5. Perform a formal assessment of workplace culture

It’s hard to know how employees really view their workplace if they don’t feel comfortable speaking up. If your work environment suffers from seriously low morale, consider hiring an outside agency to perform a formal assessment of workplace climate. Another great option is to leverage external anonymous employee reviews such as what you can find on kununu

Taking the time to listen to and act on employees’ feedback shows them that you take their concerns seriously and want them to feel motivated in their work. However, the most essential part of this process is that you must be willing to take an honest look at the results and generate meaningful change. If your employees sense this is a useless exercise that won’t result in improvements, they will continue to be unmotivated and your retention rates will suffer.


6. Provide free services that add value to your employees’ lives.

Everyone loves a small token of respect and appreciation. Enhancing employee motivation can be as easy as treating everyone in the office to a celebratory lunch to acknowledge their hard work achieving a particular milestone. Alternatively, consider hiring massage therapists to give 10-minute chair massages, sponsoring yoga sessions over the lunch hour, having a bring your pet to work day, or bringing in a tax professional for consultation around tax time. These small perks won’t cut too deeply into the company’s bottom line, but they make employees feel valued and motivated to work hard.


Key Takeaways

    • High motivation is critical to your company’s culture.


    • Incentives need to be tied to things your employees actually want. So ask them!


  • Motivation-boosting incentives may be concrete rewards (e.g., free lunch, extra time off) or more abstract (e.g., opportunities for leadership and development).



Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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