7 Employee Motivation Techniques

Jan 18, 2021

You can start to use these methods right away, and they don’t cost a thing.

These are the seven secret employee motivation techniques that I have found to work. You can start to use these methods right away, and they don’t cost a thing.

1. Get to Know Each Member of Your Team

“Don’t forget to get to know every one of the people on your engagement teams. Remember, to them, you are a rock star.” This is the advice I was given by our CEO when I was first promoted to managing director at a large consulting firm.

I thought about it for a while and realized he was right. When I was younger and in a staff position, nothing motivated me like getting to know “the boss.” Now that I was the boss, I vowed to make it one of my priorities. It became one of the employee motivation techniques I used the most. It was especially important to the people on our consulting teams as my team was almost always far away from home and working long hours. I made it a point to get to know them and plan dinners out and other outings for the team on a regular basis.

2. Stay Visible

I call it “management by walking around.” Every morning, I made it a point to go around and talk to everyone on my team. I tried to come up with a subject that was personal to them. For my sales teams, I would recognize something they did well the day before. If there wasn’t something specific, I would start up a conversation about one of their customers or a product they sold well. For an inside sales group, obviously this was logistically easy to do. For a field sales team, I would do it on the telephone. Even if I had to meet with the salesperson that day to resolve a problem, I would make sure the conversation ended up with my recognizing something they had done well. This employee motivation technique works for everyone, not just salespeople.

3. Relieve the Tension

Put on your “vagabond shoes.” Do something to relieve the stress your team is feeling. When I was a sales director for Mattel, every February, we attended Toy Fair in New York, where my team met all of our customers in the span of two weeks and booked 90 percent of our business for the year. This trip was tiring and stressful with long hours and no breaks. Most of my team dreaded this trip, but it was critical in making our sales goals. So about a week before we took off for New York, I would stand in the aisles among the cubicles and start singing, very low, “Start spreadin’ the news.” Then “I’m leavin’ today.” “I want to be a part of it, in old New York.” You get the idea. I sang the whole song. Soon everyone was in the aisles and we were all singing and soft-shoeing it and laughing at each other. Sometimes when things got pressure-filled (usually during quarter end), I would break open some toy samples and start shooting foam rubber bullets down the aisle. Do something to break the tension. It’s your job. Humor is one of the most effective employee motivation techniques I know.

4. Compliment Your Team in Writing

At the end of a milestone of any kind (month-end, quarter-end, contest-end) write an e-mail to the entire group congratulating them on the job they have done. Don’t skip this if it has been a rough quarter because, believe me, they will notice. Give them any pertinent sales/production numbers and let them know where your department stands in relation to any group goals that have been set. If it has been a rough quarter, be honest about it and tell them in straightforward language what needs to be done to correct the problems. They will appreciate your honesty and openness. Be sure to copy the appropriate upper-level executives when complimenting your team. Your employees will love this as it shows you are proud of them and you are paying attention to the details. That means they also will pay attention to the details.

5. Be a Supportive Boss

Support your people. Fight for them. If they need new equipment or training to do their job, get it for them. Let them know you are fighting for them. If someone accuses them of wrongdoing, get the facts and back them. Then deal with any problems behind closed doors. If they know you support them, they will support you when the going gets tough.

6. Treat Everyone Fairly

If you get the reputation for being fair, your employees will follow you anywhere. When I was with the big consulting firm, we had an assignment system for engagement credit that was unfair. We all had to fight each other for the credit we deserved because the system was set up poorly. Managing directors who were the most aggressive ended up with the credit, not those who worked for it. It was a lousy system and we hated it. Be sure to correct anything like this that is unfair because it is a killer of employee motivation.

7. Recognize, Recognize, Recognize, and Recognize Again

Never underestimate the power of recognition. This includes verbal and written recognition, as well as awards. Those Employee of the Month/Quarter/Year Awards? Don’t underestimate their importance. These things mean a lot to your team, and you should never ignore, forget or minimize their significance.

By Hannah Butler