Friday, April 16, 2010

4 tips for motivating employees

Did you know that most people in the US are unhappy with their jobs? It’s true. Despite going through one of the worst job markets in history, the majority of those still employed aren’t even satisfied with their job. In my experience, unhappy employees are unmotivated and unproductive employees.

So, how can you motivate your employees and make their work life a bit more enjoyable?

This is where it gets tricky. If there was one motivation tactic that worked for everyone, we sure wouldn’t have this job satisfaction problem. Everyone is motivated differently.

Here’s a bit of advice: Don’t automatically think that money=motivation. If someone works in a miserable environment, bonuses and raises might keep them there, but it won’t make them enjoy their work in the long term. Take Zappos for example. Their salaries are on the low end, but their employees love their jobs.

So, what’s the secret? While there’s no silver bullet, here are a few tips that I’ve picked up over the years:
  1. Everyone wants to think their work is important. If an employee’s work led to something positive for the company, let them know. Tell them how their work contributes to success.
  2. Express gratitude. Thank your employees for their hard work. A thankless job is the last thing anyone wants. Let your employees know they are appreciated.
  3. Surprise them every once in a while. Bring in donuts or buy pizza for lunch. You’d be surprised what free food does for motivation.
  4. Challenge them. This is more applicable to IT professionals, who are problem-solvers by nature. If their job is 75% mindless busywork, it will grow tiresome. I once talked to an unchallenged IT professional working for a large company in downtown Chicago. He told me that staring at a pencil on his desk all day was far more enjoyable than his unchallenging IT job. Needless to say, he no longer works in IT.
If you want some more tips, check out this article on It’s aimed at motivating an IT staff, but contains some great overall motivation advice as well. How about you? Have you run across any other great motivation techniques? I’d like to hear them in the comments.


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