How to motivate staff

Employee Motivation
Motivation, or the lack of it, is the key to performance and productivity. There is infinite opportunity for demotivation at work. Given that for most employed people, the time they spend at work will be second only to the time they spend sleeping. Work consumes a large part of our lives. For it to be demoralising has a huge impact on people's lives. It is probably the single greatest challenge for managers to maintain motivation and avoid demotivation.
With that in mind, below are a dozen areas, which managers should seek to be constantly mindful of. In the case of each one, its presence is a feel-good factor and its absence, a feel-bad factor. They are listed in no particular order; they are intertwined.


As human beings, one of our most basic needs is for physical comfort, by which we mean food, water, and so on. This is no different in the workplace.

It is vital that during the working day, staff have access to breaks for those energy top-ups. Where people work in a regime that does not allow such access, they quickly become dissatisfied and their output suffers.


Where staff feel insecure about their future, it has a detrimental effect on their productivity. Similarly, their financial well being is important. Individuals expect to be paid a fair rate for the job they do. This clearly differs from one occupational sector to another. However, one thing guaranteed to bring them down is to see a broadly similar job advertised elsewhere at a higher salary than they are getting.


This is defined as 'feeling valued for your contribution'. The absence of this means people feel they are being taken for granted. Part of this is recognition. A simple thank you will often suffice. It is an underused word at work.


At work, the words confidence and competence are often interchangeable. Giving staff the confidence to do a job, via training, for example, means they will do it better. To undermine their confidence by your words or actions will have the opposite effect.


People respond to praise, pure and simple. UK culture is notoriously poor at giving praise. At school, when you got nine out of ten sums right, all you heard about was the one you got wrong, no mention of the nine correct answers. Always recognise good work.


A sense of achievement makes people feel good. Sometimes, this can be as simple as finishing a job off. A multitude of unfinished jobs can easily drag people down. Try giving staff jobs in smaller chunks so that they get a sense of getting things done, rather than being surrounded by a pile of incomplete tasks.


This is always a difficult area because even giving people a sense of responsibility for their work still means you remain accountable for their output and performance.

Working Conditions

This does not mean the terms and conditions of a person's contract; that falls more into the security (see above) dimension. This is about having the necessary tools and resources to carry out their duties. With inadequate resources or inappropriate conditions staff will quickly become demotivated. If you do not have the authority to change the conditions, change the expectations relative to the conditions in place. Be realistic about what can and cannot be achieved.


Again, this links with the "leader" section of 'Team Building'. Staff expect to be managed effectively by their manager. When they are not, they become dissatisfied. A survey looking into why people had changed their jobs came up with an interesting conclusion. They were allowed to tick as many reasons as they wished. Certainly, things like money, promotion, and so on were present. However, seven out of ten ticked 'management' as their primary reason for moving on.


When people go to work they expect to be able to engage in a certain amount of social interaction with their colleagues. Where there is an absence of this, call centres, for example, staff become unhappy and disinterested.


Many people thrive on, if not exactly being stretched, being given something a little bit different to do from time to time. Talented staff, certainly, will soon become bored and leave if they are not given sufficient fresh challenges.

Purposeful Work

This in effect, means feeling that you are purposefully occupied. A bartender in an empty bar soon runs out of things to polish, and takes to watching the clock tick by slowly. The shift always goes more quickly, and more enjoyably when people feel fully engaged in what they are doing.
Managers need to know, understand, and, most importantly, apply themselves to maintaining all of the above elements. It needs to be wholly embedded in the way they operate. Motivation is not a tap you can turn on and turn off. You cannot say, 'I'll go and do a bit of motivation after lunch'. Motivation should run through management like the letters through a stick of rock. Above all else, you, as an individual, should adopt a positive attitude at all times.

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