GuidesEmployee experienceProven ways to motivate employees

Proven ways to motivate employees

Last updated

16 November 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

Every company or organization needs motivated employees to succeed. But how to motivate them isn’t always clear.

This article looks at employee motivation and how you can increase your company’s success.

Why is it important to motivate employees?

Employee motivation is a key feature of any successful organization. It’s an employee’s inner drive or enthusiasm and the extent to which they are willing to put in their best effort. A highly motivated workforce can boost organizations as it fosters creativity, productivity, and engagement.

Companies can promote employee motivation by offering competitive salaries and benefits packages, recognizing and rewarding good performance, providing growth opportunities, and creating a positive work environment.

Fostering open communication channels and showing genuine care for employee well-being can cultivate a strong sense of motivation among staff members. Employees are more likely to excel professionally and contribute meaningfully to the organization’s overall success when they feel valued, supported, and inspired in their roles.

What is the ABCD of Employee Motivation?

The ABCD of Employee Motivation is a handy framework organizations can use to boost employee engagement and productivity.

  • A stands for autonomy. It emphasizes the importance of giving employees the freedom to make decisions and control their work process. It fosters a sense of ownership that empowers employees to take initiative and be more invested in their tasks.

  • B stands for belonging, highlighting the importance of creating a supportive and inclusive work environment where employees feel connected to colleagues and organizational values. Cultivating strong relationships and recognition within teams enhances motivation levels.

  • C represents competence. Employees need the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources to do their job well. Providing growth opportunities through training programs or mentorship can help employees enhance their competencies and feel more motivated.

  • D denotes direction. Offering clear goals can give employees a sense of purpose and guide them on the right path, boosting motivation.

Benefits of a motivated workforce

Here are five benefits you can expect from a highly motivated workforce.

Increased retention rates

Creating a motivated workforce reduces turnover and absenteeism.

The US Department of Labor reports that replacing an employee costs roughly 30% of that employee’s earnings in the first year of work. It means starting the recruitment process all over again with all the time and people power that involves. Onboarding and re-training yet another employee takes time and has financial implications. As a result, increased employee retention boosts the company’s bottom line.

High employee turnover has other negative effects. When team members leave, they take vital knowledge and experience with them. Retaining long-serving employees means expertise stays within the company and opens up opportunities for knowledge-sharing and mentorship.

Improved performance

When employees feel motivated, they are more likely to be enthusiastic, engaged, and committed to their work. This leads to higher productivity levels and improved output quality.

Giving employees recognition and rewards for their achievements can motivate them and encourage them to give every task their all. Meanwhile, clearly communicating goals and expectations and providing opportunities for professional development are other motivating factors. They give employees the tools they need to do a great job, boosting performance.

Engaged employees

A highly motivated workforce is a highly engaged one. Employee engagement is an essential factor in any organization’s success, so understanding its three distinct levels is crucial.

At the first level, employees display transactional engagement. They simply complete tasks and follow instructions without any genuine excitement or connection. They may feel unmotivated and underappreciated, only working for their paycheck.

At the second level, employees reach emotional engagement. They start feeling a sense of satisfaction and personal investment in their work. They understand the importance of their role within the organization and seek opportunities for growth.

Finally, at the third level, employees achieve cognitive engagement. This means they feel inspired to think creatively and find solutions beyond their immediate responsibilities. They actively contribute innovative ideas, look for opportunities to boost efficiency and effectiveness, and collaborate with team members to drive the company’s success.

Stronger company culture

Motivated employees feel a greater sense of ownership over their work and are more inclined to cooperate with colleagues. They understand that their contributions directly impact the organization’s wider success, leading them to actively seek out opportunities to collaborate and share ideas.

A motivated workforce is more likely to embrace a positive company culture built on mutual respect, open communication, and the pursuit of shared goals. Through their enthusiasm and dedication, motivated employees inspire others to go above and beyond what is expected, ultimately creating a vibrant workplace where innovation and continuous improvement thrive.

Higher creativity and innovation

Motivated employees feel a sense of ownership and pride in their work, leading them to explore new ideas, challenge existing norms, and propose innovative solutions to problems.

In addition, motivated employees create a positive work environment. There is an atmosphere of collaboration, openness, and psychological safety that is perfect for sharing ideas freely without fear of judgment or repercussion.

Companies that prioritize motivation cultivate an innovative work culture where creative thinking thrives. This leads to improved productivity and gaining an advantage over competitor companies.

What drives employee motivation?

While salary and benefits are essential for basic satisfaction, employee motivation isn’t just driven by monetary rewards.

Recognition plays a significant role in fostering motivation. Acknowledging an employee’s contributions can make them feel valued and important.

Meanwhile, providing opportunities for growth and development encourages employees to continuously learn and enhance their skills. This ultimately boosts their engagement levels.

A positive work culture built on effective communication, trust, and collaboration also drives motivation as it creates an environment where employees feel supported, empowered, and connected to their colleagues. Furthermore, aligning an employee’s values with the organization’s mission fosters a sense of purpose, increasing motivation to achieve collective goals.

Understanding these drivers allows you to create meaningful experiences that positively impact employee motivation and promote overall engagement in the workplace.

What demotivates employees?

Several things can demotivate employees and influence their workplace productivity. Poor management is one of the main culprits.

Poor management can involve not recognizing or appreciating employees for their hard work. When employees continuously go unnoticed or feel undervalued, it can lower their enthusiasm and discourage them from putting in extra effort.

Another factor of poor management is a lack of clear goals and expectations. Employees can feel lost and unmotivated when they are unsure about what is expected of them or how their work contributes to the organization’s overall objectives.

At the same time, when employees don’t receive growth or career development opportunities, even the most ambitious professionals can become complacent and unmotivated. 

Poor management tends to cause a toxic work environment characterized by negativity, favoritism, or conflict among colleagues. This, along with inflexible policies and rigid rules, can significantly demoralize employees.

5 proven ways to motivate employees

  1. Increase communication between you and your employees. Have regular sit-downs and one-to-one meetings with team members to find out what drives and motivates them and establish a productive relationship.

  2. Get feedback from your employees and find out what can be done to make their job more meaningful. Listening and acting on the feedback you receive encourages team members to believe you have their best interests at heart.

  3. Increased clarity about expectations can help reduce frustration and maintain motivation. Bridge the management–employee gap and help workers understand what to do. You can do this by making an effort to meet with team members to go over what you expect from them and establish clear, open dialogue.

  4. You’ll always need to include the bad with the good when giving feedback to team members. However, try to focus on the employee’s strengths, not their weaknesses. This can help them develop pride and dedication instead of just making them feel unmotivated.

  5. Recognizing a job well done can highly motivate your team and keep them producing at a higher rate. With a formal employee recognition program, the company can establish a work culture that boosts employee wins and keeps the team motivated through the spirit of camaraderie.


What are the three Rs of motivation?

The three Rs of motivation, also known as the “carrot and stick” approach, are:

  1. Recognition

  2. Rewards

  3. Responsibility

Recognition gives employees a sense of validation for their hard work and effort. It can be as simple as a sincere thank you or publicly acknowledging their accomplishments.

Rewards are tangible incentives that motivate people to achieve their goals. They can range from monetary bonuses or gifts to promotions and increased job responsibilities.

Responsibility empowers people by giving them ownership of tasks or projects. Entrusting employees with important work and allowing them to make decisions makes them feel invested in their roles and motivated to excel.

Combined, recognition, rewards, and responsibility provide a well-rounded approach to motivating employees.

How do you motivate a weaker team member?

A good way to motivate an underperforming team member is to tackle the problem head-on and talk to them to find the underlying reason for their lack of motivation.

You can help them agree on expectations and work with them on a plan of action. Providing a mentor or coach for the employee can ensure they don’t have to go it alone if times get tough and get quick answers to questions.

Later, provide honest feedback about the project and the employee’s involvement. This can help foster good employee relations and track progress, allowing the team member to feel seen and respected.

What are the top motivators for most employees?

Some of the most motivating factors for employees include job security, career advancement, recognition for a job done well, efficient management, and interesting work. When some or all of these factors are in place, employee retention levels increase.

What are the five Cs of motivation?

  • Clarity—having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and setting specific, measurable goals. Being able to visualize your desired outcome is important for staying motivated.

  • Competence—having the necessary skills and knowledge to accomplish your goals. Developing expertise in your field will boost your confidence and fuel your motivation.

  • Challenge—pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and embracing difficulties as growth opportunities. Setting challenging goals can provide a sense of purpose and excitement that keeps you motivated.

  • Connection—surrounding yourself with supportive and like-minded people who can offer encouragement.

  • Control—having autonomy over your own decisions and actions significantly enhances motivation by allowing you to influence your desired outcomes.

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