Businesses can’t be successful without the right team. Companies understand this and invest heavily in good recruitment departments.

However, something that often gets overlooked, especially for smaller businesses, is motivating employees to keep up the performance after the initial onboarding.

Small businesses hire staff to grow, realizing they need extra help to reach their goals. There’s just one problem — your team members will never be as motivated as you are or have the same vision you have.

Team motivation must be ongoing. This article will cover the top methods of motivating employees in an organization in the long term.

Methods of motivating employees in an organization

1. Communicate frequently and offer positive feedback

Regular communication is the key to successful management. Implementing a culture of strong communication is one of the main ways to motivate employees.

Good communication enables all the information about projects, tasks, and procedures to be available to the team members.

That, in turn, makes it easy for people to complete tasks. There’s no vagueness, all the details are available, and it’s just about putting in the work. Lack of a good communication, however, can stop projects from being completed simply due to lack of details on them.

Kristen Chirco, Retail Program Manager for E Group, says, “It’s often better to over-communicate than to lose touch and not have a clear understanding of an employee’s projects.”

You should also offer praise and recognition to your employees and team members.

Kelly Services has said this about remote teams, but it also applies to any other type of team or organization: “Feeling kept out of the loop regarding positive project results can be extremely demotivating. Many remote workers receive assignments, deliver them on time, and only hear back when their managers need more work done on these assignments.”

It’s extremely important to give all of your employees, remote or office-based, consistent praise and recognition for projects well done.

Consider this especially important if your company employs distributed or remote teams. Remote workers have no way to engage in the usual office chat and receive phrase or project well done.

It’s up to the company to implement a communication structure where this is possible, to avoid employees just hearing from their managers when more work is needed or when there’s negative input on some tasks.

Some managers only contact remote employees when something is wrong. This lack of positive communication crushes morale. You must be deliberate about offering positive feedback and praise.

2. Implement an employee recognition program

All employees want to be recognized for the value they bring to the team and company.

An employee recognition program is just that: an organized initiative by the company to not only offer praise to the employees but also provide the team members with cash incentives, gift cards and similar.  

If you don’t have a recognition program in place already, start with this checklist from Justworks: 

  • Identify the company values that you wish to reward. This is the basis of a good employee recognition program. What behavior will earn an employee a reward? You can expect employees to do more of these behaviors if it earns them recognition and a reward, so you will usually specify this based on your company values.
  • It’s best to implement criteria for giving out the rewards, to avoid favoritism or subjectivity in the employee recognition program. Be sure to specify who can earn the reward, if part-time staff can earn it, how long does an employee have to be with the company to be eligible, can a reward be earned more than once, etc. All of this helps to motivate employees to work well since they know anyone can get a reward and how to do it is laid out for them.
  • Implement a structure of how people get selected for rewards. Do people get nominated or is everyone selected by default? What happens after, is there a committee or do managers simply choose someone? Specify all these things in advance.
  • Decide on the type of reward. Is it a gift card, a trophy or a cash bonus? The gift itself is not as important, the key here is to make the gift meaningful and motivating to the employee.

Announce the program to your team. Let your team know that you have launched an employee recognition program and all the details of how it works.

A good idea is to do this during a team building exercise or a team night out. There are many approaches to motivating your employees by a recognition program. Keep in mind that praise is most effective when it’s immediate, relevant, specific, and public.

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3. Offer growth opportunities to employees

A new employee may stay motivated for a few months.

However, after “the grind” sets in, they will stop performing at a high level or begin looking elsewhere if they don’t see any opportunities for development and promotion.

This is why it’s key to make sure that your employees are constantly growing and advancing.

A solution is to implement ongoing reviews of employees’ growth within the company.

Here is an outline of how a monthly performance review should look:

  • What your employees would like to get better at this month. This helps you gain a better understanding of where they’d like them to up their game.
  • What they’re doing better at this month compared to last month. This helps your employees see how they’ve been developing, especially in areas they may not have been aware of.
  • What their best moments were in the last month. This helps you understand what motivates your team members.
  • What their worst moments were in the last month. This helps you identify tasks that are draining their energy and motivation.

Gaining a better understanding of what makes your workers tick keeps them engaged. They may have hidden skills that are beneficial to your organization.

If so, you can ask them if they’d be interested in new assignments relevant to those skills.

You may also be able to streamline their role so they’re handling tasks more relevant to their skill set. This way, they’ll spend less time on projects that drain their energy and make it hard for them to perform at their best.

Time tracking software can help you and your team see where time is being spent. For instance, if your employee is spending eight hours on a task that typically takes two, you can start shifting roles and responsibilities.

This will make your employees happier, more motivated and the business more productive.

4. Establish systems and measure performance

According to CIPHR, only 3 percent of companies measure performance, engagement, and productivity to quantify ROI.

This doesn’t mean you need tight regulations and red tape to manage your team. But you do need an infrastructure to support and engage your workforce. You also need a way to measure their performance. Otherwise, you won’t know when the team has succeeded or failed, and neither will the employees. All team members need clear targets to hit.

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Rocco Baldassarre, founder and CEO of Zebra Advertisement and 1DollarAd.com, says, Different people have different ways of going about tasks.

Setting standards can shorten the time needed to achieve the desired results. By setting standards and defining repeatable work systems, the team has generally less questions and gets a feeling for how long certain tasks should take.”

He goes onto explain the importance of finding the balance between standardization and tailoring the system to the individual. This will help them be as effective as possible.

Putting systems in place and measuring the performance of your team members will ensure that they are productive and that you are consistently getting the best results possible from their efforts. Read more about employee productivity metrics.

Your employees will also be more motivated to keep producing at a high level when they have a way to measure the work they are doing and delivering.

5. Gamify the work

Gamification in the workplace is growing in popularity. While not a new stat, according to eLearning Industry, gamification will be the primary mechanism that 40 percent of the Global 1000 organizations will employ to improve their business operations.

Gamification makes work more competitive and fun. When tangible rewards are attached to hitting certain objectives and milestones, people feel more motivated. The nature of gamification also allows for the team to feel closer and much more engaged with each other.

Gal Rimon, founder and CEO of GamEffective, a workforce performance gamification company, recommends using gamification to solve these common team challenges:

  • Communication. You can use social networks like Jive and Yammer to create a “watercooler” effect online. In addition, posting, liking, and sharing can be rewarded on Jive and Yammer. These are just some of the possibilities.
  • Trust and productivity. Micromanaging is counterproductive to the overall goal of productivity within an organization. But gamifying productivity can make it fun and rewarding. This allows you to set accountability in motion without your virtual staff feeling like they’re constantly being spied on.
  • Culture and training. Company culture doesn’t always translate well to some parts of the team, such as any remote employees or offices in different nations. But gamifying the learning and training process can help your virtual team gain a better understanding of your culture, product, and processes.
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How do you inspire employees and keep them motivated?

Motivation doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t organize a one-time pep rally and expect your employees to be excited about their work forever.

The least you can do is to not neglect the importance of motivating your team. If you truly want to have the full benefits of a highly motivated workforce, this will be a long-term investment requiring consistency from you and your management team. Read our article about how to achieve work-life balance in the workplace.

If you have your own strategies for motivating remote employees in your company, I’d love to hear about them. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

This post was originally published January 26, 2017, and updated April 2019.