5 Ways to Motivate Employees to Be Successful


Some small businesses can afford to motivate their employees through promotions, pay raises, or bonus plans, but many can’t. Fortunately, there is evidence that a variety of other actions inspire employees to higher levels of performance and productivity. According to Entrepreneur, 67 percent of respondents in a McKinsey Quarterly survey ranked “praise and commendation from manager” as an effective motivator, while 62 percent ranked “opportunity to lead projects” as an effective motivator. Here are five things you can do to help motivate your employees to succeed.

1. Be generous with praise.

Sometimes business owners and managers are reluctant to praise staff either because it makes them uncomfortable or they believe it leads to complacency. However, it can be a strong motivation for people to continue to succeed or even surpass their current successes. Employees thrive in an environment where their hard work earns them praise and positive feedback. Even though CEOs, business owners, and managers are extremely busy, it is still important to always find a moment to recognize individuals whose performance stands out. Some people prefer a quiet, private word of praise, but often times singling out an employee’s contribution at a staff meeting is a powerful motivator for that employee, as well as for his or her colleagues.

2. Offer feedback that helps, not hurts.

Employees should also know where there’s room for improvement. Deliver feedback in a way that encourages a change in behavior, without putting down the individual. Effective feedback techniques include:

  • Avoiding wasting time on irrelevant comments. Get to the point.
  • Being specific in describing what behavior(s) needs to change and offering concrete advice on how to make it happen.
  • Making sure the employee understands your expectations and how his performance benefits the team and the business.

3. Be present and available.

It’s not always possible for business owners and managers to motivate employees in person. But when you are present in the office, be truly there. Don’t retreat behind closed doors. If you do, you are sending a negative message that the only thing you’re concerned with is your own work and schedule. To make your employees feel like you care, there are a lot of simple things you can do. This includes calling them by their first names, asking what they’re working on, and inquiring about their personal lives. Nothing makes a person feel more like part of a team than a leader taking interest in them.

Some employees are motivated by a broader understanding of the business and where it’s heading. Be prepared to answer probing questions about company policies and strategic goals. If business isn’t going well, be honest about the tough conditions but also upbeat about possible opportunities. Transparency can really be a motivator and positive influence. If people sense you’re being evasive or dishonest, they feel you don’t trust them or are unwilling to be straight with them.

4. Listen to employees’ ideas.

Employees who work with customers on a daily basis probably have good ideas about how to improve service or the quality of your product. Take time to listen to these ideas and seriously consider their implementation. This motivates employees to continue thinking about how to improve the business; their ideas can also save money and move the business forward. Employees who feel they’re part of the process have a stronger connection to the company and this provides motivation for remaining part of the team.

5. Help your staff grow.

No one wants to be stuck doing the same job forever. People who feel valued by their employer and see career advancement opportunities within the company are more likely to stay on and strive for increased responsibilities and growth. Learn about your employees’ ambitions. Look out for individuals who seem like “born leaders” and give them the chance to guide a team project. When a position opens up, make clear you’re looking first to hire from within. Another option to encourage professional growth is by offering tuition assistance for work-related courses.

Motivated employees are more productive than unmotivated ones. This is sometimes forgotten in the rush of day-to-day operations. Business owners must recognize that without motivated employees, nothing gets accomplished.