Bonus Content: 6 Things That Will Motivate Your Employees

By William J. Lynott

Motivating employees is far from an exact science. Each person has his or her own set of reasons for working, and they are as individual as the person. Of course, reasonable and appropriate pay is admittedly the foundation of job satisfaction and productivity, but money alone cannot do the job.

With that in mind, here are six things that an owner/manager needs to know in order to improve the motivation and thus the performance of employees:

  1. Self-Esteem
    Every human has a powerful need to feel respected, to be accepted and valued by others; and nowhere is it felt more strongly than in the workplace. From brain surgeons to janitors, the craving for self-respect and recognition is so strong that it can dominate and control employee behavior and performance. The work of an employee who is left with no reason to think that the boss respects and values his or her contribution is almost certain to fall well below her potential. In extreme cases, negligent or even harmful behavior will be the eventual result.

    One of the simplest and most effective ways to develop and demonstrate sincere interest in your employees is to take a little time to learn something about each one including such simple things as the names of wife and children, employee hobbies, or special interests, and then following through from time-to-time with questions that show you remember them and are genuinely interested.

  2. Employee Equalization
    Favoritism, or even the appearance of it, can be a deadly enemy of positive employee attitudes. An employee who feels that he or she is the victim of favoritism is likely to develop an unseen grudge that can silently but effectively damage your business.

    Make a constant effort to show appreciation to your staff in a fair and equitable manner. Any indication that you regard one employee with more respect or appreciation than any other is a certain path to negative employee morale. While it’s not always possible for you to avoid regarding some employees more highly than others, allowing that feeling to become obvious to others is a serious management failure, one that almost certainly will exact a costly penalty.

  3. Good Working Conditions and Personal Safety
    Personal physical safety is one of those instinctive human needs that rank near the top of our subconscious concerns. Employees need to know that management is aware of the need to take reasonable precautions to protect them from workplace harm.

    One of the most obvious demonstrations of this concern is an ongoing and visible effort to make certain that all equipment, electrical and mechanical, is in good working order and is checked on a regular basis. Another working condition that can affect employee attitudes is cleanliness. An ongoing effort to maintain reasonable neatness and cleanliness in the workplace demonstrates a respect for those who spend their working hours in it.

  4. Job Security
    In today’s economic environment, any reasonable person understands that no employer can guarantee that an employee’s job will always be there. Still, it’s important for managers to demonstrate that they understand the need for a work environment that recognizes employees’ concerns about job security. In particular, it’s important to avoid unjustified dismissals, which will have a negative impact on all remaining employees.

    Employees who feel that management strives to provide the highest possible level of job security will be motivated to do their own part by performing at their best levels.

  5. Recognition and Non-Cash Incentives
    A recent report by the research firm McKinsey & Co. on motivating people strengthened the importance of recognition and non-cash incentives in the workplace. In particular, the report points out that non-cash incentives (including sincere praise and recognition from immediate managers) are often stronger motivators than traditional incentives, such as bonuses and stock options.

    Non-cash awards can include such obvious things as a fruit or flower basket, dinner out with the boss, or, the one often suggested as the most important of all: praise and recognition from the boss.

    This is not to suggest that money in the form of wages isn’t the heart of positive motivation, only that money alone is not likely to inspire the kind of motivation that brings out the best of performance in your employees.

  6. Respected Leadership
    A serious disincentive for employee motivation generated by some owners is failing to accept the blame when something goes wrong. A reputation for always putting the blame on others is a management deficiency that will eventually exact a heavy toll in the form of employee unrest. Being in charge means being willing to take responsibility for whatever happens on your watch.

While employee motivation may seem too theoretical a subject for some busy owners and managers, others will recognize that attention to the kind of employee concerns discussed here can make the difference between success and failure.

Bill Lynott is a veteran freelance writer who specializes in business management and personal and business finance. Reach him at or

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