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Timothy F. Bednarz

Quality Insider

16 Ways to Motivate Employees and Celebrate Their Successes

Motivational methods are effective when they are aimed at individual satisfaction

Published: Monday, August 13, 2012 - 12:40

A leader’s primary function is to help employees develop a strong belief in the company’s mission and the importance of their individual jobs. His secondary function is to ensure optimal results from delegated assignments and tasks. Excellent results can spring from motivation that actually helps employees feel successful and increases their efforts in achieving their goals.

Employees are the chief resource leaders can use to maintain and enhance their leadership abilities. Therefore, understanding and applying appropriate motivational methods for employees about delegated assignments is important for leaders. By motivating each employee to perform at her maximum level of efficiency, leaders also maximize their own success. Furthermore, as leaders motivate their people, they not only help the company gain financially but also develop personal relationships between themselves and their employees.

Much research in behavioral science has focused on analyzing the factors that contribute to workplace motivation. Studies indicate that the most effective factors are based on individual, self-determined needs. Aware of these factors, a leader can craft specific methods to foster improvements in employee attitudes, their desire to excel, and their feelings of success.

Leaders must apply such motivational methods to effectively stimulate their organizational unit as a whole and the individuals within it. Once this is done, their units will reach peak performance, capable of handling slowdowns and negative influences.

Motivational methods are effective when they are aimed at individual satisfaction. This is necessary to understand because methods that are positive motivators for some employees are not always effective for others. Each individual is driven by specific needs that determine his performance and whether he will accept new assignments. If specific needs are not met, it inhibits the employee’s desire to accept new challenges and delegated opportunities.

Listed below are 16 motivational methods that focus on individual needs and desires. When used by the leader periodically, they produce high motivational success.

1. Help employees see that their dedicated and consistent efforts are part of advancing their own careers and futures.

2. Develop and use incentive programs that have a definite purpose and meaning for each employee. Linking incentives to productivity and results tends to be a more effective motivator than many other methods.

3. Take time to give employees deserved praise and meaningful recognition. However, effective leaders will use this method in moderation; otherwise, it becomes meaningless. Praise must always be specifically related to performance rather than vague comments like, “You’re doing OK.”

4. Provide all employees with goal-oriented job descriptions. This method charts a course of specific actions for them that will achieve positive results, and offers guidelines for how to be successful in assignments.

5. Give each employee the opportunity to achieve. Even small tasks and assignments can build success. Any taste of achievement is a great motivator.

6. Aid employees in determining personal goals. Leaders should link these to the overall goals of the company.

7. Help employees acquire and maintain a spirit of achievement. Careful planning and organization of tasks and assignments directed at meaningful results can accomplish this goal.

8. Help employees set and achieve personal self-improvement goals. These must be realistic and achievable for individuals to grow and develop skills and knowledge.

9. Acknowledge and publicly recognize employees’ accomplishments to reinforce the fact that they are valuable and important—a key need for individuals.

10. Help employees understand their value to the company, the leader, and senior management. By verbalizing employees’ value or giving them letters of appreciation to acknowledge their efforts, leaders effectively reinforce that achievements are important to both the individual employee and others.

11. Tell employees how and why they are performing valuable and useful work. This means giving them effective and useful feedback about their progress in a way that focuses on personal productivity and how to increase performance.

12. Listen with interest to employees’ problems, ideas, suggestions, and grievances. Remember, even if seemingly trivial or irrelevant, these things are important to the employee.

13. Never neglect or ignore an employee. A failure to provide individual attention is one of the worst mistakes leaders can make in terms of motivating or supervising their employees.

14. Enact a personal commitment to a vision and direction. Effective leaders show employees how to give personal effort and provide consistent performance to align themselves with the vision.

15. Help employees develop an increased sense of responsibility. This facilitates feelings of success and a greater sense of self-worth.

16. Relieve the boredom of assignments and tasks, where possible. Doing so makes work more meaningful for employees and allows them to be more creative and attain greater job satisfaction. Furthermore, it builds inward security and fosters self-motivation.


If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on how to motivate employees to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to “Delegation: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series.” Click here to learn more.


About The Author

Timothy F. Bednarz’s picture

Timothy F. Bednarz

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D., is an accomplished author, researcher, consultant, entrepreneur, and innovator. He has founded three successful companies and has more than 26 years consulting experience in business development. As a critical thinker and transformational agent of change, he has the ability to view complex issues, identifying specific causes to develop meaningful solutions in simple terms. He has authored more than 125 books as well as a wide variety of high quality learning content. His latest book is Great! What Makes Leaders Great (Majorium Business Press, 2012). He is the author of more than 85 books in the Pinpoint Skill Development Training Series.



Thought provoking, but not very Lean

Thank you for this thought provoking article. I found it to be useful in many respects, but one thing kept niggling as I read it: it is not fully "Lean". For example I like the idea that leaders should recognise that what motivates one person can be different to another, so that incentives should be modified accordingly, but I didn't like the idea that incentives should be linked to performance. This is because, from Lean and Systems Thinking, we know that most of the variation in any process comes from the process itself and not from the people. Also, rewarding performance carries with it the negative connotation of "I don't believe you're trying to do your best so I'm going to 'incentivise' you to do better".

So while I agree with much of what is written here, there is still too much tradtional command and control type thinking to really chime.

How would I do it? I'd adjust the incentives according to the needs of the people concerned. For example research has shown that for highly mechanistic activities, people react well to remunerative incentives - therefore workers on a production line could be offered incentives related to production output (but see note below). Whereas "knowledge workers" are not incentivised by money and in fact their performance can deteriorate if working on a performance related incentive scheme. For them it is often the intrinsic value that they feel they are adding that motivates them (which is why things like Apache Server, Linux and Wikipedia exist) - so incentives related to the value they create would be more appropriate.

Note: and even production line workers can be more effectively incentivised than the traditional performance model outlined above. For example you can give workers more variation in their activities - this increases their feeling that they are contributiong something of value and more in control of their own work.

I realise this article touches on other aspects too, but I have picked on this one as an example of where I think more Lean thinking could have been applied in general.