A global Gallup poll has shown that improving employee motivation results in a 21% boost to business profitability. Action to get employees fired up can also help reduce higher staff turnover rates that need to be addressed urgently in light of the current skills shortages.

So what’s the best way forward? Providing a reward and recognition scheme to incentivise employees is a great first step. But there are many other elements that make up high-performing employee motivation strategies.  

The key is to make sure your plan is based on detailed research into employee needs, clear communication and being responsive.

Here are five design principles that underpin an effective approach.

1. Understand the challenges your employees have with motivation

First make the effort to understand workforce concerns and challenges that are impacting their motivation – ideally through regular pulse surveys or through in-depth focus groups.

This process will give you a clear idea of what you need to put in place and improve – for example, you might find through focus groups that line managers are not motivating people by providing (or are not equipped to provide) sufficient thanks for a job well done. Or you may discover that employees believe:

2. Create a well-rounded plan

With your employee research in hand, start building a strategy that helps to address all the technical and human barriers to improving motivation levels.  On the technical side, through your research you may have identified that you need to implement a digital recognition and reward platform that makes motivational incentives more accessible to both employees and managers. Here, simply driving awareness and uptake of benefits will be your objective. On the human side, you might have identified that managers need training to help understand why they need to recognise employee achievements, what will motivate different kinds of employees and when to refer people who are living with mental health issues. Bring all these elements into a well-rounded strategy with targets that you can measure performance against.  

3. Choose incentives carefully

Creating an employee motivation strategy is a great place to start.  Strategy is not everything though – you will still need to choose from a suite of tactical measures that will help you to incentivise employees and make your strategy stick.

Some of the tactics you deploy may need to be reactive to present circumstances. Within the context for the present cost of living crisis, many organisations are choosing to incentivise and support employees with employee savings and discount schemes.  Such schemes are no substitute for a pay rise, but they do improve motivation and engagement by demonstrating that you are doing what you can to provide support.

Some of the tactics you choose can help to tackle deeper and more entrenched issues. Wellbeing incentives can help To tackle mental and physical challenges and boost productivity, for example. Typical wellbeing benefits that can help achieve this objective include gym memberships, health screenings and the ability to buy and sell annual leave.

You can also choose to align incentives and benefits with wider business strategy and values, For example, driven by the need to meet carbon net zero targets, you can provide green incentives that benefit both the organisation and the employee. Examples of such benefits include Cycle to Work schemes, deals on electric vehicle leases and discounts on public transport for travel to work.

Whatever tactics you choose, it’s important to ensure that you don’t just deploy them to meet corporate objectives. You must ensure they meet identified employee needs that you know will improve employee motivation.

4. Communicate clearly

When you come to implementing your employee motivation strategy, make sure you provide training to those that need it. Also, signal to employees what you are doing for them. If you’ve rolled out a recognition platform, do both managers and employees know how to use and access it?  If you are granting employees more autonomy, do managers know what the guardrails are? Communicate clearly and consistently through your intranet, social channels and internal tools like Yammer.  

5. Encourage feedback

When your employee motivation strategy is up and running, keep employees involved by asking for feedback – particularly on areas that you could improve that would increase their motivation. Incorporate a feedback mechanism into your regular pulse surveys and you will be able to tweak, refine and improve your employee motivation plan as you go.

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