Employee motivation: there’s been so much written about it, you’d think by now we’d have cracked it, and every employee would be motivated to achieve their full potential. Yet it is still a challenge for businesses across the globe.

Every employee is motivated about something in their life; it’s just that something is not always work. And that’s the problem. Not only does it depend on the employee’s own motivation, needs and expectations, but it is also influenced by external sources. These are the things the employee has no control over, such as your company’s valueshuman resources policies; the manager’s expectations of the employee; the ability of the manager to manage; the health of your business; the competitiveness of the job market; and the economy.

There are a huge number of variables that can help to improve employee motivation in your business or indeed destroy it. But which are the most important?


People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Managers who don’t communicate with their employees, don’t appreciate them, and don’t respect them, will often find themselves dealing with demotivated staff and high employee turnover.

Managers need to be properly trained to manage people. All too often they are promoted into the position of manager without having the necessary soft skills to lead and inspire.

If you ask employees what behaviours they would like their manager to demonstrate, then you will hear things such as involving them in decision making, more team-building, giving employees the ability to self-manage and additional responsibility, coaching employees and allowing some flexible working.


One of the quickest ways to destroy employee motivation is to distribute information on a need to know basis. Employees get frustrated with the lack of information, and all too often the gossip grapevine kicks in leading to worried, stressed employees.

Rather than concentrating on what employees need to know, consider what information makes them respected and involved in the business. If you don’t know what your employees want to know about, ask them! Also make sure that there are opportunities for employees at all levels within the organisation to interact and communicate with senior and executive managers, as this can be extremely motivating.

Remember that communication isn’t just one way. As well as regular updates to employees, allow employees to raise their concerns. Implement an open door policy that allows employees to talk, share ideas, and discuss concerns. Both managers and the business as a whole should be listening to its employees, providing feedback on their concerns and then addressing issues.


Let’s face it, none of us want to work in a job with no prospects for self-improvement or career advancement. However, research shows that a key reason why managers avoid coaching and developing employees is because they don’t want to lose that individual. But, by not developing your employee, you’ll probably lose them faster.

Seek out opportunities for employees to attend important meetings and secondments to other teams. Expand their role to include greater responsibility, or assign them to head up a project. Giving stretching tasks and new roles will develop your employees skills, keep them interested at work and ensure that they provide a valuable contribution.


There is often a theme that runs through businesses that don’t understand the value of recognition: “Why would I need to thank someone for doing something they’re paid to do?” Some of these same organisations are also quick to criticise when things go wrong, which is extremely damaging to employee motivation.

Receiving recognition is a fundamental human need, and givingrecognition reinforces values, behaviours and achievements. This means that the employee, and their co-workers, are more likely to repeat these desired traits.

A simple thank you can work wonders, as can an email to senior management about the employee’s achievements. Formal employee recognition schemes will increase and maintain motivation on an on-going basis whilst providing valuable management information to help quantify the investment made in their implimentation.

John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.
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