How to improve employee motivation in the workplace

In this guide, we chat to the business owners that managed to create a motivated and engaged workforce, and explore how you can recreate their success.

Employee motivation is a hot topic in today’s workplace, and evidence suggests that those companies that go above and beyond to offer features that keep workers engaged may attract a better level of staff.

Not all of us are lucky enough to have the luxury of nap rooms and slides in our office. However, in a study last month by CV-Library, more than half (56 per cent) of professionals would be more likely to apply for a job that had a unique or cool workplace.

The survey of 1,200 workers found that the younger generation were the most likely to look for work in companies with ‘funky’ workplaces, with 81.2 per cent of millennials and generation Z workers agreeing to this.

Employee engagement

But employee motivation is about more than just funky office features – it’s about engaging employees through a unified company philosophy that everyone is comfortable buying into. Below, we chat to the business owners that managed to create a motivated and engaged workforce, and explore how you can recreate their success.

Matthew Reed, founder of Equipsme, discusses how businesses should go about achieving a motivated workforce.

Matthew Reed

Keeping the workforce motivated is a challenge that every employer faces; some bosses will crack the whip and hope that this works for them, while others will offer pizza Fridays or regular after-work drinks thinking that this will keep their employees working hard from 9-5.

The world of business is becoming increasingly competitive, which means employers will be need to retain their employees while also encouraging productivity. If you push your employees too hard, you may see your staff turnover take a turn for the worse, which can be incredibly costly for a business.

A great way to retain and motivate your workforce is to implement employee benefits. These additional bonuses will help enforce the point that you care for your employees and that their wellbeing actually means something to you. These benefits are far more impactful than the cheaper and easier pizza Fridays, especially in the long run.

After speaking to 2,980 adults in full-time employment, we found that employee benefits are the second most common reason as to why employees stay loyal to a company, only beaten by salary.

Employee retention is incredibly important when you’re talking about motivating your workforce; nothing looks worse to those working for you than having their fellow colleagues disappearing like a murder mystery film. It can cast a negative attitude on the office, which in turn leads to lower productivity and possibly taking that phone call from the recruiter they may have otherwise ignored.

If you want to avoid this fate, as well as motivating your employees with encouraging words and deserved annual increments, why not consider some of the following employee benefits.

Look after employees’ health

Health is something we all stress out about; most of us will get sick, Google our symptoms and then think we’re on death’s door.

It’s an incredible source of motivation for your employees when you, as their employer, attempt to take away some of their stress by gifting them a healthcare package which includes things like 24/7 access to medical professionals, hospital treatments and physio sessions.

“Everyone, no matter who they are, enjoys being rewarded when they do something well”

Offering additional extras such as stress support can also be a huge benefit to your employees; stress is often rife in the workplace and making any attempt to combat these issues commendable.

We’ve found that 70 per cent of our SME customers have included our optional stress support in their health insurance plan which to us implies that SMEs are finally taking mental health support for their staff seriously.

Any employee would be thrilled to know their employer cares so much for their wellbeing and will happily work hard for such a figure.

Provide training

Personal growth is an imperative part of any job; everyone is constantly learning new things on the job and evolving into a more developed worker.

There are factors related to personal growth that you can consider as an employer though, should you wish to motivate your workforce. Training days, personal development time and workshops are incredibly beneficial perks that you should be offering your staff.

Not only will these days improve your workforce’s skill set, but it will also let them know you are taking a vested interest in bettering themselves, which, in turn, should encourage motivation.

Give your staff rewards

Everyone, no matter who they are, enjoys being rewarded when they do something well. This could be as simple as a bottle of wine or a chocolate bar, or it could be making sure there are publicly recognised.

If you think your employees have done a good job, make sure they know about it. Positive reinforcement is always a great motivator, but do ensure you aren’t accidentally just treating the same people in the office time and time again, as this can discourage other employees.

Be flexible

Flexibility is a great way to encourage your employees to work hard, as it shows that you are allowing them to have their own life which is vital.

Having a militant regime isn’t going to encourage hard workers, it will end in your workforce rebelling against you and possibly even quitting.

Allowing your employees to leave the office early for personal matters, as long as they can make the time up, is a great motivator.

Lana Elie, CEO of Floom

Work Smarter

One of the main things I do, and have always done, to ensure employee motivation and productivity is as high as can be, is being transparent about the skills I have and the ones I lack. It’s important that the people on the team feel not only like the experts of their departments, but with it they have the responsibility of growing and professionalising those skills in order for the business to be able to grow – which provides motivation for them to do the best they can both on an individual and team level.

The vision is clear, and constantly shared, and with that vision we try to make sure each member of the team can see where they want to be at that stage. For example, if we want to be this kind of a business, doing these things, at this size, in three years, what are they doing with in it? My team are fully aware of this transparency, and are honest themselves about the skills they have, and the skills they lack – allowing us to help provide them with those skills, in turn benefitting the business.

Simon Couchman, creative director of ICG

Simon Couchman

We’re committed to motivating our employees and believe that it’s fundamental to delivering excellent work and maintaining productivity levels, our employees always deliver far more than expected from them as a result.

The way we motivate varies; this is to ensure each staff member benefits. Our company updates are one of the main ways to motivate the team as a whole. We communicate plans for the business and share case studies of great work. This monthly meeting ensures that everyone is on the same page, we all have a clear vision of the future and company objectives are communicated. This ensures each individual is inspired as well as generating a culture of like-mindedness and shared visions.

“The annual bonuses give us a chance to reward staff as individuals”

Company updates also give us a chance to share financial developments. One of the most unique ways we motivate our staff, is by offering them a share of the profit made each year as an annual bonus, so it’s in both the companies and it’s employees best interest to work towards improving that profit and it’s imperative that we’re completely transparent with our staff, something that they truly value.

The annual bonuses give us a chance to reward staff as individuals. This is based on their own personal development and approach to their role; it encourages them to focus on how their attitude and work ethic impacts the business as a whole and more importantly the profit share becomes their bonus. They get rewarded and we see a team constantly seeking new ways to improve our offering and results.

Team getaways

We continuously promote a sense of togetherness throughout the year, starting with our annual team get-away in late January. Instead of a traditional Christmas party during December when everyone is busy with end of year deadlines and festive celebrations, we banish those January blues with a trip overseas. We’ve been to Bruges, Malaga, Madrid and Prague to name but a few with plans for January 2019 already in the pipeline.

We attempt to get together outside working hours every few weeks, whether that’s for a game of bowling, attending charity balls or taking part in triathlons – we recently just won the Cheshire Triathlon as a relay team.

We celebrate summer with a BBQ and sports day games. Friends and family members are also invited and it gives us another chance for us to applaud the whole team and recognise their efforts throughout the year away from the general day-day, resulting in an increase in motivation when we’re back in the office.

“The collaborative working spaces give us a chance to learn from our peers”

Contributing to the success of others is now embedded in our culture; we see the importance of this when it comes to morale. We constantly seek chances for our work to be recognised and acknowledged at industry awards. Being shortlisted and often winning means everyone involved is left with a thirst for more.

Our recent office refurbishment, established as a result of employee feedback, encourages collaborative working, with informal breakout spaces, a digital ‘pod’ and outside decking area. Plans are in place to add a themed brainstorm room and a pool table.

The collaborative working spaces give us a chance to learn from our peers; share our knowledge or best practice and develop our skill sets. It helps people break away from their everyday tasks and contributes towards people feeling open minded to trying something new for our clients and as result, the outcome of campaigns are extremely successful.

Not forgetting the every day treats; from free fizzy drinks as well as tea and coffee, snacks and birthday cakes – all help with keeping morale, motivation and moods high.

Marianne Page, founder of The McFreedom System

Marianne Page

As a company we are committed to making sure that the values we set out in our business are lived by all of us. We are so incredibly lucky to have such a great team, and it’s no accident that we share the same values and work ethic.

We know that a happy team is a productive team, and that a motivated and engaged team means a happy business owner and a healthy business. This can be achieved in many ways, but the main message I’d like to get across is that it has to be genuine. We have all worked in a company where your boss screams at you one day, and then brings doughnuts in the next day and creates such a difficult and turbulent atmosphere that you can’t relax, much less work effectively – and who wants to work for someone like that? They’re never going to gain your respect or receive all of your energy.

Rewarding your team can increase productivity without a doubt, but if the foundations of your business aren’t strong then there will be an immediate slump again, and whatever niggles and gripes were there beforehand will have returned.

“If your employees feel they can come to you with a problem and that you will give them your time and help them, they will feel supported”

So, our recommendation is to make sure that you have strong people systems in place. Make sure your team are hired to your values, don’t just hire anyone in a hurry to plug a gap. Take the time to train them in ‘the way we do things around here’. Deliver regular feedback, have scheduled reviews, invite discussion. The best ideas will always come from your team. Show them you are listening.

Your team need consistency. They need to know their roles, and how these roles contribute to the business as a whole. ​ Be transparent about the business goals, figures, difficulties and wins, and celebrate these wins. As a team they will pull together to achieve this, because they believe in the business.  Communication is another key factor. If your employees feel they can come to you with a problem and that you will give them your time and help them, they will feel supported. They will be able to ask for training in an area they feel that they need development rather than fudging their work because they’re afraid of approaching you.

So, yes by all means introduce perks and rewards – allow flexible working time if it fits your business, because you know that your team will pull together and want to succeed. Arrange for flowers in the workplace, or free food… whatever you like, because you have strong people systems working for you underneath all this, the foundations are strong and these perks serve to remind your team of what they already know – that you are invested in them and appreciate them and trust them to do their job whether you’re there or not.

David Hallam, OrderWise

David Hallam

As an employer, OrderWise provides an environment that offers staff stimulating employment, but also opportunities to benefit in terms of wellbeing and work-life balance. In addition to the initial and ongoing training already outlined, there are a range of benefits, incentives, schemes, facilities and events that make working at OrderWise a rewarding experience, and which provide opportunities to develop professionally, personally and socially. The company also regularly conducts staff feedback surveys, to get an idea of what staff expect.

Employees’ efforts are crucial to the success of the business and the management team meets regularly to discuss nominations for staff awards. Currently the awards are: Employee of the Month, Support Star of the Month and Employee of the Year. These awards demonstrate OrderWise’s commitment to recognising the dedication shown by staff each day.

Several staff have received long service awards which recognise over ten years of employment with the company. The awards are a great example of the loyalty of staff at OrderWise and there are currently 12 members of staff that have achieved this award.

The company’s recent building expansion features a subsidised staff café serving hot and cold food, along with social seating areas, TV, PS4 and phone charging ports. The facilities in the staff recreation room contribute to keeping staff happy, healthy and motivated. The room has a fully equipped gym that staff can use for free before or after work and a table tennis table which can be used during breaks to help employees unwind. For those staff using the gym or who cycle or run to work, there are shower facilities too. In addition, a complimentary basket of fresh fruit is supplied to each department every week.

“All staff can benefit from an attendance bonus scheme and departmental bonus schemes”

We appreciate the additional challenges faced by employees who have children and is keen to help where possible. Operating the Childcare Voucher Scheme enables employees with children to choose to have some of their wages paid in the form of childcare vouchers and make savings on both tax and national insurance contributions.

This year will see the introduction of a flexible working policy enabling staff to achieve enhanced work-life balance through more flexible management of personal and family commitments and work time. As an addition to 22 days’ holiday entitlement plus bank holidays, staff can also have their birthdays off work with pay.

In addition to competitive salaries which are regularly reviewed, the company operates a pension scheme for all employees. All staff can benefit from an attendance bonus scheme and departmental bonus schemes which reward performance.

Each year, we host our very own free festival known as OrderFest for staff and their families to enjoy a day of live music, karaoke, games and more. Those attending can enjoy an array of fun activities including bouncy castles, sumo suits, enormous slides, gladiator batons, football and rounders matches, to name just a few. However, fun at our company isn’t just an annual event. Throughout the year, the company also holds numerous seasonal events and has regular department nights out, making us a place to make friends, have fun and build a career!

See also: Fifteen ways to remain productive at work – a list of fifteen new tips to encourage workers to ditch bad habits and up their work game.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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