4 Dos & Don’ts: How to Motivate Employees to Work Harder

By Katherine Muniz
March 2, 2017

Every organization operates differently, but one commonality they all share (and could all probably stand to improve) is the human factor.

Employees are critical to driving businesses forward, and their happiness and productivity dictate how successful the company will be in attaining goals and reaching measurable success.

When employees are engaged, motivated, and inspired, anything is possible. Humanize the working relationship, and you’ll create an environment in which employees feel valued and united to work hard under your leadership.

Here are some ways to authentically improve culture and motivate hard work

Don’t: Say you want involvement without involving employees. Picture a leader who wants the culture of a dynamic startup, but refuses to embrace non-traditional ideas. A leader who keeps employees at arms-length, only informing them of changes after important decisions are made, whether it be staffing changes, company restructuring, or product changes.

Only seeking ideas from select members of the team and creating an environment of exclusivity creates an invisible but very perceptible divide between employees. Institute an open office policy to keep your employees in the loop with the direction of the company, and welcome suggestions, ideas, and contributions. Allowing them to shape the business will create personal ownership for each member of the team.

Do: Recognize their contribution.  Praise is a powerful thing. A Gallup study found that employees who receive regular praise are more productive, engaged, and more likely to stay with their organization than those are not praised.

In order for praise to have an enduring impact, it must be offered regularly, so always follow up with employees on a job well done. Practice mindfulness in general – respect employees’ personal time, and ask what they do and don’t like working on.

“Discern their goals and then invest in their professional growth. During one-on-one check-ins, listen to their ideas, because they’re the best at what they do,” says Heather McGough, co-founder of Lean Startup Company.

Don’t: Expect them to meet lofty ambitions without motivation.  “I hired them – that’s motivation enough.” Wrong. Yes, your employees are expected to work hard, but setting additional deadlines, higher stakes, and heftier workloads in order to get results quicker will cause employee burnout.

According to the World Health Organization, when the pressure at work becomes excessive or otherwise unmanageable it leads to stress. Stress is a killer, with one study finding that 80 percent of Americans suffer from stress on-the-job, and another study reporting that stress is associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, and other disorders.

Not only are these statistics dire, but having employees take on long stretches of work actually leads to diminished productivity.

Do: Challenge them. Challenge them without inducing mind-numbing stress. Introduce new learning opportunities and diversify the workload; set small goals that move the company forward and when an individual or group meets their target goal, reward them.

According to the World Health Organization, a healthy dose of pressure can be conducive to employee productivity and happiness. “Pressure perceived as acceptable by an individual, may even keep workers alert, motivated, able to work and learn, depending on the available resources and personal characteristics.”

Offer them different assignments and a chance to contribute in different ways. Find out what makes each employee tick and discover where they shine best; then build from there.

In order to motivate employees, internal leadership must devise a culture that engages employees and adds to their personal and professional growth. Employees respond when stimulated, encouraged, and rewarded. Make sure your employees are healthy and the health of your organization will follow suit.

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