Failing to correctly motivate your employees is like putting out a star you never knew was there

Wednesday, February 10
"Motivation Scrabble" by jeffdjevdet is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Have you ever been part of a team where new faces came and went like a revolving door? Was absenteeism high and general morale pretty low? Was it difficult to feel at home because of the constant changes or did you always feel overworked and under appreciated because you were doing work that was meant for more than one person?

Have you ever managed a team like this? You can put in all the energy and effort you can muster from your body and still not get a strong commitment from your team. There may even be days where you spend your own money trying to make them happy by bringing in breakfast, offering to pay for a group meal, or even buying your own performance incentives.

In the long run, one manager cannot afford to support an entire company’s motivation budget, if you company even allots for one in the first place. But, there could be dramatic downfalls if employee motivation and involvement isn’t a priority for your business. Employees who are not motivated are more likely to:

  • Feel no sense of community at work
  • Feel unaccountable for their performance and engagement
  • Always be casually on the job hunt
  • Maybe even speak poorly about your product or brand

A workplace where the employees are drawn to work because they feel motivated and engaged looks dramatically different. Have you ever gone out shopping looking for a particular item? Let’s say your child received a scholarship check so that they could purchase a new laptop to take with them to college. New technology can really boost their likelihood of staying on top of everything and really succeeding. You have more money than you could possibly need, so that is not an issue.

Let’s take a look at two different stores: ABC and XYZ. Both stores are well known for their to of the line electronics and both stores boast about their welcoming, knowledgeable staff. Let’s see if you can tell the difference between the store that has set employee motivation as a priority and which hasn’t.

Store ABC

You arrive and the store looks fairly busy, but not overwhelmed. Someone from the back of the store welcomes you, but you couldn’t quite make out who it was. You start to browse and eventually an employee passes by on their way to the front with boxes in their arms and says, “Let me know if you need any help!” 

You browse and browse, but neither you or your child can really decide on a device. There are so many options, so much jargon that neither of you are familiar with, and the knowledgeable staff seems to be occupied with other customers. So, you make your way to the counter to ask for assistance

Store XYZ

You arrive and the store looks fairly busy, but not overwhelmed. Someone immediately makes their way to the front and greets you, “Welcome to XYZ! How are you today? What kind of device are you looking for today? Is it for back to school?” You’re amazed at the customer service that you’ve received and explain what the laptop will be for.

The associate takes you to a section that is meant for college students, explains the differences between the options there and has a conversation with the college student to be about what they plan on studying. The associate explains that Laptop 123 would probably be best because it comes pre-programed with software and free licenses for programs that will be best suited for your child’s potential career goals, but will be perfect for everyday use as well. Sold!!

In this particular case, employee motivation and engagement was the difference between a sale and a disappointed customer. And we all know that in business, the worst thing you can have is an unhappy customer. If a happy customer brings in two more, an unhappy customer could cost you ten potential customers.

Motivated and engaged employees make your business successful. Try out some of these ideas for employee motivation and engagement and see if you can tell the difference, not only in the day-to-day environment in your workplace, but in your P&Ls too.

  • Set up a rewards or incentive program that is realistic and attainable. Everyone should be able to hit the first few rungs on the ladder - so to speak. Make the top few more difficult to hit, but with much better payoffs.
  • Make employees accountable and give them responsibility. If you engage employees by giving them small and large responsibilities - these could be to a smaller team, how a department is set up, managing break schedules - they will show up and perform more often.
  • Encourage them to build a functional work-life balance. This means actually practicing what you preach though. Give them the same amount of PTO or sick leave that you always would, but maybe offer additional paid days off or loose hours they can request to leave early or come in late if they have perfect attendance with no tardies for three consecutive weeks.
  • Connect with your employees about things not concerning work. While our work relationships revolve around our jobs, we bring our personal lives with us no matter what. Remember your employees are people too.
  • Encourage your employees to set goals for themselves, both personally and professionally. Have private (or group, if appropriate) conversations with them about goals they have for the year and let them know you are invested in helping them achieve those goals.