Every company wants to see that their employees are motivated, happy and engaged with the work they're contributing towards the business.
Engaged and motivated employees give their best work and contribute to a positive working environment. It is in every businesses best interest to promote job satisfaction for all employees.
If you begin to notice your employees are less than happy when they sit down at their computers every day, you may feel and look for ways to improve morale. Here are some insightful tips to help you boost employee productivity.
Instead of throwing around arbitrary solutions, we can turn to psychology for answers on how to motivate employees.
What psychology tells us about motivation
Psychologist Frederick Herzberg, who studied Pittsburgh populations in the 1960s, came up with a job satisfaction theory he called the motivation-hygiene theory (it has also been called the two-factor theory or the dual-factor theory).
Herzberg said there are two parts to job happiness: having job satisfaction and not having job dissatisfaction. It might seem like the two parts to job happiness are redundant, but Herzberg thought each situation (satisfaction or dissatisfaction) were created by different factors.
Motivation factors and hygiene factors
For instance, Herzberg found that employees were satisfied with their jobs if they felt challenged, recognized, and in control of some aspects of their work. These elements are the “motivation” factors.
The other set of elements are the “hygiene” factors — if employees lack these in their jobs, they will be dissatisfied. Hygiene factors include things such as security, reasonable compensation, benefits, or vacation time.
The best possible working environment would be a high motivation and high hygiene situation, where employees feel challenged and appreciated, and also enjoy good pay and generous vacation time.
The worst possible working environment would be a low motivation and low hygiene situation, where employees dislike the work itself and also aren’t compensated well. These employees have almost no reason to stay at their job.
How Herzberg’s theory can work in your office
However, according to Herzberg’s theory, you can’t remedy employees’ lack of motivation by offering them higher paychecks or more paid time off. This would lead only to a situation of high hygiene and low motivation, wherein employees only come to work for the money.
If you want more engaged and productive employees, you need to address Herzberg’s motivation factors. And we’ll talk you through how to start this process, so that you can give your employees the best possible conditions to succeed.
1. Get rid of job dissatisfaction
Before we talk about ways to motivate employees, you need to make sure that your company is providing the right conditions for engaged, happy employees.
If we follow Herzberg’s theory, this means getting rid of those things that could create job dissatisfaction — the hygiene factors.
Employees should have:
- fair and reasonable monetary compensation for their work
- adequate vacation time or paid time off
- competitive benefits, such as insurance plans
- a high level of job security
Physical conditions of the office should also be comfortable and and include:
- reasonably large desks and workstations
- comfortable chairs
- plentiful supplies such as pencils, pens, and notepads
- access to refreshments such coffee, tea, and water
Every manager will have a different level of control over these factors, but it’s crucial that you do everything in your power to eliminate job dissatisfaction traps that could hinder your progress.
2. Give employees a sense of achievement
One of the first steps toward employee satisfaction is to make sure that they feel they are meeting goals and reaching benchmarks. Employees will feel more satisfied in their work if they have a sense of accomplishment.
To make this happen, you must first be very clear about employees’ expectations and job descriptions.
When people don’t know what they are supposed to be doing with their 8 hours per day, they’re much more likely to be directionless and idle. But you’ll find that most people don’t want to spend their days twiddling their thumbs.
Instead, take a detour around this pitfall and give your employees clear direction and concrete goals starting on their first day of work. Revisit these goals as employees become more competent in their jobs so that they never feel stagnant.
With clear goals, employees will feel directed and experience a sense of fulfillment from reaching those goals.
3. Make sure employees are recognized for their work
Have you ever gotten excited about one of your accomplishments, only to find out that no one else is particularly enthusiastic about that thing?
It’s happened to all of us, and the feeling of deflation can make people feel that there’s no point in working hard, since no one else seems to notice anyway.
Remember that your employees are not robots — they are people with a myriad of feelings, including that feeling of deflation when their work goes unnoticed. This deflation can lead once-productive employees to let their work slide and their motivation dwindle.
Instead, give your employees recognition for the good work that they do.
To be effective, recognition must be:
- Timely. If you wait too long to give praise for an employee’s work, it can feel like too little, too late.
- Sincere. If you try too hard to emphasize the excellence of the work, it can feel disingenuine.
- Specific. Generalities such as “everyone is doing a great job” are not convincing or personal. Instead, recognize specific people for specific things they accomplished well.
- Proactive. Work doesn’t need to be flawless to earn recognition — it just needs to noteworthy.
Focus on sincere recognition by voicing your appreciation in a regular setting such as a group meeting. Make it a point to regularly single out employees for excellent work, even if it’s only a short sentence at the beginning or end of a scheduled group meeting.
These nods to productivity go a long way with employees by making them feel appreciated and understood.
4. Dole out responsibility to employees who deserve it
Another way to recognize strong work is to give more responsibility to employees who have shown that they can handle it.
Although it is important to avoid overloading any one employee — as this can lead to excessive stress and burnout — you can recognize competence by asking employees if they’d like to participate in more projects, or even lead a project that they’ve been working on.
As long as you’re being careful not to overload any of your employees, this increased responsibility can signal to employees that they’re responding well to criticism and moving up in the company.
5. Provide opportunities for employee advancement
Nothing hinders productivity more than bored employees.
When employees begin to stagnate or feel that their job is the exact same every day, they begin to simply go through the motions instead of actually investing themselves in their work.
To prevent stagnation, make sure that all of your employees have access to career advancement opportunities.
These opportunities may look entirely different depending on your field, but there is always room for employee advancement.
If promotions aren’t immediately feasible, you can still provide your employees with learning and mentorship opportunities instead.
It helps for companies to provide opportunities for continued, formal education (such as through a university program), but short of that, you can still provide informal education opportunities through online programs as well as conferences and seminars.
You can also set up a mentorship program at your company, so that your employees can either mentor others or become mentors themselves, both of which would provide a learning experience that can break employees out of their routines.
Bringing it all together
As you work to boost your company’s productivity by motivating employees, remember that this is a learning experience for you as well.
With each change that you instate, keep the lines of communication open so that your employees can give you feedback on what works and what needs improvement.
Depending on your field and company culture, some of these tips will be more effective than others, but it will be difficult to figure that out until you begin to try to make changes.
If you are genuine in your effort and open with your employees throughout the process, you’ll soon find a combination of approaches that works best for your employees — giving you a more motivated, engaged, and productive workforce.