Boosting employee morale wouldn’t be a problem in an ideal workplace where you have a self-motivated staff whose performance levels stay up or continue to rise.
However, that’s not how reality works. Internal and external factors influence employees’ work motivation. Their individual personalities, emotional states, activities, and goals all contribute to their levels of motivation.
Since these factors differ from one person to another, what motivates one individual can also be quite different from what motivates another.
Know What Motivates Your Employees
Managers and leaders have the responsibility to know what motivates their employees to work and perform.
Here’s how you can get started:
1. Hold discussions and ask
Opening your communication channels can lead to more than just discovering answers to the question “What motivates you at work?” It can also inspire employees to share new ideas, exercise proactive problem solving, and come up with creative solutions.
2. Be observant
You can gain valuable insights about your employees’ habits and preferences by watching how they perform. What tasks do they usually prioritize? Do they work best alone or with a group?
3. Know their hobbies and interests outside the workplace
Building relationships with employees on a personal level will give you ideas about what motivational activities you can organize.
Leadership IQ author Mark Murphy, who established a consultancy with the same name, says that individuals have five big motivations:
Achievement-motivated individuals don’t go for low-risk situations where success is easily attainable. They keep on reaching for a higher level of personal best. Their motivation for success isn’t driven by being better than others.
Employees with a need for power want to give instructions and make decisions that impact others out of their desire to be revered and followed.
Affiliation-driven individuals have a need for acceptance and will choose types of work or tasks that offer meaningful personal interaction.
Consistency, continuity, and predictability in their pay, job, and work life in general are the priorities of people who are mainly motivated by security.
Individuals who are motivated by adventure are open to new environments, risks, and uncertainty. They welcome failure if it means it opens doors for new discoveries and learning.
Sure, gym memberships, team-building activities, and trainings motivate employees. But there are many motivational activities that can simply be integrated into—or offer a break from—your daily routine and business-related events. The following are some you can try:
1. Do volunteer work
Ask your employees what cause they are excited about and find out where in your community you can channel your workforce’s energy.
You can join a Habitat for Humanity event, seek volunteer opportunities at an elderly home, contribute to or organize charitable events that raise funds, and so on.
Organizing fund-raisers will also show your employees that your company is not all about making profits but that it values dedication to a good cause.
2. Show appreciation
The first Friday of March is designated unofficially as Employee Appreciation Day in the United States and Canada.
There are different ways that you can show your appreciation:
Although you can send valued employees a gift or a card with a handwritten message, it’s not as effective as letting the entire team know they’re appreciated through a group meeting, your social media network, or a company event.
Public recognition increases transparency regarding what the company considers to be good work and helps set an example for others.
Many businesses specialize in making customized products to reward or thank employees, from tokens to action figures.
You can celebrate your employees’ work milestones and other achievements by treating them to their favorite store, coffee shop, or spa with a gift card.
Employee of the Month Award with a twist
Healthy snack delivery service SnackNation made individual caricature prints of their best employee for every month for their “Value Victor” recognition system.
To deviate from the traditional style of arranging the photos of best performers in rows, the company arranged the small caricature printouts in a circle, like the minutes of a clock, then put actual clock hands in the middle.
Use a stuffed animal, figurine, or a fun trophy that you can give to an employee for exemplifying the core values of your team or organization. Let that staff member keep it for a week before handing it off to a co-worker who has done the same feat.
3. Go outdoors
Although employees who are interested in sports and outdoor recreation may enjoy sports fests or mountain climbing, outdoor activities don’t necessarily have to be physical or athletic.
You can divide the group into teams and do a scavenger hunt. Try adding new and different rules to the game. Have players interact with random people before they find the next clue.
Other out-of-the-office ideas include watching movies or ball games, visiting a new place like a park, having a karaoke night, or trying escape rooms and go-karting.
4. Hold a cookfest
Making food together gives employees the opportunity to practice teamwork, following instructions, and problem solving.
They will depend on each other to figure out how to prepare the recipes, especially since not everyone is a skilled cook. The end product becomes the team’s reward.
You can think of a twist to add fun to the activity if people are divided into groups, such as choosing an ingredient that every team must use. Or you can challenge teams to be creative with the shape of their creations if you’re making pizzas or cookies.
5. Try gamification
You can use game mechanics to motivate employees to do their work excellently.
Taiwanese-American entrepreneur and gamification pioneer Yu-kai Chou says that games have a universal appeal because their core elements—recognition, feedback, fun, and collaboration—push us to do something.
While some workplaces use apps such as hubEngage for employee gamification, there are classic and free ways to do it.
Raffles: Set up a matrix that will measure how goals are achieved. Issue a ticket for a raffle every time members of your team meet a milestone toward the ultimate goal.
Set a raffle date to award prizes even while the final goal hasn’t been reached yet by everyone. This way, both top and medium achievers can benefit from the activity.
Card collecting: This can be a part of your onboarding process, wherein your new recruits collect cards each time they interact with someone new in the company. They get more cards for reading materials, finishing courses, quizzes, or workshops.
All the cards collected will then be placed in an album that will show the employees’ learning path within the company.
Make Your Activities Work
To get the most out of your motivational activities, make them relevant to your goal or industry. The prizes or tokens you give out must not only be functional but useful to your recipients.
Create activities that make participants feel they are getting value from what they do, whether it’s knowledge, rewards, or status.
Make sure that goals and objects are achievable. Rules shouldn’t be too complex so that activities will result in both employee engagement and a sense of team fulfillment when the challenge is accomplished.