Top Tips for Motivating Your Team

What motivates people at work? This question has been asked for decades, and the web is full of articles with top-10 lists and research findings. “What can I do to motivate my staff?” is a question that my clients often ask me.

In a few short words – there are no easy answers to this question. It really depends on the individual, their personality, background, and the type of work that they do. However it’s useful to have some guidelines, so here is a summary of what I’ve found – both from the research and from my own personal experience managing people.


Something that ranks high in all the research – sometimes at number one and often in the top three – is that people are motivated when they receive genuine appreciation of their work from their manager or supervisor. And, significantly, LACK of appreciation ranks highly for DISSATISFACTION at work.  So, managers, take note – show appreciation for what your team members do, each and every day. Remember that different personalities have different preferences for how appreciation is shown – some enjoy being recognized publicly, face to face, while others are happier with a one-on-one conversation, an email praising their achievements, or even a hand-written thank-you note. Get to know each person on your team and find out how to best show your appreciation to each individual.


Feeling “in on things” – a feeling of belongingness – “I belong here” – also ranks consistently high – often in the top 3. This is really significant, because managers often don’t realize how important this is – in fact one study showed managers ranked this as number 10 of a list of 10 motivators, while employees ranked it as the second most important motivator. Team building exercises, and nurturing a collaborative work environment can help people feel that they belong. Lead the way with a proactive, welcoming approach to new team members. You can also cultivate an environment where people feel they belong by communicating information openly and clearly to all the team, discouraging “cliquey” behaviour, and by treating all team members with fairness and respect.

Professional Development

This can be a major motivator, especially for workers in the “knowledge economy”. One study found 92% of people considered this an important motivator. With change being a constant, the need for learning never ends. Professional development helps people feel competent at work, and increases their belief that they have a future with the organization – two important motivating factors. In difficult economic times, belt-tightening often limits the availability of professional development dollars, but the research shows this is a short-sighted approach. Give people the chance to grow and you’ll hold on to them longer, reaping savings on replacement costs for employees who leave for greener pastures. With the high costs of recruiting and on-boarding this is often a case of spending money now to save money in the longer term.

Compensation Package

What about the importance of compensation – how important are the salary and other benefits when talking about motivation? Managers often think that financial compensation ranks among the top motivators. But what the research actually shows is that it ranks somewhat lower on the motivation scale. As long as the pay is somewhat commensurate with the skills and abilities required for the work, the salary itself is not necessarily a major motivator.  This is especially true when staff see the value of their work. The satisfaction of making a positive impact in the world may actually rank higher than salary.

In summary…

Having highly motivated employees benefits your organization in so many ways. Motivation creates the energy that keeps people working consistently towards the organizational goals. Providing opportunities for relevant, timely and engaging professional development can be an extremely worthwhile investment that helps build loyalty and saves on recruitment costs. And taking positive steps towards a better motivated team does not have to be costly. Showing appreciation and creating a feeling of belonging doesn’t have to cost anything.

And what about you? Do you regularly set meaningful goals for yourself, seek out enriching and rewarding opportunities, and explore strategies for personal growth? Remember to keep yourself motivated too.

Contact me for a complimentary no-obligation call to find out how I can help you re-ignite your motivation at work.