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How to Motivate employees- 8 effective ways great managers use to increase sales, profits and customer loyalty.

The most common problem faced by managers today- How to motivate employees and get the best results?

Are you someone who is managing a team at the office and feels that your team members are lazy, never charged up, and lack a sense of belonging?

If the answer to the above is yes, it is simple- Your team is not motivated and not engaged. And you need to wake up. And that too right now. Urgently and immediately. Now!

Research by Gallup confirms that ‘Worldwide only 15% of employees are engaged at work’ :

Worldwide Employee engagement chart - Linked to employee motivation

The other way to look at it is that 85% of employees are NOT engaged. And your team members may fall exactly in this group here.

This may occur to you now- Ok, maybe this is true, but what is the big deal here- we cannot make everyone happy. Employees will never be satisfied, and each one has its own set of problems.

If this is what comes to your mind, consider the below research

  1. Organizations with higher than average levels of employee engagement realized 27% higher profits, 50% higher sales, 50% higher customer loyalty levels, and 38% above-average productivity.
  2. 41% of customers are loyal to a brand or company because they consistently notice a positive employee attitude, while 68% of customers defect from a brand or company because of negative employee attitude.
  3. Disengaged workers cost the economy $300 billion or more per year.

These facts clearly show that as an organization you can lose a lot (hell a lot) of money if your employees are not motivated or engaged.

So do you have a choice now? I guess not.

What can be done here?

Yes, you guessed it right, you need to think about how to motivate the employees. Before we get to that, remember-

“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager”
– Bob Nelson

It is important to understand that a manager’s role is the most critical in motivating the employees- even if some of the things are not directly under his/her control.

One more thing to note here is that each employee has a different set of values and will have different triggers for getting motivated. What works for one may not work for the other.

However, the below techniques should cover almost all types of employees. Let us dive right in.

8 Effective ways to motivate and engage your employees:

1. Educate employees on the bigger picture

The problem most companies face, even some of the biggest ones, is that they sometimes get so bureaucratized, that employees become just another cog in the wheel, without knowing why that wheel is spinning?

P.S.– Most don’t know why the top management wants the wheel to spin so fast 😊

Ring some bells?

Lack of knowledge of the bigger picture often leads to this problem. Every employee wants to know the reason for which he/she is working hard and more importantly, what impact that work is having on the company.

How to solve this?

  1. To increase employee motivation and to create a sense of belonging, consider having the below included in your weekly or monthly meetings-
    • Broad vision of the company
    • Company objectives and achievements, which are in line with the vision  
    • Actual market scenario
    • Challenges being faced by the company or your department currently
    • Ask  employees to suggest solutions

      As a manager, tell your employees about the overall project or company’s goal, which you are allowed to share.
      Show them numbers on where the company was when you started this project, and what has been achieved till now. Emphasize how your team’s work has positively affected this growth and also show where the company needs to reach. Use numbers and data as much as possible.

Example– Hi team, 50% of the project X has already been delivered to our client Y, and 80% of this progress is credited to the software Z developed by you all last month. Great work guys.
We need to now focus on creating an app A to integrate with this software. This will constitute the remaining 50% of the project.
Let us target to finish this in the next 60 days and if we do it, this will set a record for the fastest project completion of this scale in the last 5 years at our company. I am confident that we all can pull it off.

2. Wherever possible, take them to meetings with the senior management. The idea of being inside the meeting room and sharing the table with the GM or VP or CEO can work as a drug for motivation, unmatched by any material compensation ever (remember Maslow’s theory– Self Actualization need is right at the top of the pyramid! )

2. Recognition- The silver bullet to motivate employees

If we look at a study on what employees feel would be the most important thing a manager could do to help them be successful- 37 percent, the majority of them, mentioned ‘Recognition’ as the most important thing.

Recognition satisfies a fundamental need for all of us in the workplace.

I think all of us at some time have craved for those words from our manager or boss- ‘Great job’, ‘Well done’ or ‘This is a great report, I am impressed’.

“Simple, public recognition is one of the most effective and most underutilized management tools.
– Lazlo Bock, Google”

Yes, recognition is the silver bullet when it comes to employee motivation- the absolute number 1.

However, most managers do not use it well and a lot of them don’t use it at all.

Why are a lot of managers highly reluctant to recognize their employee’s contributions?

The biggest reason is fear. Managers feel that if they recognize someone’s efforts, that person may become overconfident and will stop working hard. So instead, they adopt a negative strategy where they are keen to point out mistakes but never recognize any achievement.

This is the biggest mistake that some managers do. To understand this mistake better, let’s look closely at human psychology.

If someone does right once and gets appreciated for it, unconsciously the brain tells him/her to repeat the behavior and get that recognition again and then again and again. (Maslow’s theory – Self Actualization need is right at the top of the pyramid !)

A simple line like ‘Good job, the report looks well prepared’ in front of the team or even a one-line email saying this, will do wonders to increase the motivation and engagement level of that employee.

To you as a manager, it will guarantee the highest quality work for the near future and will create a win-win for everybody.

So, is it time yet to recognize the importance of ‘Recognition’?

3. Challenges and Competition 

Another effective way to motivate employees is by challenging them consistently.
Challenges invoke creativity, fresh thinking and the spirit to fight and win. 

If we look at the Korn Ferry Survey, professionals from different industries were asked their reasons for looking for a new job. The results are astonishing:

Reasons for job change- Employee motivation

Contrary to the general belief, salary or compensation is not even there in the top 3 reasons for a job change for most people!

The majority of people, 33 % to be precise, cited boredom and the lack of new challenges as the top reason why they want to leave.

So what can be done here?

As a manager or business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that employees are given challenging tasks on a very regular basis.

There can be different ways to challenge your staff-

  • Wherever possible, change their teams and make them work with different people and under different supervisors.
  • When possible, give them a new account to work on or a new client or a new department, where they have not worked before.
  • If an important employee is going on vacation who handles critical work, give it to an employee who has potential. People will show you amazing and unexpected results when put in difficult situations.
  • Competition– Run both monthly and quarterly competitions among your team.
    Simple programs like ‘Star of the month’ or ‘CEO award- Employee of the quarter’ can do wonders to motivate employees. Some people respond to competitions very well, and the results will change your way of looking at them forever.

4. Company Culture

Can company culture be an effective means to motivate employees?

“Maintaining an effective culture is so important that it, in fact, trumps even strategy”
— Howard Stevenson, Harvard Business School Professor

Additionally, if we look at the results of the Korn Ferry survey in point 3 above, it concludes that the second highest reason for job change, which includes 24% of employees, is Company culture.

How to have a strong and rich company culture that employees love:

a. Openness and transparency– From the hiring process to resignation, from sick leaves to annual leaves, from a trainee to the CEO, ensure that there is transparency with regards to the company rules, policies and procedures, and they should stay the same for everyone. 

b. Employee freedom- Great ideas can come from anywhere, have a platform in the company where the voices of all employees can be heard. 

c. Uniform training- Culture is something which is developed and refined over the years. It is imperative that before starting work, every employee, whether a sales executive or the CEO, should compulsorily attend a training, which should be uniform. The expectations of the company should be very clearly communicated, regarding the culture which exists and how it needs to be maintained.               

  d. Gender Equality– This goes without saying, having gender equality and balance is very critical for any organization today. 

“Company culture is your brand, your identity and everything your company stands for”
— Anonymous 

A strong company culture will greatly reduce employee turnover :  A study at Columbia university showed that companies with a strong culture had only a 13.9% likelihood of turnover as opposed to 48.4% for companies with a poor culture

A post at Harvard Business review outlines the 4 types of employees which make up any company’s culture:  

Company culture- 4 types of employees

Stars and High potentials (who become the next stars) are the types of employees you need in the company, to maintain a strong and rich company culture.

However, the rest 2 need your urgent attention- 

  • Zombies are people with low performance and poor/mediocre behavior. Although these are the type of people anyone would want to remove from the organisation, but due to their limited credibility, they don’t do much damage to the company culture.  
  • Vampires are the actual threat. Because their functional performance is strong, they acquire power and influence soon. However, since their behavior and attitude is harmful, they are the real bad apples that influence other people in negative ways. Over time, they may also acquire followers like the zombies.
    Before you realize there will be a small army of vampires and zombies attacking the stars, high potentials and other leaders who are doing the right thing.

    Check out these 4 types of employees in detail here: Company culture and the 4 types of employees 

To save and maintain the company culture, you need to be actively looking out for the vampires and zombies and flushing them out of the system. 

5. Give Tasks and Goals but do not Micromanage

Deep down most people want to be independent and have the innate desire to achieve something on their own.

In a company, where they are working for someone, this can be achieved by giving a task to a single person or a group of people and emphasizing its importance for the company as a whole.

When given responsibility, you will get to see very different sides of people, some of them you never even knew existed.

Always ensure that objective setting is done using the S.M.A.R.T. rule – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound.

Being in charge of something important invokes many sentiments and emotions in people, like pride, contentment, and spirit to face anything to get the task done. This is called empowering individuals.

However, a very important thing here is not to micromanage. You need to learn to put trust and faith in people. Just take a back seat and take a birds’ eye view of the work assigned.

Of course, you need to review the task and monitor its progress.

This can be done via weekly or bi-weekly meetings, which is fine, but do not call every day to see what they did the day before.

Do not question small decisions if they are not critical. Let them do it.

Look at the bigger picture instead and measure the major objectives to see if they are being met correctly.

Remember one small success leads to a bigger one and then to an even bigger one, it just multiplies.

If you do this, you will very soon have a team ready to face any challenge, with motivated employees willing to go above and beyond for their work.

6. Develop a personal bond with your team

If you are managing a team, do you know the answers to the below questions-

  • Do you know where each of your employees lives- the name of the local neighborhood or society?
  • Do you know what are their hobbies- who is a good singer or who is good at basketball or who is a great cook?
  • Do you know where their spouses/partners are working?

Some people may not consider these important, but having a personal bond makes a difference. Indeed a very huge difference, when looking to find ways to motivate your employees.

Why is this important?

Always remember, that everyone has different sides- one that you see in the office, one at their house, one on the weekends, one when with their friends, etc.

The more sides of a person you will know, the better will be trust and communication between you.

People value and treasure personal relationships more than anything else, and it will increase their willingness to go beyond and perform at their peak, for their manager.

Also, more often than not, you will find employees struggling with personal issues, which will always affect their work.

If in any way you can contribute by helping them, they will start looking up to you as not only their manager but their leader.

So are you ready to – Get to ‘know’ your team?


7. Don’t be a Boss- be a Coach instead

Be aware that your employees or team members observe your actions and behaviors much more than you think.

Like a small child starts imitating the actions of his/her parents, it is the same in the case of employees as well. In no time, they will start replicating their manager’s behavior and will start believing that this is the right way of doing things.

To put their trust in you, they first want to see you handle difficult situations, lead important meetings, take personal responsibility for difficult tasks and fight and protect the team from any internal or external threat.

If you can lead by example, your team will be highly motivated for any task or challenge given to them. They will not be afraid to take risks because they know that someone has got their back.

Today’s workforce does not need bosses, they need coaches, who can help them to learn and grow and someone they can eventually look up to. Not only in their careers but in their all-round lives.

Can you be that ‘coach’ for your team?

8. Rewards and Incentives- to motivate employees

Studies on rewards and incentive programs show these results-

  • Having a corporate incentive program motivated 66% of employees to stick to their jobs.
  • Companies that use incentive programs report a 79% success rate in getting to their established goals.
  • Employee performance has been seen to increase by as much as 44% when properly structured incentive programs are present.
  • Companies that have a strong sales incentive program see 3 times higher annual revenue than those that do not have the same. Wow, that is a lot of revenue to miss if you don’t have one!

What type of incentive/rewards program should be in place?

  • Design a program keeping in mind the company’s bigger objectives.
  • Keep the program simple, do not complicate it (so that employee may not need to enroll in an advanced mathematics course to understand it 😊)
    The best programs in the world are really easy to understand and calculate for everyone.
  • Communicate the program well– it is always better to do a separate meeting to introduce the new incentive program. It will be much better than just sending out an email.
    If people have questions, address them. The more interest and queries that can be generated, the better it will be for the success of the program.
  • The program can be cash-based or one with other employee benefits– it depends on the industry and what will catch the employees’ attention.
  • Monitor the progress of the incentive program and make it a habit to discuss it in every meeting.
    It will also be a great idea to reward and recognize the winners in the monthly meeting in front of everyone. Public recognition will attract a lot of attention.
  • Be ready to change or adapt the program when needed- No incentive program is perfect and you will soon realize the gaps in it. Do not shy away from changing and evolving the program with time. Doing this will give you big results in both the short and long term.


One thing is 100% certain, no company or team can sustain in the long term without motivated employees. Unfortunately, it does not work any other way.

With evolving times, companies are figuring out what works best for them and are customizing their strategies- however, the 8 ways outlined above are the absolute basics. Let us revisit them.

How to Motivate employees- 8 effective ways for managers:

  1. Educate employees on the bigger picture

    Tell them about company vision, current objectives and achievements, actual market scenario, current challenges faced, etc.

  2. Recognition- The silver bullet to motivate employees

    Public and private recognition of the deserving employees is the most effective and most under utilized way to boost employee motivation.

  3. Challenges and Competitions

    Challenges and competitions invoke creativity, fresh thinking and the spirit to fight and win.

  4. Company Culture

    “Maintaining an effective culture is so important that it, in fact, trumps even strategy”
    — Howard Stevenson, Harvard Business School Professor

  5. Give tasks and goals but do not micromanage

    Give tasks to a single person or a group of people and let them do it independently. Do not get involved in their day to day operations, just monitor the bigger objectives.

  6. Develop a personal bond with your team

    Get to really ‘know’ your team- where they stay, what are their hobbies, their family life, their aspirations in life, etc.

  7. Don’t be a Boss- be a Coach instead

    Employees today do not need bosses, they instead need coaches, who can help them to learn and grow. And someone they can eventually look up to.

  8. Rewards and Incentives

    Companies that have a strong sales incentive program see 3 times higher annual revenue than those that do not have the same.

Motivation is not a one time project, it is a continuous effort.

When done right, it will bring great results to any company, measurable in terms of financial gains and unmeasurable in terms of growth in brand equity and customer trust.

Now, it is up to you to decide whether this is something that can be done later or needs your attention now. Like right now!

Have any questions- Feel free to leave a comment below.

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1 thought on “How to Motivate employees- 8 effective ways great managers use to increase sales, profits and customer loyalty.”

  1. Employee Motivation in current business scenario is the one most relevant / required tool that will help companies to drive operational excellence and stay competitive. It is well known fact that companies have performed exceedingly well wherein their employees are fully motivated ,engaged and committed to drive the organisational goals with personal ownership and team effort.
    As mentioned above in your article , there are ways and means to keep the employees motivated and at the same time create a sense of ownership by linking organisational goals/ objectives with individuals employees.
    Employee Motivation is key today and will remain always.
    Very Good Article!!

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