Oct 26

How to motivate employees and finish the year strong

Finding The Right Talent


We all know that motivation is a key part of doing well at work, even when rewards are involved. Whether we’re going after that bonus, a higher position at work, more esteem or simply because we want to expand our knowledge, motivation plays a key role in our performance at work. 


Understanding what drives your employees and why they show up every day is essential for building an effective team. The world of work has transformed over the last year and with it incentives and motivations. In today’s blog we’re going to be exploring how to keep your employees motivated through change and in the last quarter of the year. 


The types of motivation: There are two main types of employee motivation


While motivation is complex and deeply personal, motivations can generally be categorised into two types: intrinsic and extrinsic. There is often an overlap between the two, understanding motivation through this framework can give you a starting point from which to explore motivation and incentives within your own organisation. 


Intrinsic motivation:


Intrinsic motivation generally comes from within and is rooted in the drive for personal growth. Some examples of this are skills development and learning, job satisfaction, self-fulfilment and getting a sense of doing good. 


Extrinsic motivation: 


Extrinsic motivations are drivers that come from the outside and are what you might be familiar with from games and competition. These include physical rewards, salary, bonuses or gifts. They can also include public accolades and acknowledgements like rewards or positions of power. 


Having made those distinctions, let’s dive into how you can keep your employees motivated. 


How to motivate employees at the end of the year  


The last quarter of the year also feels like the longest. As the weather changes and we feel ourselves shift towards holiday mode many of us feel like doing is muting our notifications and starting our holidays early. As such, the approach to motivation needs to shift. 


Remember, everyone works differently. So sit down with the individuals in your teams and as a whole and hear from them what motivates them. Perhaps you thought it was a bonus, but actually, it might be a week off over the festive season. Perhaps more flexible hours might be a motivator for a parent, while the ability to earn overtime pay might be a driver for someone paying off their car. 


At this time of year, acknowledge that employees may be feeling burnt out and work with them to find solutions. Compassion can never go too far in the workplace. In order to do this you need to first create the space for safe and authentic conversations – employees need to be able to trust their direct managers with their mental and emotional truth, without risk or fear of repercussions. 

Why is it important to motivate employees towards the end of the year?


While productivity and motivation is essential all year round, towards the end of the year intrinsic motivation may be waning. But the shopping season can also be the most profitable for businesses if they plan and execute effectively. Businesses of any size can benefit from a clear strategy on how to ride the seasonal wave, from Black Friday through to the new year. In order to do this you need an engaged workforce that is ready to make the most of the opportunity. But having a motivated team has benefits beyond just profits, let’s explore a few of these now. 


employees working together as a team


The benefits of a motivated team:


1. Employee engagement (ie: less likely to resign) 

As mentioned, replacing an employee can be a costly and time-consuming process. Employees don’t just leave because of low salaries, in fact, most employees want to leave their jobs due to toxic work culture. Other reasons for employees jumping ship include poor management, lack of work-life boundaries and no option for flexible working conditions. So when it comes to motivation, it’s not just around bonuses and rewards, it’s also about creating a culture and environment that employees want to be a part of every single day. When employees feel a sense of belonging, inclusion and teamwork they are more likely to go the extra mile or bring creative solutions to the table. 

2. Productivity 

On that note, being motivated and being productive aren’t necessarily directly correlated, as many people are overworked and unmotivated. However in order to build sustainable productivity in your organisation you need to tap into your team’s intrinsic motivations. Also set some time aside during your check-ins to discuss which projects each individual is passionate about so that you can best assign work and delegate tasks. 


In addition to this, it’s crucial that with productivity comes appropriate time for rest. Many organisations don’t actually encourage their employees to take their full lunch break, step away from their screens and take mini breaks throughout the day. However, these moments of rest can boost productivity and mental well-being, which in turn drives motivation. 

3. Quality of work


Another benefit of increasing motivation is improved quality of work. When employees are motivated intrinsically, for example towards learning, job satisfaction or self-fulfilment they are naturally more inclined to output work of a high standard. However when employees are motivated by extrinsic factors like contributing to social good, improved benefits and pay and more impactful rewards, then their quality of work is also likely to improve. 


Let’s look at that first point a bit more. In a recent Network for Good report on employee engagement, Kate Olsen stated,


An important, often underleveraged, form of [employee] motivation is involvement in social impact initiatives. A growing body of evidence points to the power of enabling employees — especially millennials — to give back to the community and support their favourite causes at work.” Additionally, she states, “Employee engagement through cause is a vital means by which to strengthen employee relationships, enhance employee morale and even build critical skill sets and expertise. Plus, employees are hungry for ways to get involved in a cause.

What does it look like when you have successfully motivated employees? 


Now that we know how to motivate your employees, let’s take a look at what success looks like. When it comes to understanding your business, nothing is more powerful than data. 


There are plenty of tools available out there for you to collect data from Google and Microsoft Forms, to presentation polling tools like Slido. These help you collect information and insights anonymously (or not) to get a clear picture of how both individuals and groups are feeling. 


Utilise these every month or quarter, however long your KPI cycle is, to help plot progress, areas of organisational improvement and general morale and job satisfaction. 


But on top of data, you also need that human touch. Don’t just reduce your employee point of contact to forms and sheets. Creating space for safe, two-way conversation can also give you insights and depth of knowledge that you wouldn’t be able to get from a survey. Line managers and department heads, as well as your HR department if you have one, should be touching base with employees and discussing things like motivation, wellness, work-life balance and career progression. Without these insights, you won’t know what changes you need to make to ensure your teams, and the unique individuals within them stay motivated.


How to motivate employees and finish the year strong 1

How do you as a manager motivate a team?


Line managers are the direct custodians of employee experience and as such play a huge role in retention, job satisfaction and employee motivation. So what does being a good manager mean? 

1. Be a good manager 

A good manager is someone who goes beyond the administrative and organisational functions and brings empathy, compassion and transparency to their role. 


Empathy has become a vital skill for a leader to have – it plays a crucial role in building trust between the employee and the organisation. It’s also become increasingly important during and after the pandemic, where sources of stress have multiplied and support structures have broken down. 


A global study by Qualtrics found 42% of people have experienced a decline in mental health. Specifically, 67% of people are experiencing increases in stress while 57% have increased anxiety, and 54% are emotionally exhausted. 53% of people are sad, 50% are irritable, 28% are having trouble concentrating, 20% are taking longer to finish tasks, 15% are having trouble thinking and 12% are challenged to juggle their responsibilities.

2. Lead by example 


When it comes to motivation it is crucial to put your money where your mouth is. Remember motivation isn’t about expecting employees to work overtime, go above and beyond all the time and reach burnout. Motivation is about innovation, taking risks, being creative and working together to reach a common goal. 


To lead by example would mean demonstrating risk taking in the name of innovation, being unafraid to make mistakes and learn from them, and having clear goals with achievable action plans to reach them. That brings us to our next point.

3. Set straightforward clear, actionable goals for your employees


You cannot have motivation without milestones. Goals don’t always need to be BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), sometimes they can simply be stepping stones en route to something bigger. The lack of motivation can often stem from feeling goals are too big, too far in the distance, or too ambitious. As a leader its your role to break these goals down into smaller, time-bound steps so that goals become more attainable and the feeling of accomplishment is accelerated. Remember to celebrate and praise your teams as each milestone is reached, and treat it as an accomplishment in itself. This positive feedback will keep your teams motivated all the way to the finish line. 


4. Give employees autonomy 


That being said, we’re not looking to micromanage teams. Setting milestones is crucial, and then giving employees autonomy and ownership of the process is vital. Showing trust in your teams facilitates learning, accountability and a real sense of accomplishment at the end. Your role should be to provide support when needed and any and all resources that may be required to complete the task. Work with your employees to mark check-in points so that they don’t feel mico-managed but have the opportunity to bring up any concerns or blockers along the way. 

If a team doesn’t reach their target, then you can step in and help them analyse and deconstruct the process to learn and improve for next time. Failure is also a wonderful opportunity for motivation if handled effectively. 


How to motivate employees and finish the year strong 2

Never neglect your motivation strategy 

As you strategise and plot the course for your organisation, bring your motivation strategy to the fore. Neglecting this will only result in teams losing steam, high staff turnover and low output. People are the lifeblood of any organisation, long before sales, profits or revenue. People are what make it work, so make sure they’re working to the best of their ability and are motivated towards their own, and your organisation’s goals. 


To grow your team, sign-up to Nomad Now, create a job listing and get matched with candidates who are looking for companies with exciting opportunities just like yours!

About the author 

Sarah Mason

Sarah is a freelance writer and social media content creator working on brands across industries from recruitment to lifestyle and B2B.
She is also a full time Learning Designer specialising in digital skills, workforce development and jobseeker empowerment in emerging markets across Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Her passion is seeing people and teams thrive, especially within the SME space.

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