Motivation in the workplace: How to inspire employees to give their best

July 21, 2020

Experts talk about motivation in the workplace

We’ll start this article about motivation in the workplace by quoting Jake Third, the Managing Director at Hallam. He found the perfect words to explain the essence and importance of worker motivation. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves:

“Simply put, the word “motivate” means to provide a motive. Your team will want to succeed if they have a motive for doing so. It is the leader’s responsibility to provide that motive.

To do this, it is important to understand what is important to your colleagues. Once you understand what they want, find that sweet spot where the organisation’s goals and their personal goals overlap.

If their own personal ambitions are in alignment with the companies objectives, they will naturally want to win for the company.  It is a leader’s job to clearly articulate the goals of the company, explain why they are important, and to understand the motivations of their team members.

When a leader fails to do this, a team will lack the motivation to achieve the organisation’s goals. In these instances, weaker leaders use accountability to bring employees back in line.  Accountability is a tool in leadership, but is over-relied on by leaders who fail to sufficiently motivate their team.”

How to keep the worker motivation always on the high?

Quizzes, employee of the quarter, and a four-day working week

For around four months we were out of the office and working from home. Our MD suggested we all take it in turns to organise a quiz for the last 15 minutes of the day on a Zoom call, which was an excellent way to wrap up a busy day and let the stresses of work melt away. A different member of the team would also take over the Instagram story each day. This kept content fresh, interesting and insightful for our followers and also kept the team on their toes!

We’ve recently made a safe and socially-distanced return to the office, and a return to our four-day working week. Whilst working from home, we reverted to the usual 9-5, five days a week. At the office, however, we work from 8-6, 4 days a week. Whilst the days are slightly longer, we all agree that the benefits of a four-day working week hugely outweigh the extra 2 hours per day. Many enjoy a three day weekend with either a Monday or Friday off. I, personally, have a Wednesday off, and I find this mid-week break incredibly revitalising.

Our MD is always eager to do what she can to make working life easier for each individual member of staff – through all of the above, and also, regular brainstorm sessions to keep the team inspired and an ‘employee of the quarter‘, where the said employee is awarded a personalised gift of up to £100.

Hugo Condie, PR Assistant at VerriBerri

Understandable vision

The best way I have found to motivate my 5 employees is to help them understand the vision of the business and how their contributions make a difference.

I reiterate the vision continually in weekly team meetings and encourage staff to use their initiative to generate ideas of their own that may contribute to achieving that vision.  We are a team and although it’s my dream I am honest about the fact that the path is not clear and I need their help (especially with curveballs like Covid!)

There are lots of menial jobs for the more junior roles – especially interns – however, if you sell them the dream and share the journey so far they will be much more bought into the brand and want to be a part of its success so will not mind doing the more boring tasks.

Jennifer Bailey, CEO​ at Calla

Autonomy and 13th-month bonus

Since I founded my business, almost 10 years ago now, I have always recognised that my employees are my biggest strength, whether that’s full-time employees with whom I have contact every day or contractors across the country.

As the company has grown, I have taken care to ensure that the people who join the business have the same values and ideas as the rest of the team and are prepared to go over and above to fulfil expectations. We reward hard work wherever possible, managing our employees KPI’s and offering an additional 13th-month bonus at the end of the year has been a great motivator for the team long term.  

Many were, and still are in some cases, far more experienced than me in their areas of expertise and acknowledging this has ensured they feel involved and committed to the business. They are involved in decision making, trusted and given autonomy to deliver their work. We have strengthened our management team over time, ensuring full leadership accountability via weekly level 10 meetings. 

I trust the team we have built to do the job and do it well, we aren’t about to babysit our people while they do their work and this has resulted in a workforce who believe in and are committed to making inurface the best it can be.

Josh Bunce. Founder and CEO of inurface Group

Small gestures mean everything

I own a very small ladies boutique in Emsworth, Hampshire. I have two part-time colleagues (notice I call them colleagues and not staff!)

We work together, I ask their opinion and include them in decisions about merchandising and buying.  My success is their success – we all want to be busy and I know they want to please me. I trust them completely and I know it is reciprocated.

I spoil them at Christmas, usually with a hamper and a meal out, they get to buy stock at cost which works both ways – if they wear it, it’s my advert – they know that and love it!

Whilst I had to put them on furlough I made up the 20% – small gestures mean everything.  We cover each other for holidays and sickness – I’m very flexible.

No pressure selling incentives, they do it because they want to. It’s a nice atmosphere and the enjoyment at work seems to be the motivation – they are genuinely excited to tell me if it’s been a good day!

Above all, I don’t take advantage – look after them and be kind, you get what you give in all walks of life!

Karen Hall, Owner of Karen George

The 5 hows

In my opinion, one of the key things to remember when we’re talking about driving the best from people is effective problem resolution. A real test of the team/leader relationship is what happens when there are challenges which must be overcome and problems that need to be resolved.

Asking “why” doesn’t work as well as we think it does. People refer to the concept of “5 whys” – asking why 5 times to get the root cause of an issue. 

When we use the word “why” it is loaded with blame. It starts when we’re children – “why did the milk get spilt?”, “why are you late?”, “why is there rubbish everywhere?”. The list goes on. As soon as you use the word “why”, deep-seated synapses in our brains get to work and we are on guard. Deep down why equals blame.

To get the best of people even amidst mounting challenges, we should use the “5 hows”. That way we begin to get real value, clarity and refinement from the questions. 

The 5 hows reveal the truth faster, more effectively, and leads us to a root cause we can overcome. Leave the blame at the door and solve the problem.

Jamie Hinton, CEO at Razor


Maintaining the motivation in the workplace on a constant high directly results in better results for the entire company. Every team is different on its own and you need to discover what will inspire them the most. For some it’s a bonus at the end of the year, for others it’s a paid day-off every month.

Open communication makes the biggest difference in the leader/team relationship. Speak clearly and listen carefully. A satisfied worker is as precious as a gold mine.

More must-read stories from Enterprise League:

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