How to Motivate Employees

Employees come with varied reasons for why they choose to work at a small business — it might be a matter of location for them and their families, the company they keep in the workplace, or maybe they believe strongly in the product or service (or it’s eventual payoff). Whatever the case may be, it’s the responsibility of small business leaders to keep their employees motivated and engaged.

Learning to understand what motivates your team, and how to manage those forces, is a hugely important skill to develop. Sometimes you’ll need to make efforts to retain great employees. Other times, you may find yourself wondering how to keep them motivated on the job.

Remember That We’re All Human

Whatever business and industry you’re in, if you’re leading a team, the bottom line is your team is made up of human beings. Humans are individuals, and we’re all a little different in what keeps us motivated and engaged, even if there are some common denominators.

As a business leader, taking the time to get to know your team and understand a little about what makes each individual on that team tick can go a long way towards keeping those individuals happy, engaged, and less likely to think about leaving for another job. Happiness at work is based on a combination of factors including a person’s role, responsibilities, teammates, and compensation, but also a ton of “little things” like whether or not seeing your boss each day makes you feel welcomed and valued, or anonymous and expendable. Take some time to think about how you engage with the people who work for you, and what you can do to make them feel good about coming to work each day.

Here are some questions that can help small business leaders learn more about their employees. If initiating a personal conversation might seem awkward or difficult, try building trust with your employees by being open and authentic about your own answers.

  • How has the work been compared to your previous jobs?
  • What do you love to do?
  • What was your dream job when you were younger?
  • What have been your favorite responsibilities of your role? Least favorite?
  • How do you think this job could improve for you?

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AMP Up Your Team’s Engagement

The Engage Your Team Trailhead unit outlines a method Salesforce uses to help keep employees engaged and motivated on the job. The module draws upon the work of best-selling author Dan Pink, whose book Drive digs into the science behind human motivation. We packaged some of what Dan says into AMP, an acronym that succinctly describes what employees want:

Autonomy. The ability to work independently and be self-directed. Managers and leaders can champion employees by enabling them to determine how — and where! — to complete their work.

Mastery. Opportunities to get better at what they do. Give your employees opportunities to develop new skills and build upon existing ones through professional development and training.

Purpose. A belief and sense that their work contributes to something bigger. At Salesforce, our V2MOM process helps employees align and connect their individual work to company-wide goals. Our Salesforce Ohana values help us walk the talk of making the environment a better place, both inside and outside of the workplace. Develop and communicate a framework that defines your company’s beliefs and connects them to each of your employee’s individual work.

Check out the full Trailhead module to learn how AMPing your approach to your employees can give them the opportunity to be their best selves and do their best work.

Build a Culture That Recognizes and Rewards Employees

Try this the next time you’re in the workplace: take note of how people feel when they’re recognized for their work. Pick a few of your employees, and tell them you see and value what they do. Be specific and direct, then watch and listen. People love to be recognized for their work.

Building a culture that recognizes and rewards employees can be great for your staff, and your company’s reputation and health. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Institutionalize shout-outs: Give your top employees some public shine, whether informally, at team meetings, or on your internal social network. Recognize both those who do a consistently great job and those that go above and beyond.
  • Try some budget-friendly recognition and simple incentives: Fun, free recognition can work wonders. You could offer up the owner’s parking space for a week as a free perk or give an employee something useful that makes their day a little easier. Make sure to give them a little public recognition along with it.
  • Gamify workflows: Create friendly competitions for teams to add some intrinsic motivation to daily routines. Try a sales leader board or shout out those who reply to the most support emails.
  • Be transparent about promotions and career growth: Clarity around what it takes to advance in your company can be the biggest motivator of all. Just as importantly, transparency around career growth helps create and foster a culture of accountability between business owners and their employees.

Invest the Time to Motivate Your Employees

There’s a lot you can do as a small business owner to motivate your employees, from gamifying some of your regular routines, to laying out clear steps to career growth. Remember that different people respond to different forms of motivation, and that clarity and communication are key. For more insight and tips, check out Motivation 101: 5 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement, on the Salesforce blog.


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