“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”

– Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup

A company's employees are one of its most valuable assets, and managing them can be the most important — yet challenging — tasks required of management. What is it that drives employee motivation? What causes an employee to WANT to do his or her job successfully?

The answers to these questions should be on employer's minds if they are to retain and create effective, productive workforces. Remember, your number one customers should be your people. A lack of employee motivation is a true killer.

Popularized by the movie Jerry Maguire, “Show me the money” has become a commonly used term in society. And, often, this is the basis for what most people think is at the top of the list for employee motivation. But, is it?

A recent survey from the human resources firm TriNet found that more employers see corporate culture as motivating as compensation packages. The research showed that companies should strive to create a great place for great people to do great work.

Money should not be the ONLY tool used to motivate people, because different things motivate different people. Here are a few other simple, inexpensive choices to consider:

1. Seek buy-in. Involve staff in determining and seeing “the big picture” and the goals needed to achieve it. Remember, they are closest to the work and often can see things more clearly. Having employees harness self-direction in pursuit of common goals is far preferable to forcing people to meet goals they don’t understand or share.

2. Encourage contributions. If an employee can regularly contribute ideas, and suggestions, it makes them feel important and gives meaning to their jobs. Give people responsibility and they often rise to the challenge. Allow them to unleash their imagination, ingenuity and creativity and everybody wins.

3. Recognize employees. Rewarding people for achievement is a far more effective than punishing them for failure. There are plenty of simple but effective ways employers can recognize hard work, such as emailing an appreciative note. Organize recognition programs and events to honor accomplishments personally and publicly.

4. Nip negativity in the bud. Do not allow employees to talk down to one another and/or drag each other through the mud. Likewise, make sure you don't do the same when other employees are able to see it happen to a fellow co-worker. That's bad for morale and destroys motivation.

5. Keep employees informed. When an employee feels he or she is not up to date with what is occurring in the company or their department, it is a message to the employee that says, “You are not important.” Keep information flowing to each employee; let them know what the company is doing and the direction it is taking.

6. Help fulfill career goals. If the employee wants to take on more responsibility or move into a different department, investigate the possibilities and get back to them with options. Giving workers opportunities to build the skills and make the connections they need to get ahead in their careers will build loyalty and motivation.

7. Maintain workforce satisfaction. One way to generate sustained profits is to build a work environment that attracts and keeps talented people who want to show up and perform at a level of excellence. Focus on creating satisfied employees and they will focus on satisfying you and your customers.

8. Provide training. Being part of a learning culture is an important motivator for an employee. Training can help fill the gap between lack of skills and better productivity after training needs are assessed. Appropriate training should be viewed as an investment rather than a liability.

9. Give constant feedback. The days of quarterly or annual reviews being the sole form of feedback are long gone. Employees want to receive constant, specific, and clearly defined feedback from their supervisors. Positive feedback about accomplishments is essential to motivate an employee.

10. Communicate often. Open communication is most employees' #1 priority. Find out what interests them and what doesn't. Speaking with an employee frequently shows that you care about them in more ways than simply wanting them to keep up with productivity.

Motivation requires a strategy tailored to each worker’s needs. These ideas can help you know what can drive your employees to want to do a better job. If your focus is on the bottom line and long-term growth of the organization, it’s important to focus on your most important asset.

Brad Larsen is a life coach and leadership coach /consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at

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