How to motivate unmotivated employees

Mikaela Clavel
April 12, 2022
How to motivate unmotivated employees

Building up employee engagement and motivation is crucial to any business to meet their targets.

Let's put this into context: When you have low motivation, you might witness that half of your team are giving 30%. This means, that you can’t expect the team output to hit 100%. In fact., disengagement is extremely expensive - calculate it yourself here.

Other research into employee engagement from Gallup has found that:

  • If an employee feels motivated, they'll work 20% better than when they’re unmotivated.
  • Engaged teams experience 81% lower levels of absenteeism compared to disengaged colleagues.
  • Businesses see a 64% fall in workplace accidents when higher levels of engagement are reported.
  • Companies with engaged teams, see an average of 18% more productivity through sales, and 23% in profitability.

However, many leaders fall into the trap of assuming more money is the key to improving morale and motivation. But, multiple studies and surveys have failed to link the quality of work in the long term and engagement with financial rewards. So, while being paid a decent wage will keep people in a role, it doesn’t necessarily encourage them to do their very best within that role – and engagement isn’t about retaining staff.

It's about bringing out the best in them and motivating them to perform to their best ability. Yet despite knowing this, motivating your unmotivated employees is a tricky balancing act. You have to understand why employees are disengaged, get under the skin of what motivates employees and then implement a plan.

And remember, everyone is different and will be motivated by different things. One-size-fits-all won't cut it. So, here's a game plan to figure out how you can remove the "un" from the unmotivated in your employees.

What motivates employees

Improving engagement means knowing what buttons to push for each member of staff. What motivates them? And personalised approach should you pick?

A sense of belonging: Plan social get-togethers to create opportunities for your team to bond and collaborate. Encourage disengaged workers to buddy up with colleagues to create a more innovative and fun environment.

A challenge: Target those employees who will get a kick out of stepping up to a challenge, by inspiring them to solve a problem, develop a new idea, or suggest new ways of working. Involving employees more, can also help to feel more invested in a company.

Doing something meaningful: This can be a tough one if a worker yearns to make a difference but the corporate job doesn’t allow much opportunity. Instead, offer targets, which if met, allow a worker to take a day’s paid leave to do some community work through a charity. In fact, lack of meaningfulness is the 3rd reason to why employees decide to quit according to our latest report Fighting Turnover.

Money: Rather than offering a pay rise, motivate staff by a series of goals. If certain targets are met they will receive a financial bonus. This helps to ensure that the motivation remains long after the paycheque is signed.

Possibility to develop into a new role: Offer them the opportunity to gain some authority by shadowing someone in a role they’d like to move up to. You could also offer them to participate in internal projects in their field of interest. This can be done alongside their current role, with clear expectations of potential career progression.

Showing recognition for your employees hard work is also key. Recognition is about whether your people feel seen, heard, valued, and respected, both by the organisation and by one another. When you get that right, the advantages are massive. Does 14% increase in employee engagement, productivity, and performance sound good?

How do promotions motivate employees?

Many employees will be motivated by a promotion. There are however few employees who don’t strive to move upwards in their careers and take on more authority or responsibility. Promotions can appeal on many levels, such as:

Job experience: Gaining a promotion may mean workers feel more secure in their roles, which can help them feel more connected and part of a team. It may also move them to a more managerial role which can appeal to many people, or help them switch to a new team that is more aligned to their own career goals.

Ambition: Whether it’s the ambition to move through the ranks of a firm or to grow as a person and develop skills, humans tend to be ambitious.

Compensation: A promotion usually means you can also motivate staff through financial rewards. It doesn’t just have to be about what they take home at the end of every month – enhanced benefits, company cars and bonuses can all help motivate staff to work harder.

Of course, the final word is that the promotion must be warranted. There’s little point in promoting disengaged staff in the hope it will motivate them if the promotion isn’t truly deserved.

How to motivate an overwhelmed employee

There will be times when you are faced with an overwhelmed team member, and boosting their motivation might seem like "mission: impossible". In these cases, it’s important to get to the bottom of their demotivation. Is it the workload? A colleague? A particular project? With this information, you can take steps to recover the employee and bring them back to motivation island.

If your team member has a low degree of autonomy – for example in their working hours or how they approach a task – help them to find a more comfortable working pattern. Or assign them a mentor who they can turn to for support or brainstorm new ideas.

Training can often be the answer. Increasing their knowledge, making them feel more confident in their role, might make it easier for them to cope.

"If in doubt, ask them." To successfully measure and collect feedback, you need the right employee feedback tool. Curious to see Winningtemp in action?

About the author
Mikaela Clavel

Focusing on people

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