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Why Employee Motivation is the Key to a Successful New Year

As we head into the final days of the year, we’re seeing organizations across the board pushing for tight deadlines to meet goals in an already shortened month. As a result, employees are feeling the harsh aftereffects, silently coping with intense amounts of stress, overwork, and burnout. 

But end-of-year demands are just the tip of the iceberg—after all, 2023 was a year filled with stressors. From global conflicts to economic disruptions, it’s common for employees to feel heightened anxiety and depression, especially around the holidays

So what can organizations do to prevent burnout before the new year and help employees thrive in 2024?

Why Employee Motivation and Morale Go Hand in Hand

A motivated workforce is like a well-oiled machine—it’s the driving force behind any successful organization, keeping operations running smoothly. 

But what happens when leaders ignore this crucial aspect of the employee experience? In today’s competitive labor market, it could mean the difference between sinking or surviving.

When employees aren’t motivated at work, productivity isn’t the only thing to suffer—company culture, engagement, morale, and even retention take a huge hit as a result. Without enough incentive for engagement, or if overall job satisfaction plateaus or plummets, organizations often see turnover start to tick up as more workers search for new, motivating opportunities. 

And with the cost of replacing one employee currently being three to four times a position’s actual salary, it’s safe to say that organizations are caught between a rock and a hard place.

On the other hand, when employee morale and motivation are high, workers will not only be more likely to stay, but they’ll often go above and beyond to help their teams and exceed expectations. 

The Benefits of Motivated Employees

When leaders are able to motivate employees—whether through incentives, meaningful work, or simple recognition—the benefits extend beyond the individual, to the whole team and the organization at large.

Unsurprisingly, organizations that leverage employee motivation strategies effectively gain a huge competitive advantage through:

  • Increased engagement: Motivated employees are more engaged in their work, thinking creatively about problems without getting discouraged by setbacks.
  • Reduced absenteeism: Employees who are enthusiastic about what they do are more likely to show up each day on time and ready to work.
  • Improved retention: Motivated workers are more likely to stay with their companies long-term, reducing costs associated with turnover.
  • Enhanced performance: Day-to-day, motivated employees are driven to do their best at work, demonstrating higher levels of productivity and efficiency in their roles.
  • Positive company culture: Motivating employees necessitates that leaders develop a supportive environment where teamwork and collaboration are key.

What Motivates Employees?

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of motivating employees, but there will often be times when some employees stay motivated while others may become disengaged. Moreover, not every unmotivated employee will respond to incentives the same way—if at all. 

It’s easy for organizations to feel a bit discouraged at this point, but luckily, there’s a simpler way to understand how to motivate employees, and it starts by thinking of it in two broad categories.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic or internal motivation is when an individual does something because they find it personally rewarding. This often comes from a purpose-driven desire, either because it’s meaningful to them or because they want to get ahead in their career. 

In either case, motivational factors are considered internal because they stem from the individual’s personal belief system. 

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is when an individual is driven to accomplish something based on outside factors such as recognition from others or an extrinsic reward. In some instances, this might take the form of praise from a manager or a bonus or sales commission, or for salaried workers, it could be the wage itself or benefits. 

While these two types of motivations come from different places, it’s important to note that they’re not mutually exclusive. For instance, an employee might be motivated by both an intrinsic drive to do their work because they believe it does good for the world, as well as the extrinsic reward of a generous compensation package. 

Similarly, a motivational factor can be both intrinsic and extrinsic at the same time, such as a promotion. Not only does the employee receive a sense of personal satisfaction and professional growth, but they’ll likely see a tangible reward in the form of an increased salary.

The key here is to take the time to understand how each employee in your organization responds to these different kinds of motivators and use a variety of options to spur greater engagement, satisfaction, and productivity.

Motivating Employees Begins With Their Wellbeing

Want to learn how to motivate employees intrinsically and extrinsically? It all starts with their holistic wellbeing—that is, their physical, mental, social, financial, and occupational health as well as their purpose. 

Employees who feel healthy, financially confident, and fulfilled in their personal and professional lives are far more engaged and enthusiastic about their work. Therefore, any efforts to improve employee motivation must start with a plan for their wellbeing. 

To start off 2024 on the right foot, here are a few tips for using wellness to motivate employees:

1. Train Managers in Positive Reinforcement

Employee motivation and recognition are closely linked. Even the most intrinsically motivated employee might still feel discouraged if their achievements are never recognized.

That’s why it’s crucial to train leaders and managers in positive reinforcement. By acknowledging hard work, empowering team members, and offering constructive feedback where needed, organizations can cultivate a supportive environment where everyone feels appreciated. 

Not only does this boost overall morale, but it can also drive greater motivation across teams. Over time, this approach also contributes to a healthier workplace culture that promotes wellbeing and productivity at the same time.

2. Encourage Peer-to-Peer Recognition

In addition to recognition from leaders, organizations should also encourage team members to compliment each other on a job well done. This type of peer-to-peer motivation is a great way for employees to feel the extrinsic reward of praise while building stronger bonds among coworkers. 

Peer-to-peer recognition is an integral part of any supportive and inclusive workplace, fostering a more positive company culture while increasing engagement. After all, employees who appreciate others’ hard work are more likely to feel supported and connected to the community they’ve built at work.

3. Align Organizational Missions and Values with Employees’

While positive reinforcement from peers and superiors are perfectly effective extrinsic motivators, they don’t do much for employees who are looking for something more internal. In these cases, it might be beneficial to consider their personal values and how they align with the organization’s. 

When employees resonate with their organization’s driving mission, it creates a stronger sense of purpose and belonging. Communicating core values and goals can help, but it’s also important to make them personal to employees. Demonstrate how their roles contribute to the broader mission and emphasize their significance and contributions. 

Most importantly, ensure that policies and decisions reflect these aligned values and managers lead by example.

4. Help Employees Establish Tangible Career Goals with Clear Paths

Another way to intrinsically motivate employees is to help them define their career trajectories and support their long-term goals. 

Employees who are confident that their leaders and organization have their best interests in mind will feel empowered to go above and beyond in their work. Managers can initiate this with regular discussions about career development, acknowledging strengths and identifying areas for improvement, while helping them outline clear paths toward success. 

Resources such as mentorship programs, educational opportunities, and workshops can further refine skills, preparing employees for new positions within the organization. By demonstrating this level of dedication, organizations are more likely to retain their top talent.

5. Measure Motivation and Track Progress

It’s imperative that organizations measure the results of motivating their employees. While this kind of qualitative metric seems impossible to track, there are several ways to gain insight into employees’ mindsets and morale in the workplace. 

One-on-one meetings are often a go-to for managers looking to keep a pulse on engagement, but organizations can also go the more direct route of sending out anonymous surveys to gather honest, highly valuable feedback. At a higher level, organizations can also track absenteeism and turnover rates over time to see how their efforts are mitigating these risks.

Empower Employees to Reach Their New Year’s Goals

It’s clear that employee motivation will play a crucial role in the new year, especially as workers recover from the stress of 2023 and the holiday season. Fortunately, WellRight is here to help with a comprehensive wellness program tailored to your workforce.

Ready to help your employees discover their true potential? Talk to an expert today.

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