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Employee Motivation Techniques

“Employee Motivation Techniques” is the seventh article in our series on performance management. Motivation is at the heart of performance. So knowing how to motivate is a critical skill.

Think back to a time when you felt really energised, excited and yes, motivated at work? What was it that motivated you?

It’s more than likely that you were doing something you were really interested in, where you had a lot of freedom to get on with things, in a way you saw fit.

The article below is part of our series on How to Motivate Employees to PERFORM. Knowing how to motivate employees to perform is one of the most important aspects of a manager’s job.

As important though, is the need to manage the factors that contribute to that motivation, and to create the conditions for people to perform and realise their potential.

Our tool to help you achieve these management skills is the Apex PERFORM model. It stands for:

  • P – Potential
  • E – Expertise
  • R – Results
  • F – Focus
  • O – Opportunities
  • R – Resources
  • MMotivation
Employee motivation techniquesMotivation is one of the most important aspects of good management. It may be a complex and frustrating issue, with different people being motivated by different things. However without appropriate employee motivation techniques you are unlikely to see improved performance.

Ironically, it can be managers themselves who end up de-motivating employees. This is a point provocatively made by David Sirota and his colleagues:

“… the key question is not how to motivate employees, but how to sustain – and prevent management from destroying – the motivation that employees naturally bring to their jobs.”

The starting point for managers then may well be to find out what motivates people and then try and not get in the way! So what do we understand by the word motivation?


Knowing how to motivate employees means understanding the basics of motivation. Put simply, motivation is the intent or desire to act. However, people can be motivated by different things and motivation is essentially a complex and often personal issue.

For some, external factors are important, such as wealth, perks, status and position. For others, motivation is more about intrinsic factors, such as feeling satisfied, enjoying a sense of challenge, feeling valued, or realizing their potential.

What motivates someone then may well fall somewhere between intrinsic and external factors. Find out what is likely to motivate an employee to best put in place appropriate employee motivation techniques. If someone is more motivated by intrinsic factors think about some of the following techniques:

  • offer challenging assignments
  • provide interesting work
  • value what they do and show your appreciation

If they are more motivated by external factors then consider emphasizing:

  • fringe benefits associated with the role
  • position and promotion opportunities
  • monetory benefits

Its worth remembering that employees may well be motivated by a combination of both kinds of motivation.

Whilst considering the needs of individual employees is important there is a more interesting question to ask.

The Best Employee Motivation Technique?

Which factors are more likely to encourage motivation that leads to performance?

The answer is surprisingly clear. Better performance comes from intrinsic motivation. In fact if you tried to condense the work of noted psychologist Frederick Herzberg into one line, it might be this. The one thing that would most probably motivate people would be to make work interesting and challenging.

Perhaps we have made motivation more complex than it needs to be? Yes if extrinsic factors are missing, or done badly in an organisation people are de-motivated, but putting them right won’t necessarily spur people on to be motivated and perform. In trying to apply lots of different employee motivation techniques have we lost track of a more fundamental requirement: to create interesting and challenging work.

Where to go from here:


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