Summit Team Building

Motivation in the Workplace

Motivation in the Workplace

5 Research Based Strategies to Help Motivation in the Workplace

Motivating people in the workplace is hard.

Especially in a year where we’re quickly moving from navigating widespread turnover and ‘The Big Quit’ to dealing with the economic downturn and subsequent layoffs, we want you to know that you’re not the only one wanting to pull their hair out.

Unfortunately, the social contagion effect – which we described briefly in our previous post as a source of motivation – also has a downside. When one member of the team leaves, it increases the chances that others will do the same. The firing of one team member can also damage the morale and motivation of the entire team.

Trying to motivate a team in this climate can’t be easy. We hear you, and we see you.

Turning the Tide

The good news, though, is that there could still be strategies you could use to turn the tide.

Everyone seems to have their own opinion about what it takes when it comes to motivation in the workplace, which is unsurprising, considering how broad, yet important, this question is. Given the circumstances, however, implementing an effective strategy with a noticeable ROI is critical.

So, we think that this is a particularly good time to turn to the research, which highlights several strategies that have strong evidence for being effective. Among these, we wanted to highlight five approaches for you to consider.

1.           Build Authentic Relationships

First, leaders who are effective at motivating their team understand that there’s no magic-bullet initiative, like on-site fitness centres or meditation, that can suddenly generate lasting motivation in their team. Lack of motivation is often a relational problem, so motivating a team requires relational solutions. When we prioritize the relationships we have with our team members and are authentic and transparent, we build trust within the team, which is a key characteristic of highly motivated teams.

Something about trusting and authentic relationships seems to motivate teams. One possible explanation for this could be that trusting relationships help us see the best in one another, which then inspires us to live up to our best selves. Effective leaders motivate their teams by drawing their strengths out within the context of an authentic relationship.

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2.          Show Respect and Appreciation

Motivating teams by showing respect may seem intuitive but is surprisingly powerful. In a study published last year of young workers aged 21 to 34, researchers found that workers placed much more value on being respected in the workplace than having trendy work perks, like happy hour. When team members feel appreciated for their contributions, they are more resilient, more committed to the team, and more motivated to give their best effort at work.

3.          Cultivate Belonging

In 2014, psychologists from Stanford published a fascinating study of an experiment which found that simply feeling as if they belonged to a team helped participants feel more motivated to persevere when performing difficult tasks. The researchers suggest that feeling like we’re working together turns a tedious task from work into play, which makes it more intrinsically enjoyable. These findings urge us as leaders to evaluate whether our teams feel a sense of belonging – and whether their motivation could be boosted by simply increasing their sense of collaboration.

4.         Invest in Professional Development

There’s also some interesting research published in recent decades that points to a connection between investments in professional training and development and motivation and engagement at work. When we invest time and resources in our team members’ development, we demonstrate that we care for and value them, which in turn maximizes their engagement, confidence, and performance.

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5.          Recognize Progress

Finally, there is a strong body of research that points to the fact that one of the most effective ways of motivating team members is by showing them the progress they’ve made on a meaningful task. Knowing that their efforts actually lead to important and meaningful results is one of the most powerful and empirically-supported ways of motivating team members. Interestingly, researchers suggest that even highlighting small, trivial steps forward can be enough to motivate teams. Have we done enough to show our teams that their efforts really do matter?

Though these strategies have strong empirical support, here’s the truth: none of them are easy to implement. Building relationships, showing respect, cultivating belonging, investing in development and highlighting progress all require you – as a leader – to take time and go out of your way to invest in your team. You may even need to get creative. Ultimately, here’s the point we hope that you’ll take away from this: with the right approaches and the willingness to invest in your people, motivating your team is possible.

We’re Here to Help!

We get that many leaders don’t have the time or resources to do this alone. With more than three decades of experience working with organizations across the globe, we’ve developed numerous programs, training workshops and motivational keynotes to incorporate these five motivational strategies into the organizational cultures of teams in various industries. Connect with us today to learn how we can help!

Lewis Lau

With a BA in Psychology and MA in Applied Health Sciences from Brock University, Lewis has spent the past decade reviewing and conducting original empirical research on leadership and team development. He is especially passionate about drawing applicable and relevant insights from current and credible empirical studies from various disciplines, and believes high-quality, intersectional research should inform best practices.

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