Employee Motivation

Top employee motivation ideas driven by 3 core pillars

With 2020 in the rearview mirror, People leaders want to infuse high levels of energy and intentionality into their employees to kick off 2021. At the same time, they’re identifying strategies to sustain this momentum throughout the year.

Success in these areas revolves around the ways in which HR leaders can inspire employee motivation—especially after such a demanding year. We recently hosted a webinar with Culture Amp and a panel of experts to explore the topic further:

  • Josh Berman, Director of Culture Enablement at Culture Amp
  • Mark Thein, Director of Talent and Learning at Glaukos
  • Anju Choudhary, Global Head of Learning & Development at NextRoll
  • Shannon Ferguson, Head of People at Blueboard 

Watch the full event recording here, and keep reading to dig into the top employee motivation takeaways from the webinar below:

The importance of employee motivation in 2021.

Employee motivation can have a direct impact on factors like retention, productivity, and engagement. For example, one actively disengaged employee can cost your organization $3,400 for every $10,000 of their salary. 

However, motivation all year round is important for reasons beyond just revenue. It’s also key to creating positive work experiences for employees.

When people are psychologically unattached to their work, they don’t put energy and passion into it. They’re not motivated to be their best self at work. Instead, they do the bare minimum and may look for an opportunity to jump to another company.

Anju, from NextRoll, says that “motivation is what keeps the wheels turning. When we’re properly motivated, there’s almost nothing we can’t do.” People leaders need to be thinking about strategies to boost motivation levels to keep the wheels turning at their organizations, especially given all the challenges people may continue to face in 2021.

3 core pillars that drive employee motivation

There are three core pillars to focus on when it comes to driving employee motivation in the new year:

  • Career development
  • Skills coaching
  • Employee recognition 

During the webinar, we asked our attendees which pillar they’re investing most of their resources into. This is how they responded: 

Regardless of which motivation pillar you're most heavily invested in, our panelists provided additional recommendations to help put each one into action at your own organization. 

1. Career development

Career development should be an evergreen priority, but it’s especially important as we start to envision a world after the pandemic. Giving employees a clear path forward sparks intrinsic motivation to perform, and it demonstrates that you’re still invested in the growth of your employees.

When it comes to most effectively supporting employees with career development opportunities, our panelists had a few recommendations: 

Recognize that career progressions aren’t linear 

It’s important to recognize that career development can mean different things to different people—whether that’s learning new skills, receiving a promotion, or being transferred to a new department. That’s why the team at NextRoll uses a career lattice, rather than a ladder, to give their managers and employees a framework to guide expectations across all levels at the organization. 

Career conversations are a shared responsibility 

Employees have unique goals for their careers, and it’s their responsibility to manage that path. However, Mark from Glaukos reminds us that a company also shares the responsibility to provide resources, opportunities, and frameworks to support its employees. 

For instance, he recommends providing managers with discussion templates to guide career conversations with employees. This type of resource can provide more structure and give both sides more confidence in navigating the discussion. 

2. Skills coaching

When employees aren’t challenged in their role, they can become complacent and disengaged with their work. Similarly, when they’re faced with too many challenges they might become demotivated. 

Skills coaching is a great way to stretch people just the right amount by focusing on specific areas of growth, whether that’s learning how to give better feedback or practicing one-on-one communication skills. This makes the development process much more digestible, actionable, and measurable for employees. Skills coaching is also an effective way to build autonomy and provide a sense of progress, which can be great motivators.

Here are additional recommendations from our panelists when it comes to skills coaching: 

Be intentional about development 

“Professional development is not a one-size-fits-all approach anymore."—Anju Choudhary, Global Head of Learning & Development at NextRoll

Companies need to be intentional about what they’re trying to accomplish with their development efforts. For example, some leadership programs might not be gender-specific. Skill sets that women may need help with more than men—like learning how to be assertive or asking for opportunities—may not be addressed with a generalized approach. 

That’s why NextRoll has a six-month leadership program that’s specifically designed to give women the skills and knowledge to have a greater impact at the company.

Focus on coaching as a skill first 

Josh from Culture Amp encourages HR leaders to focus on unlocking the skill of coaching first. To accomplish this, he recommends training managers on various aspects of coaching, from getting aligned on the definition to sharing actionable best practices.

It’s important to have managers incorporate these learnings into their daily behaviors, which companies can encourage by creating coaching-specific communities on Slack for accountability purposes. Once managers are trained to be effective coaches, they can apply this skill to other aspects of their job—such as helping team members through work-related challenges or guiding direct reports toward their career goals. 

3. Employee recognition

Recognition and employee motivation are linked closely together. When managers take the time to recognize their employees, engagement can increase by up to 60%. Employee recognition also reinforces the behaviors that align with the company’s values and goals, and it can help strengthen relationships with both managers and peers.

Here are a few additional tips from our panelists when it comes to having an effective employee recognition program at your company: 

Build a variable employee recognition program

Different people respond to different types of recognition—extrinsic versus intrinsic. Consider building a variable program that includes a mix of value-based, performance-based, and milestone-based recognition. 

Also, don’t be afraid to change up the formality, cadence, and structure of your recognition programs. Even something as simple as a Slack channel dedicated to shoutouts or a quick “thank you” email can have a positive impact on employee motivation and can easily be done all year long.

Personalize the program to your company 

The team at Glaukos built multiple recognition programs that are specific to their fun, innovative, and authentic company culture. For example, they give Blueboard’s experiential rewards for service milestones and company-wide contests. This, in turn, has created a powerful culture of recognition at Glaukos, which has led to their employees feeling deeply appreciated and connected. 

Make 2021 the year of employee motivation.

With the right strategies in place, you can help your employees kick off 2021 with high levels of energy and motivation. Use these three core pillars to inform your HR policies and initiatives for the new year. If you’re curious to learn how Blueboard’s experiential rewards platform can support your employee motivation efforts, request a personalized demo online here.

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