Employers have been trying to master the science of effectively motivating employees since, well, there were employers and employees. At a basic level, motivation in the workplace refers to your employees’ underlying enthusiasm toward their job; it’s the force that drives them to complete daily tasks in a way that’s not just adequate, but exceptional. While we’ve come a long way in terms of what we know about motivation now versus a few years ago, many organizations still struggle with this complex function.

The bulk of the complexity stems from the fact that the term “motivation” can mean different things to people. A tactic that inspires one employee might not have the same effect on another, so employers need to gain a deep understanding of the variances in their workforce if they want to tap into the benefits of motivation.

By unlocking the right motivation strategy for your workforce, you’ll turn your organization into a well-oiled machine of productivity, engagement and overall satisfaction.

1. Open Up Lines of Communication

Ineffective or inadequate solutions for internal communications can be an employer’s worst enemy in the battle for employee motivation. A disengaged or unmotivated employee costs an average of $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary. On an even larger scale, statistics suggest that a lack of motivation costs the American economy $350 billion each year.

At the end of the day, most employees simply want to be “in the know” of what’s happening within the organization, feel involved in company goals and have a voice that’s heard. A strong approach to internal communications ensures an understanding among employees of what they should be doing, why they’re doing it, and how it affects the company at large. Some quick ways to improve communication and motivation include:

  • Updating staff with company changes or information that might impact their work, including departmental developments or customer feedback.
  • Encouraging employees to give ideas, voice feedback and ask questions.
  • Communicate daily with employees—even a friendly “good morning” can be enough to increase engagement.

Whichever methods are chosen, motivation should be an organic force—it should grow and evolve alongside your team as they similarly grow and evolve in their careers. Employers should be open to making changes and adjustments depending on new discoveries or developments along the way, and the only way to know when it’s time to make these changes is to communicate.

2. Show Employees There’s Room to Grow

Many employers assume that money is always the answer when it comes to motivation in the workplace. However, there are plenty of other ways to foster a motivation in the workplace. In fact, 69% of employees say that they’d work harder if they simply felt greater appreciation from their bosses.

Another factor often responsible for workplace dissatisfaction, and one that can eventually demotivate even the most ambitious of workers, is feeling stagnant or deprived of opportunities for development. 87% of millennials say career growth is crucial to job satisfaction, and addressing this can be as simple as showing employees a path for growth. One way to highlight this path is to promote from within whenever possible. You can also offer opportunities to take on additional responsibilities or get involved with projects that aren’t typically available to their job level.

There are benefits on both sides of the coin here, too—employees are challenged and satisfied in their continued learning experiences, and employers extract a little extra value from their added skillsets.

3. Provide a Clear Sense of Purpose

Regardless of what your business does, whether you offer services or build products, it’s crucial to infuse purpose into everything from daily tasks to quarterly goals. This concept is  especially important to Millennials and Gen Z, many of which claim they’d rather work for a company that focuses on purpose over profit.

This sense of purpose can begin by sharing goals on a regular basis and cultivating a transparent culture—from the C-Suite down to interns. You’ll find that the more open you are about department goals and KPIs, the more driven each team will be to work towards success as a unit.

Employees who know what they’re working toward (and why they’re working toward it) will be more likely to see how their role impacts the business at large and fuel their motivation to make the organization proud.

4. Make an Example of Company Leaders

Motivating employees is a managerial function of any team-leader within an organization—regardless of department. Employees will naturally turn to their leaders as reference for how they should act, so it’s important that what they see is consistent with how they’re expected to behave.

This means leaders of an organization need to be prepared to exude a specific set of values from both a professional standpoint as well as a cultural one. From giving a maximum effort on a daily basis, to engaging positively with others around the office, employees will mirror the behavior of their leaders and use it to build company culture.

5. Remember That a Little Recognition Goes a Long Way

When asked how leaders could improve engagement, 58% of employees pointed to more recognition, and in organizations where managers do recognize employee contributions, engagement levels were increased by 60%.

Sometimes the best way is also the simplest way, and this is especially true with motivation. Communicating sincere gratitude, targeted recognition and constructive feedback will go further than you may think to improving company morale and encouraging employees to identify more deeply with their work.

It’s important for managers to determine the amount of feedback their employees need and integrate it into their relationship. Everyone needs a pat on the back from time to time, and one of the best ways to motivate employees is simply to make sure they don’t feel ignored.

6. Infuse Personality Into the Office Environment

Inspiration and motivation go hand-in-hand—the more employers work to create a versatile and welcoming atmosphere, the better employees will feel on a daily basis. Simply put, a visually appealing workplace promotes a culture of organization, consistency and excellence.

There’s such significant correlation between office environment and employee performance, that studies found a well-ventilated, well-lit and safe workplace improved productivity by 16% and boosted job satisfaction by 24%. Given that our surroundings are a main source of inspiration, it’s not always a bad idea to try moving away from the traditional workplace design and into something more flexible.

For instance, some companies have started to tear down cubicle walls to create a friendlier, “open-office” atmosphere. If you aren’t sure what employees want or where to get started, ask!

You can initiate the conversation together as a group or send out a survey to get more information about what they want from their workspace.

Motivating Employees Matters

At the end of the day, people are versatile and unique but difficult to predict. We each have our own idea of what motivation looks like, and while you might not always please everyone, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort. By cultivating a business rooted in happy and motivated employees, you’ll recognize significant improvements in job satisfaction, bottom lines and customer experience.

Your motivational strategy will become more effective as you refine it based on a deeper understanding of the people at your company. Respond to their needs, and they’ll reward you with great work, exceptional results and a connected vision for the future.