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.

Employee empowerment is an extremely impactful (yet often underutilized) motivation tactic. When used properly, your empowerment strategy can increase business profitability, revive company culture and improve satisfaction – both internally and externally.

In fact, one study found that organizations leveraging employee empowerment receive 50% higher degrees of customer loyalty. However, so many businesses are focused on empowering their customer, that they forget about motivating and empowering their employees.

How to empower & motivate employees

Open up lines of communication

Ineffective or inadequate solutions for internal communication 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Have company leaders set an example

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.

Infuse personality into the office environment

Inspiration and motivation go hand-in-hand—the more employers work to create a 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.

Foster a social workforce

Employee empowerment begins with giving your staff access to the resources they need to become more productive and efficient. Today, we’re constantly browsing social media pages at work and checking emails at home, creating an undeniable connection between our work and personal lives. However, these blurred lines don’t have to be a negative thing for business.

Though some organizations fear giving their employees social media access during work hours, the truth is that embracing the social world is often very beneficial to companies.

Not only can social accounts give your employees a new way of interfacing with potential customers, but it also ensures that they’re ready to advocate on the behalf of your brand in a positive light. It’s easier than ever for employees to share branded content with their social networks, and it’s important for employers to take advantage of that.

Create flexible team structures

Engagement can resonate strongly among employees and the customers you serve, and achieving this often hinges on collaboration. When you encourage this kind of internal culture, your most innovative employees will begin to connect with one another and inspire new ideas and solutions. Collaboration can be improved through workplace tools, social resources and even business intranets.

You could allow your employees to create their own teams for specific projects, choosing the best skillsets for specific challenges. Some businesses will even benefit from using their current team to find and recruit new talent for your team.

Provide independence & freedom

Finally, one of the simplest ways to gain loyalty from your staff and ensure employee empowerment is to show your team that you trust them. Clarify the results you’re hoping to achieve, and allow your workers to approach projects from their own angle.

According to a survey conducted by Harvard, the power of choice in the workplace improves employee satisfaction, drives motivation and allows for better performance. Empowering your employees means giving them the opportunity to show their skills and add their own personal flair to project management.

Empowering employees for a brighter future

Regardless of how subtle or significant your initiatives for employee empowerment might be, they’re crucial to creating a more rewarding experience for customers and staff alike. By learning how to empower employees, you give your team the resources they need to deliver a better customer experience for your brand and streamline the path towards achieving your business goals.

Employees who promote and identify with their company brand—both on and offline—are the best indicators of success when looking at engagement and communication levels. After all, an engaged workforce means employees are invested in you on a personal level, and they want to share that with peers in their network.

If you want to learn even more, check out our webinar about the value of employee engagement and empowerment, or read on to learn some great ideas for celebrating & recognizing your workforce.

14 employee recognition ideas for companies of any size

In today’s workplace, employee recognition programs aren’t just a “nice to have” anymore, they’re essential. Aberdeen research indicates that organizations using a formal engagement plan, complete with employee appreciation ideas, see a 26% greater increase in year-over-year revenue compared to those without one.

According to a World at Work survey, 88% of organizations have employee recognition programs in place, but less than a quarter of businesses believe their employees are actually engaged at work. In fact, only 1 in 4 workers feel valued at work, meaning that many current recognition programs simply aren’t working.

Employee recognition ideas for both small and large businesses have historically ranged all the way from gift vouchers, to “employee of the month” celebrations to all-inclusive trips and getaways.

Today, however, the modern workforce is looking for something more personal than the typical “well done” email. In fact, a Harvard Business Review found that recognition and positive reinforcement remain essential components to a successful company.

So, before we offer you a list of new and improved employee appreciation ideas, let’s cover the keys to making your programs work.

  1. Frequency: Recognition should be given frequently, according to the amount of effort expended. In other words, you need to give recognition often enough to have an impact, but not so often that rewards lose their value.
  2. Time: Employees need businesses to recognize their efforts quickly. Don’t wait weeks before offering appreciation for a job well-done.
  3. Clarity & Specificity: When it comes to employee appreciation ideas for large companies, small businesses, or mid-size organizations, make sure that you’re specific. Let your employee know why you appreciate their work, and how their actions contribute to the company’s overall goals
  4. Peer-to-Peer Interaction: Sometimes, receiving recognition from peers is far more important to workers than accessing recognition from company leaders. Oracle research found that peer recognition was twice as valuable as manager recognition.
  5. Attention to Detail: Finally, remember that something as small as a handwritten note or shout-out can be as effective as a monetary bonus when it comes to employee appreciation ideas. Find what works best for your company culture.

So, what are some of the simplest, and most effective ways to implement employee recognition program ideas? Let’s take a look.

1. Get social with employee recognition

By 2020, the number of worldwide users for social networks should reach around 2.95 billion.

The world is more social than ever, particularly among Millennials, who make up a substantial portion of the workforce.

Chances are, your company already has a presence on social media, so make sure you take advantage of that and give your employees a personal shout-out or tag them in pictures to recognize a job well done. This solution can even improve your follower base, not to mention increase employee advocacy, as your staff will be more likely to share the post with peers and friends in their social networks.

2. Customize every reward

About 94% of customers and marketing professionals believe personalization is crucial to marketing—so why shouldn’t it be a key factor in your employee appreciation ideas too? 72% of employees say that customizing their benefits would increase their loyalty to their employer.

Depending on the nature of each specific role and industry, employees will vary on how they want to be rewarded. One of the easiest ways to get to the root of these different motivation avenues is to remove guessing from the equation and simply ask them. You might even find that their answer is easier to execute on or more cost-effective than what you had originally planned for.

3. Create your own points system

Just like a punch-card that offers a free coffee after you collect enough stamps, a staff appreciation program system, complete with points, can help to make employee engagement easier and more fun.

You can dole out points for behaviors that matter to your company’s core values, including working well as a team, or closing an important deal. Employees can then trade those points in for gift-cards, time off or other perks and experiences you deem right for your culture.

4. Make the most of your website

Many businesses use their website to attract and retain customers, but there’s a component in there that’s also critical for maintaining key employees, too. If 51% of employers believe that retaining employees with recognition and benefits will become more crucial within the next five years, show off your attention to this element!

Yello highlights employees on their website who exemplify their ideal recruit, and feature them using a Q&A-style approach:

Use your website to highlight employees that are performing above and beyond by a feature post on your blog or on a part of your About Us or Careers page. Not only does this make your staff feel great, but it can increase customer engagement with your brand by giving them an insight into the human side of your business.

5. Reward employees with talent growth

Employee recognition ideas for small business can be difficult because they often have limited budgets to work with. Keep in mind though, sometimes just giving your staff members the opportunity to tackle new tasks or expand their skills can be enough to keep them happy.

In fact, 83% of employees, given the opportunity to address new challenges, are more likely to stay with their company. By offering personalized growth and education opportunities, you let your employees know that you’re invested in their careers and what they achieve in their lives. You can even access free courses online if you’re looking for ideas that are easy on the budget.

6. Design an offline/online bulletin board

Bulletin boards might seem a little old-fashioned, but online collaboration and communication platforms can help you assemble one that your whole team can access any time. There are a variety of ways you can create a bulletin board employees actually want to read.

Upgrade your employee appreciation ideas by encouraging staff to respond to staff-member shout outs with emojis, gifs, and feedback. At the same time, share quotes from your customers around the office that help workers see that they’re not just appreciated by staff and team members, but customers too.

7. Recognize passions beyond the workplace

Let’s face it, we’re more than just our careers. Employee recognition programs allow your workforce to recognize that the personalities among their teams and departments are far more engaging than those that are purely work related.

Appreciate your employees for their external activities and passions, and they’ll feel less like cogs in the business machine. You can even donate to their most important causes or organize charity events to take this one step further and help them feel empowered that their work is making a difference on the world at large.

8. Offer flexible working programs

The top five reasons employees appreciate working for small businesses include: flexible schedules (27%), seeing the outcome of their hard work (23%), feeling like their opinion matters (17%), receiving rewards for hard work (14%), and getting noticed by peers (9%). This means that employee recognition ideas for small business should include things that incorporate these crucial concerns.

Giving staff members a chance to rest and relax with some flexible or remote working could be a great way to improve the work/life balance that professionals so desperately crave.

9. Let employees chart their own path

Linking up to the opportunities for growth that we mentioned before, a great way to show employees appreciation and respect for their professional development is to let them choose the projects they want to work on. This encourages employees to switch up monotony of daily tasks and explore something different, which will pay off for both of you in the long-run as you cultivate a workforce of well-rounded and challenged employees.

According to Mercer, 78% of employees say they’d stay with their current employer if they felt they had a career path, and not just a job. More than just a reward, allowing staff to choose their ideal projects could also mean that you discover new talents for different segments of your business.

10. Have some fun with gamification

A little competition in the workplace isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can energize an environment and give workers the drive they need to concentrate on key tasks. Almost 80% of the people surveyed by Talent LMS said that they’d be more productive if their work was more game-like.

Create a scoreboard and let people gather points towards an incredible end-of-month gift. Or, if you’re interested in teamwork, allow employees to work in groups and reward everyone involved with the most effective team.

11. Show an interest in self-care

Employee recognition ideas that focus on benefits and support the self-care and fitness of your workers are incredibly important—in fact, 51% of employees say that doing so results in increased productivity.

Whether this means giving your staff access to gym memberships, or giving them de-stress techniques to use at work, remember that healthy employees are often happier, and more engaged. One study by Optum found that 84% of employees think that workplace wellness programs show that employers care about their staff, while 73% said the programs increase productivity

12. Maintain a celebration calendar

Struggling to figure out how often you should be implementing employee recognition program ideas? Studies indicate that 75% of employees who are achieve managerial recognition at least once a month reported feeling satisfied with their job.

Keep everyone on track by building a calendar that can work alongside your overall office calendar. The celebration calendar can indicate when anniversaries, specific special events, birthdays, and other important achievements are happening.

13. Offer recognition that complements your brand story

Why shouldn’t your employee recognition ideas help to improve your brand story, too? Rather than just giving someone a gift card when they do a good job, consider celebrating employees when they reach crucial milestones with things that represent your company culture.

Rewarding employees with purposeful and meaningful recognition captures the hearts and minds of more than just your workforce—it inspires your customers as well. After all, everyone loves a good story.

14. Keep it simple with a trophy

About 18% of employees don’t feel confident that their employer cares for them—and it doesn’t take much to combat this notion. An office trophy that can move across exemplary employees can be a simple, and cost-effective way to make the most of employee recognition program ideas.

You can even have your employees add special personalization to their trophy, and put it in a case at the end of the year, so you can start fresh as new employees join your business or as company goals change and evolve over time.

Finding ideal employee recognition ideas

Recognition is the key to employee engagement. The important thing to remember is that it’s not just the recognition that’s important, but also the way in which your employees see that recognition. If your employee appreciation programs lack personality, individuality or accuracy, they’re unlikely to resonate with your workers. For many businesses, finding the right program will be a matter of testing different strategies, and speaking to their employees about how they define “recognition.”

Different employees want different things when it comes to accessing rewards for their work, but the ideas above should help you to leave the boring, unsatisfactory appreciation concepts in the past, where they belong.

Sometimes, one of the biggest benefits you can give your employees when it comes to employee recognition ideas is the chance to get away from the workplace and reboot their brains and creativity. Read on to kickstart your next team outing with some fresh inspiration.

9 engaging team outing ideas

Coming up with new and creative team outing ideas can be tricky.

Executives tend to view them as budget-eaters, while employees appear less than thrilled at the thought of spending more time with their co-workers. However, if your team isn’t thrilled by the idea, it could be a sign that you need to look a little closer at your corporate culture.

The only way companies can build powerful social advocacy campaigns—transforming their employees into ambassadors for their business—is to cultivate a team more than just a group of disparate staff members. By boosting engagement and developing stronger internal relationships, you can reinvigorate employees and inspire devotion around the success of your organization. Team outings also encourage better internal communication, increase collaboration and mitigate conflict, helping to boost your bottom line.

Team outings & employee advocacy

The idea behind team outings is that they contribute to a corporate culture your employees want to be part of. Not only can team outings be worked into your benefit package in that they provide set aside time to relax and unwind, but they can also foster teamwork and trust that you can take back with you into the office.

The more engagement you can foster among employees, the more powerful your business becomes. According to the Corporate Leadership Council, engaged organizations grow their profits 3x faster than competitors.

If your employees start to think of your business as a fun and exciting place to work, they’ll be happier in their position. Company outings can be a great way to cultivate the employee satisfaction you need for a strong brand advocacy program.

When people can jump on their social media accounts to talk about the things they learned from their latest corporate outing or to write a blog about an event, brand advocacy starts to feel more natural.

The statistics behind corporate outings as employee engagement ideas just go to show how much team-building exercises can work to develop stronger corporate culture, and happier workers. As CEO for Zappos Tony Hsieh said: “If we get the culture right, then great service and building a long-term enduring brand will just be a natural byproduct.”

1. Give something back

Today, inspiring engagement from your employees requires a lot more than a good paycheck. Employees want purpose from their careers, and one way to give them that is to make a point of volunteering during your team outings. Community work not only allows your staff to learn how to work together more effectively, but it also shows them that your business stands for something bigger than itself, which is a great way to generate loyalty from your employees.

According to one study, 75% of Millennials think it’s a good idea for companies to give back to society, rather than just making money for the business. People who do something good for the world are more likely to share their experiences with others. After you’ve volunteered, encourage your employees to get sharing. Not only will this make them feel good about what they’ve accomplished, but it will also have a great impact on your brand reputation, and may help you to attract new talent from the purpose-focused pool of millennials who are looking for work today!

Salesforce allows its company employees to take up to 56 total paid hours a year just for volunteering. If you complete all of those volunteering days in one year, you get a grant of $1,000 that you can donate to your favorite charity.

2. Get outside

Worried that your current workforce might be too stressed to function productively at the office? A good way to show that you appreciate their needs is to give them a regular opportunity to get outside and spend some time with nature.

When your team spends too much time sitting behind closed doors, the fresh air and open spaces of a natural outdoor space can be an incredible way to revitalize the brain and de-stress. Because your workers will generally feel calmer, they’ll be able to boost productivity drastically. In fact, experiments show that a stroll through the park can be enough to increase focus in a task.

3. Become a tourist for the day

Encouraging your team to rediscover their city and surroundings can be a wonderful way to boost engagement and build the potential of your business identity at the same time. For instance, touristy activities show your local customers that you appreciate their home town or city, particularly if you share plenty of pictures and updates on social media.

If you’re not sure what to do, get online and find out what’s available in your local area. The more eye-opening the experience, the better.

4. Go to an improv session

One of the most important things for a company to cultivate at work is effective communication. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for employees to feel comfortable sharing their ideas, particularly if your office place has a traditional hierarchy of supervisors and staff. An improv session can encourage people to get rid of their embarrassment and nerves, and say what they really feel.

When you’re planning your improv session, try to use themes that will help your employees to overcome any concerns they have about sharing ideas and thoughts at work. This could help you to open up new ideas in the future when you’re looking for ways to build your business.

5. Sign up for a weekly class

Learning opportunities are important to employee engagement, so why not take your team outing ideas to the next level, by making education a weekly event. Today’s workers aren’t just looking for opportunities that allow them to build their skills in the workplace. While opportunities for professional advancement are important, modern staff want to be able to build on their personal hobbies too.

If you’re looking for a relaxing opportunity, you can sign people in your office up for a weekly painting session with a local artist, where you’ll learn how to create some art for the office walls. On the other hand, if you want something tasty, you can always try hiring a chef to come out and teach you all how to cook simple meals.

6. Explore somewhere new together

Thriving in today’s competitive business world is often about stepping outside of the box. For bigger events, why not encourage your team to get outside of their regular surroundings and discover a new place? You could charter a bus and take your team somewhere special—perhaps even somewhere that’s connected to your brand or business.

Not only is an adventure a natural way to inspire some social sharing among your teams’ friends and family, it’s also a great way to get everyone on the same page.

7. Go on a scavenger hunt

Ever find that your company professionals have trouble finding the answers to complex problems? Try honing their skills by giving them a scavenger hunt to complete. If you have trouble designing one yourself, these days you can usually download an app for your phone that will design one for you. Split your group into teams of people that either usually work together, or never have time to interact to boost the chances of great results.

For the best chance of boosting your social sharing potential, think about asking your employees to confirm that they’ve achieved each stage of their scavenger hunt by posting a picture on their social media channels.

8. Try an escape room

In today’s professional landscape, learning and happiness often go hand-in-hand. Trying something entirely new with your team is a great way to generate good vibes among your employees, which will benefit your business as a whole. A unique experience like an escape room can push your workers slightly outside of their comfort zone, so that they can come together and work as a team and new and interesting ways.

As interactive physical adventures, escape rooms require teams to use a range of skills to find their way out of a sticky situation. For some teams, it won’t be too far removed from the experience of dealing with a difficult client, or an awkward project.

9. Develop a brand-related outing

Finally, if you’re trying to come up with team outing ideas to improve engagement and corporate culture, then it’s a good idea to think about something that’s relative to your industry. Staying on-brand will help to reinforce the values of the company and keep your employees feeling passionate about your brand. It’ll also mean that the employee-generated content you share later will seem more appropriate.

For example, if you have a nature or eco-themed business or service, keep your employees in touch with the great outdoors with a relevant outing.

Keep the positive momentum flowing

One of the biggest reasons that employee engagement ideas, like company outings, fall flat is because organizations look at them as “one-time” events, rather than solutions to establish corporate culture. Once you’ve completed your chosen activity, it’s important to find a way that you can keep the excitement going.

The most obvious solution is to gather pictures, stories and information that you can go on to use as part of your employee advocacy program. If your employees genuinely enjoyed your outings, they’ll be more than happy to share the experience with their network, which will help to make content feel more natural and authentic.

Ultimately, by creating an empowered and engaged workforce, you’ll also be activating your employees as motivated brand advocates.

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