Want Better Output? Invest in Employee Motivation

Are you happy with your job?  I used to think this question only mattered to individual employees at an organization, but I’ve recently come to appreciate how employee morale is also a vital part of an organization’s success.  Morale is more than just feeling happy in the workplace—it involves being motivated to continuously improve one’s skills and come up with new, creative ways to solve problems.  Organizations benefit tremendously when their employees take the initiative to work on their personal development without having to be prompted by an annual review.  Client and stakeholder engagement also improves when employees are motivated to develop innovative solutions.  On the other hand, having unmotivated employees can lead to frequent personnel turnover, lackluster performance, and decreased productivity, all of which contribute to personal dissatisfaction and organizational decline. If you answered “no” to the question Are you happy with your job, you are certainly not alone: 52.3% of Americans are currently unsatisfied with their jobs, including 41% of federal workers.  Unmotivated employees are more likely to make careless errors in their work, and tend to focus solely on delivering the bare minimum that is expected.  A lack of drive and creativity can also negatively impact business development.  This makes it imperative to understand how to help employees feel motivated at work—not only for the personal fulfillment that comes from being excited to go to work each day, but also to ensure that the organization continues to thrive.

You’d think financial incentives would be the best way to address a lack of motivation, but as Dan Pink points out, these kinds of incentives can actually dull creativity and hinder productivity.  Monetary rewards may successfully increase motivation for simple tasks, but long-term, complex goals rarely have easy solutions.  Successfully working towards a mission requires engaged, motivated employees to provide innovation and creativity, especially at a time when many organizations have to do more with less.  So if we can’t use carrots and sticks to motivate employees, what can we do?

The answer is threefold: Invest in autonomy, technology, and work-life balance.


Greater autonomy involves providing specific goals and letting employees work to accomplish them through means that best suit them.  Sometimes this means letting them work on a slightly different schedule outside of the typical 9 – 5 day, or it may mean letting them try a technique that they’re familiar with that may be new to you.  Giving employees some freedom to decide how best to achieve their organization’s goals lets them know that their opinions and skills are valued, which leads to greater motivation and a more productive workforce.  The organization also benefits from fresh ideas, fueling innovation and business development.


One of the chief contributing factors to federal employees’ lack of satisfaction is the lack of sufficient resources to perform their jobs.  This can affect private sector employees as well since insufficient or severely outdated technology can hinder communication across the organization.  Programs such as Bring Your Own Device allow employees to use technology that they’re familiar with and foster collaboration across teams and geographic locations.  Providing employees with up to date technology also signals that the organization is connected to the outside world and that they’re willing to invest in employee success.  All of this translates to a more motivated workforce since employees feel that they have the proper tools to be successful.

Work-life Balance

The phrase “work-life balance” is thrown around a lot these days, but its importance shouldn’t be overlooked.  Most people value a good balance between their personal and professional lives more than they do a higher paycheck, so it’s important to give employees the opportunity to set a work schedule that allows them to feel fulfilled both at work and at home.  One increasingly popular policy is allowing more employees to telework from home.  This gives people the space to handle personal responsibilities and leads to fewer distractions at work.  An employee that works from home doesn’t need to worry about whether or not their kids were dropped off on time or if an important package is sitting outside in the rain.  They can devote their full attention and energy to work right up until the moment that they need to focus on their personal responsibilities.  Something as simple as working outside of the office once in a while can have a profound effect on keeping employees motivated since it indicates the company values their personal time in addition to the hours they spend on the job.

What helps you stay motivated at work?