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How to motivate your team

Everyone wants motivated employees. They’re happier, make the work environment more positive, and are more productive. Getting employees to enjoy what they do is invaluable. 

And there’s an employee motivation deficit in the UK. According to HR Magazine, Only 13% of employees say that they go to work because they love what they do, and 19% of employees think about quitting at least once a week. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to motivate employees. 

Benefits of motivated employees

Strengthening employee motivation is good for a number of reasons. For such an intangible and variable concept, motivation makes a massive difference in the productivity and efficiency of your workplace. And motivation spreads; just one or two people who care deeply about their work can inspire the same in others. 

So how exactly does employee motivation help a business? 

Increased innovation

Motivating employees inspires them to approach their jobs not just enthusiastically, but also creatively. That leads to new ideas and improvements, whether in your product or in your business model. 

Generating new ideas is key to the success of any business. The longer you’re around, the more competitors will spring up, and the greater need you’ll have to differentiate yourself from them. 

Employee engagement

A motivated employee is an engaged employee. Employee engagement has a few different definitions, but the gist of it is that employees display:

  • Vigour (energy and resilience)

  • Dedication (enthusiasm for and pride in their work)

  • Absorption (concentration and engrossment)

Having an engaged team can help increase profitability, by as much as 21%

Increased productivity

Just like they’re more engaged, motivated employees are more productive. Productive employees get more done during the workday, and tend to have higher standards for their work. A study on employee motivation found that offices where employees are motivated are around 43% more productive. 

Employee retention

Making sure your employees are motivated also makes sure your employees will stick around. Employees who find their work interesting, rewarding, and meaningful are more likely to remain. Motivating employees is important because many people, even if they generally like their job, switch jobs if they feel they’re at a dead end. 

Giving employees targets to hit and opportunities to grow within the business helps motivate them and gives a purpose to their tasks. That sense of purpose is key to retaining your workers. 

These are just some of the reasons it’s important to know how to motivate employees. The question now is how can you foster that motivation? 

Financial incentives

One of the most obvious ways to motivate employees is money. Especially in the UK, pay is a massive motivator. 62% of employees say their pay is the biggest reason they go to work. On the other hand, just raising salaries and calling it a day isn’t always the best call. You need to be judicious with financial rewards, both in terms of how much you pay and what you pay employees for. 

Pay for performance

Pay for performance is a compensation model that hands out salary increases or bonuses as employees meet certain targets or demonstrate higher-quality work. A manager paying for performance might give someone a bonus for having the highest sales numbers or consistently completing daily tasks in a shorter time. 

The good things about tying finances to performance are that employees: 

  • Have a greater sense of empowerment.

  • Are more productive. 

  • Are more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to leave. 

  • Contribute to a more positive working culture. 

Businesses that pay for performance will also get a better reputation, so they’ll find recruiting new talent easier. But the model can also have consequences. Business that pay for performance may find: 

  • More competition and less teamwork between employees. 

  • Employees have a narrower view of success. 

  • Less innovation and a lack of new ideas. 

There are other financial incentives businesses can give that don’t inform the entirety of a business’s model the way paying for performance does. You can offer: 

  • Commission for sales.

  • Paid time off. 

  • Bonuses or pay rises. 

These incentives exist in a pay for performance model as well, but you can reward more than just performance. For example, you might choose to give more paid vacation time to employees who approach problems creatively. Having a range of behaviours you value helps your business continue evolving. 

Benefits of financial incentives

Whatever form it takes, financially rewarding employees has a few important benefits. The most obvious is financial stability. Just a small increase in quality of life can be the difference between living paycheck to paycheck and being able to relax a bit. 

Financial rewards reflect the value you see in your employees. Of course it’s not the only way to convey appreciation, but a paycheck is a tangible indicator with practical benefits. It’s also the simplest type of reward. You don’t need to think too much about who deserves more money, since it’s tied to achievement. And having concrete accomplishments that are rewarded equalises things, so that everyone has the same chance to succeed. 

Non-financial motivators

Despite the salience and importance of a paycheck, money is only one of the ways to motivate employees. After a point, money and job satisfaction are no longer correlated. And quite frankly, defaulting to financial rewards gets expensive. 


Regular, helpful, and encouraging feedback is a great tool for motivating employees. Showing team members that you’ve noticed their efforts communicates the value you see in them. Positive feedback makes employees perform better and makes them less likely to quit. Even negative feedback, as long as it’s constructive and offered benignly, fosters employee growth. 


It’s hard for employees to feel connected to a business without a proper idea of their role or the mission they’re serving. That’s why it’s important to be transparent with team members and include them in goal-setting. 

Transparency helps employees perceive themselves as partners working with you towards a goal. It also means decisions by higher management don’t come as a surprise. Knowing and agreeing with the reasons why you’re asking employees to do something helps motivate them to be at their best. 


Placing trust in your employees is a good way to motivate them. Allowing them to work on their own and have control over their schedules improves their well-being. For example, offering employees the choice to work from home once they’ve demonstrated reliability increases employee satisfaction. 

Recognise that micromanaging people puts undue stress on them, and it’s more work for you too. Once you’re confident in your employee, there’s no reason not to afford them greater autonomy. In addition to a better work-life balance, working from home often promotes productivity. 

Motivate individuals

Finally, it’s important that you recognise each of your employees is an individual with different reasons for doing the work that they do. They’ll also have different answers when you ask which projects they prefer to work on and what excites them about their work. 

As much as possible, give your employees tasks they’re enthusiastic about. And when it comes to offering incentives, consider what each one prioritises. Do they have children? Offer them paid vacation so they can spend time with their family. Are they looking for a new apartment? They’d probably appreciate a pay rise. As a manager, motivating your employees is about helping them reach their goals. 


Being able to motivate employees is an indispensable skill. Employee motivation means people are more enthusiastic, more productive, happier, and more loyal. And motivated employees contribute new ideas that improve your business. 

Money is a key way to motivate employees, but ultimately employee motivation comes down to figuring out what your team members value – whether it’s in their professional or personal lives – and doing what you can to give them that. 

Did you find this advice helpful? For more about managing a team and fine tuning other parts of your business, check out the SumUp Business Guide. 

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Max Elias