What Motivates People in the Workplace?

Motivation is critical to productivity.
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To succeed in the modern workplace, it’s important to understand workplace motivation, especially since not everyone experiences motivation in the same way. Supervisors need to know which factors impact employee motivation, but they’re not the only ones who need to know about this important topic. Individual professionals can benefit from understanding the factors that motivate themselves, as well as their co-workers. Learn about five of the most important factors impacting workplace motivation.

Performance Feedback

    Receiving performance feedback is critical to employee motivation. When people do a good job, it’s important to let them know that their efforts were noticed and appreciated. Be specific in your feedback, telling them exactly what they did particularly well and how they were especially helpful.

    Not all feedback can be positive, but even negative feedback can be motivating. After all, that’s how employees learn to improve. When performance indicates that improvement is needed, let employees know what needs to change and how to go about improving in constructive way.

    Performance feedback is a key motivator.


    For many employees, being able to have autonomy over their work is a powerful motivator. Rather than dictating exactly how work is to be accomplished and micromanaging every step of the process, supervisors who are focused on motivation clearly convey goals and expectations, but empower workers to decide how to accomplish the assigned tasks.

    For this to work, of course, it is important to make sure that employees know what needs to be accomplished and to verify that they have the skills and resources necessary to do the job. From there, however, it’s important to step back and allow employees to move ahead independently, providing support and guidance as needed without being overly controlling.

    Avoid micromanaging your employees.

Professional Development

    Employees who work for companies that are willing to invest in skill development training and relevant professional organization membership may experience stronger motivation than those whose employers do not make such opportunities available. That’s because employees tend to feel more valued when they work in an organization that is willing to invest in helping them acquire new job-related skills and grow professionally.

    Employee training can be highly motivating.

Opportunities for Advancement

    Working in an environment where opportunities for advancement can be a key motivating factor in the workplace. To maintain this type of motivation, it’s important for employers to post job openings internally before advertising them externally, as well as to have a formal system in place to allow employees to make known their interests in available promotional opportunities.

    When employees see promotions being made from within, they see potential to move forward in their careers. However, if promotional opportunities aren’t made available internally and all higher level positions are filled by bringing in people from the outside, employees may see little chance to move up and experience an associated decline in motivation.

    Seeing opportunities to climb the career ladder can be motivating.


    Being recognized for accomplishments can be a powerful motivator in the workplace. Because of this, companies can be well served by introducing meaningful employee recognition programs designed to draw attention to significant accomplishments and milestones. Examples of these types of programs include awards based on customer satisfaction, years-of-service awards that recognize milestone anniversaries, and employee-of-the-month recognition programs.

    Providing visible awards such as plaques, trophies and service pins to those who earn recognition can be a powerful motivator for those who are recognized. It can also serve to motivate others by letting them know what types of actions are considered worthy of recognition, resulting in increased efforts to earn recognition for themselves.

    Recognizing service and accomplishments can be very motivating.

Motivation Matters

    Many different factors impact motivation in the workplace. While these five factors are key components of employee motivation, this is not an all-inclusive list of every possible motivator. There are as many ways to motivate people as there are different types of personalities. It’s important to incorporating multiple motivational strategies into your workplace to ensure that the needs and expectations of your employees are being met.

    Motivated employees are happy, productive employees.

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