Work motivation – Tips & tricks for CEOs, managers and team leads

Nowadays, companies invest a lot of time and resources in designing a motivating work package for employees. A fair and competitive salary, flexible working hours, financial bonuses and an attractive holiday scheme are just a few examples of how companies try to motivate their employees and thus retain them in the long term. However, many of these benefits are a motivating factor when signing the contract and forgotten when the job requires long hours of work. It is not unreasonable to believe that the number of employees who actually come to work motivated remains limited, and that many count the hours until the day is done.

The reason for this is the fact that financial and material rewards are not sufficient anymore to guarantee on-going enthusiasm among employees. These incentives are indeed important to offer employees a security for basic existence (paying bills, afford vacations, etc.). However, in order to increase the intrinsic motivation of employees, non-financial factors are relevant as well.

In the following, both tips & tricks for increasing work motivation, as well as the motivation killers to avoid are presented.

11 tips to increase work motivation

  1. Recognize employees

    The recognition of good performance by superiors is a positive confirmation for the affected employee. Thereby, the recognition can be either face-to-face or on a more public basis. Especially public recognition (e.g. in team meetings) of an employee strengthens the self-confidence of the respective employee and promotes motivation in the long term. In addition, this gesture also motivates colleagues who would also like to be appreciated by their superiors in front of the entire team. However, when choosing public recognition as a superior it should be ensured that the praise is spread over the entire team over time to avoid inequality.

    In addition, appreciation between colleagues is an efficient way to increase employee motivation as well. Colleagues do often have a closer relationship to each other and a better insight into daily work, which puts them into the position to evaluate each other's efforts well. Due to this proximity, recognition of a colleague is sometimes even more valuable than recognition by a superior. With digital recognition platforms, companies can even offer their employees an efficient solution to this problem.
  2. Put a "Yes" hat on

    In the working environment, employees often show initiative and present suggestions to their superiors. Although these suggestions do not always fit 100% into the agenda or project plan, as a supervisor it is still important to give room and support for those ideas to flourish. From an employee's point of view, it is important to receive regular confirmation of one's own ideas from the supervisor. A boss who constantly rejects the ideas of his employees for various reasons literally destroys the motivation of his employees in the shortest possible time.
  3. Be a role model for employees

    Supervisors should never demand efforts from their employees which they are not ready to perform themselves. It is therefore unacceptable that a superior regularly goes home before his or her employees. After the own work is done, a good leader will support employees to complete outstanding tasks in a timely manner. Those who position themselves as role models for their employees have a good chance that the entire team will follow the lead of the superior.
  4. Ask employees for advice

    Nothing is a greater confirmation for an employee than when the supervisor actively asks for the employee's opinion. This action puts the employee on an equal level with the superior for a short moment and shows the value of the employee's knowledge. This "award" pushes the employee's motivation into new spheres.
  5. Assign responsibility to employees

    The perceived value of an employee automatically increases with the value of his or her tasks. Taking on tasks that are critical and relevant for the team or the company increases the employee's self-confidence and thus triggers motivation. Since not every employee feels comfortable with taking on the same level of responsibility, however, a supervisor must take care to entrust the right employees with the right tasks.
  6. Provide room for mistakes

    Mistakes are part of life and especially of work. Even the most successful personalities, whether in business, sports or politics, make mistakes on a regular basis. The only important thing is how you as a superior deal with mistakes made by employees. For example, it is important to give the employee a feeling of security in case of mistakes. In such cases, a good superior positions himself in front of the employee and takes responsibility for the mistake himself (similar to what a soccer coach often does when he appears in front of the press after bad matches to protect his team). At the same time, it is valuable to use these situations to develop the employee. Mistakes can be learned from, if handled appropriately, which can raise the employee's performance to a new level in the long run.
  7. Provide opportunity for collaboration

    It is not uncommon for employees to feel valued just by working on sub-projects together with their supervisor. This strengthens the employee's position in the team and increases their willingness to work. It is important to define common goals and, if successful, to celebrate accordingly. In order to avoid inequality within the team, it should be ensured that other team members are enabled to do the same as well.
  8. Hold frequent team events

    The regular informal exchange in teams is important to strengthen the cohesion and community in the team. Smaller team events, such as the after-work beer on Friday afternoons or the common lunch break can be held weekly. In addition, larger team events should be integrated at a lower frequency. These show the appreciation of the company towards its employees. Furthermore, team meetings, no matter to what extent or frequency, offer a platform to consciously talk about topics that are not directly in the focus of work. This strengthens the relationships between colleagues and increases the feeling of togetherness.
  9. Understand individual needs of employees

    Every employee has different needs and goals in the working environment. Accordingly, it is essential for a superior to be responsive to the individual situations of employees. The feeling of being understood is an essential factor of appreciation from the employee's point of view. Only when the supervisor adapts to the individual needs, trust and credibility can be gained, which is necessary to for a successful leadership.
  10. Provide room for individual projects

    For many employees it is important to realise themselves at work and to promote independent ideas. In today's working world, however, this opportunity is often not available as role descriptions are aimed at filling the working capacity of an entire working week. These limitations demotivate employees who strive to proactively develop the company.

    American tech companies, which are known for the "workplace of the future", have recognized this and offer employees the opportunity to work on their own projects for a certain time per week. For example, Google operates a 20% model that allows employees to work on self-defined projects for an entire day per week. All projects are focused on the development of the company or its teams. By providing this opportunity, Google not only manages to develop its own company, but also offers its employees the space they need to develop themselves. The potential benefit to gain is well illustrated by the fact that Google’s Gmail came to live by a 20% project.
  11. Provide flexible working environment

    Millennials are increasingly demanding a flexible working environment these days. As an example, this includes opportunities to work from home or to have an attractive work-life balance. As a company, it is important to adapt to these needs and provide opportunities to not only attract but also retain talent. From the employee's point of view, a flexible workplace that fits to the employees’ needs is valued and repaid through good performance, triggered by a high work morale.

5 motivation killers for your employees

In addition to the above-mentioned tricks for work motivation, there are also things that superiors should avoid in order not to reduce the employees’ motivation. In the following, 5 essential motivation killers, which have a high potential of destroying the motivation of employees are presented.
  1. Lack in recognition of extra hours

    Extra hours are still frequently generally covered by the defined salary in the employment contract. This is not a problem as long as the weekly hours defined in the employment contract are adhered to on an average basis. However, in some industries or in special situations working extra time is a general expectation from the employer. This overtime is "given" to the company for free, so to speak.

    Numerous employees follow this expectation to support the company or their supervisor. In this situation, however, it is extremely important to receive a corresponding appreciation from the company. If this does not happen, the motivation of the employee likely drops abruptly, which in turn has a negative effect on work performance.

    From a company’s perspective, it is therefore important to ensure that the overtime rule is handled proactively. If it is not possible for the company to pay for overtime or to be compensated by additional vacation days, special care should be taken to find other ways of appreciation.
  2. Reacting emotional on mistakes

    Supervisors should avoid reacting emotionally to mistakes made by employees, but rather analyse them professionally. A negative reaction causes an increasing uncertainty among employees and thus has an impact on future decisions. As mentioned above, superiors should serve as role models and protect employees after mistakes.
  3. "Throwing away” an employee’s work

    When assigning tasks to team members, it is important to think them through completely in advance. This creates a clear line and saves potential additional work that arises if the task description has to be changed regularly. From the employee's point of view, it is often demotivating to have invested several hours of working time in a task that cannot be used after all. Good planning during the process of distributing tasks is therefore the basis for a good collaboration between supervisor and team.
  4. Saving money in the wrong place

    The annual result of a company is directly related to the performance of its employees. If the company faces a positive year-end result, employees expect to be treated accordingly in return. In positive times, a company should enable certain employee requests to improve the working atmosphere. These include, for example, modern work equipment (no, laptops from the 2000s are not motivating anymore), a high-quality coffee machine or the organisation of team events. Companies that do not allow such or similar employee requests risk an abrupt drop in employee motivation.
  5. Lack of communication and transparency

    Employees often need a clear leadership line. Addressing the team appropriately through a clear communication strategy as well as a high level of transparency about the project and team situation ensures that all team members are heading in the same direction. The risk of a lack of communication and transparency are ambiguities in the team, which lead to increased coordination and workload. From a supervisor’s point of view, it is therefore important to provide a clear path for the employees to follow.


The art is to turn work into a hobby for employees. Whoever manages to do this as an employer has not only won the dedication of its employees but has also gained a considerable competitive advantage. Imagine the additional energy released by intrinsically motivated employees, which in turn increases work performance and drives the company's performance. To get there, however, a diversified mix of the above-mentioned options for work motivation is required in addition to a fair financial package.