10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Motivate Employees

So, you’ve hired some stellar people. Now you need to make sure they stick around. While, of course, money and benefits are important, a study found that they don’t top the list of motivating factors. Instead, some of the most important factors tended to be peer motivation (20%), and feeling encouraged and recognised (13%).

So, you’ve hired some stellar people and now you want to know how to motivate these employees to make sure they stick around. After all, when your staff are motivated, they’re more productive – performing 20% better – and 87% less likely to leave.

While, of course, money and benefits are important, they are not the only motivating factors. In fact, a recent study found that the most motivational factors for employees are a good work-life balance (21%), peer motivation (20%) and an encouraging boss (15%).

More than 70% of UK workers want their employers to put more effort into motivating them. Here, we take a look at the different ways you can motivate staff for a happier and more productive working environment.

What the pandemic taught us about how to motivate staff

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the way businesses operate, from social distancing to advanced health and safety precautions. But the pandemic has also taught us some important lessons in keeping your staff motivated, such as:

  • Safety should be a priority: Whether it’s ordering enough PPE and hand sanitiser for all of your staff members or encouraging them to take days off when they don’t feel well – your staff’s safety and well-being should be at the forefront of your business.

  • Empathy goes a long way: The past year has affected people differently in all aspects of their life. Take some time to talk to your employees and listen to their needs. They might need more flexibility, a period of rest or just some helpful resources.

  • Communication is key: If the business is undergoing some changes, you should let your employees know. That way, they can trust you and your company, and feel slightly more secure knowing you’ll keep them informed.

So, let’s take a look at how you can apply these lessons to your business…

Top 10 ways to motivate your employees:

1. Make your business a pleasant place to be.

No one wants to stand around in a dingy, boring space for hours on end. Having an aesthetically pleasing, well-lit, functional and fun workspace makes work a lot more pleasant. The first step is to make sure things are well-kept and that you have up-to-date equipment. This means switching out that Cold War–era back office computer and swapping your glacial-paced point-of-sale system with one that’s fast, flexible and free to use.

It also means keeping things clean and nice looking. Sprucing up your space doesn’t have to be expensive. Try featuring local artists or pick up interesting furniture pieces at a nearby charity shop. All these little touches will make things a lot more enjoyable for your employees (and by proxy, your customers).

2. Be a respectful, honest and supportive manager.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but bad management is one of the top reasons employees run for the hills. Things like respect, honesty, support and clear communication are the foundations here. But there’s a lot more you can do to be a great leader and mentor.

If you’re new to this whole management thing, it’s worth reading some books on the subject — effective management, like any other skill, takes knowledge and practice. As a starting point, check out Amazon’s best-sellers for business management, or head to the employee management section of Square’s blog. The long and short of it: if you’re a good person to work for, your employees will be more loyal.

3. Offer employee rewards.

People will stay with your business if they have a reason to. So, if you want to keep your employees motivated, it’s worth starting an incentive program. Here are some rewards you could look to incorporate:

  • A quarterly bonus.
  • Private healthcare.
  • Offering to pay for additional credentials or qualifications.
  • Profit-sharing in your company.

If people know they’ll be rewarded for a job well done, they’ll be more likely to 1) do a good job, and 2) stay to see things through.

4. Give them room to grow.

If your business is rapidly expanding, giving your employees room to grow within the company is a huge motivator. There’s the dangling carrot of more money, yes, but there’s also the psychological factor of feeling like they’re trusted and respected for their work.

If you’re opening a second location, think about which of your employees might be a good fit for a management role there. If there’s someone who’s doing a particularly good job with inventory, consider encouraging that person to take over vendor relations completely. When you give your best employees growth opportunities, it shifts their thinking from “this is just a side job” to “this could be a full-fledged career.”

5. Share positive feedback.

It’s great to feel fulfilled by your work. In fact, it’s one of the key job satisfaction factors. Satisfaction in your work can come from a variety of places — from knowing you made the perfect cup of coffee to boosting someone’s self-confidence with a brand new haircut. And if your customers express appreciation for these things, be sure to share that feedback with your employees.

This is especially easy to do with Square Feedback. Many Square sellers make it a point to share all the positive, encouraging feedback with their employees during weekly meetings. Letting your employees know they made someone’s day (or more) makes them feel good — and gives them a deeper connection to your business.

6. Be transparent.

Having insight into how the business is going makes your employees more invested. So, make a point to share this data with them on a regular basis. Square makes this simple with our easy-to-use Dashboard feature, full of business insights.

You can send out daily, weekly or monthly sales reports — or even share information about how many customers are new versus returning. Having access to all this data not only makes your employees feel like they’re an important part of the business, but it also helps point out areas where things could be improved.

7. Offer flexible scheduling.

Technology has changed the way businesses operate, as well as the way we work. Especially after the past year, where working from home has become more of the norm. In 2021, almost 4 million UK employees have enjoyed flexible working hours, so it’s vital your business caters to this surge to remain a competitive employer.

So, whether you offer a work-from-home opportunity or flexi time, you should try to have various scheduling options if you want to attract top talent.

8. Offer food in the workplace.

Is food the key to employee retention? Maybe. After all, nobody works well when they’re hungry. A mid-morning snack or late afternoon nibble can boost your employees’ energy and mood, making them even more productive throughout the day. In fact, research has shown that access to free food in the office can increase employee happiness by 11%.

And with 60% of employees ranking meals and snacks in the top three office perks, food is clearly an important part of many workplace cultures. It makes sense: When your employer pays attention to your physical needs, you get the impression that they care about you as a person – not just what you can do for the company.

9. Recognise their achievements.

Sometimes all people want is some recognition for a job well done. If an employee has been putting in a lot of time working on a project, or they went out of their way to help out a colleague, do not hesitate to praise them. It’s not just about the act of recognition, but the principle: If people feel that their efforts are appreciated, they will feel compelled to continue working hard.

Organisations with reward and recognition programmes have 14% better employee engagement, productivity and customer service, plus a 31% lower employee turnover. So, whether it’s noting their contributions in a meeting, recognising them in a staff email or just thanking them privately, it’s imperative that you show hardworking employees your gratitude.

Having great employees who’ve been at your company for a while is a huge plus. Keeping employees motivated, especially during tough times is an important part of your business’ success. Long-time employees know the ins and outs of things, and they also make running your business a lot more enjoyable.

10. Ask them what they want.

Instead of guessing how to motivate your team, actually sit down with them and find out what they value. Doing the unexpected might be the best thing you can do for your employees, and your company.

Software to help you manage your staff

There’s a variety of software available that can help you manage and motivate your employees. Square Team Management is an effective software solution that lets you schedule and manage your team so everyone’s on the same page.

Scheduling is integrated into your POS system so you can plan your workflows in minutes and view vital analytics. Custom permissions also let your team take control of their time from their mobiles, ensuring they can play a more active part in the business and keep track of their progress.