5 Ways to Motivate Employees When Engagement is Low - theEMPLOYEEapp

5 Ways to Motivate Employees When Engagement is Low

5 Ways to Motivate Employees When Engagement is Low

Last updated on March 7, 2024 at 10:39 am

When employee engagement levels drop, do you have a plan? The negative impacts of low engagement can start to damage your productivity, retention rates, morale, and even culture. It’s important to act fast and find ways to motivate your employees and get things back on track. Let’s talk about how you can do that. 

Understanding Employee Motivation

Employee motivation is the level of an employee’s desire or willingness to perform their job responsibilities and participate at work.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. We often talk about employee engagement at work, which encompasses motivation. But it’s important to look at motivation specifically. Disengaged employees might still be motivated to perform, but that motivation might come from their own internal desire to achieve. That doesn’t mean that employee wants to go above and beyond for your business or isn’t looking for a new job.

So, while motivation and engagement might be linked, they aren’t one in the same.

sticky notes arranged in a grid with the words "extrinsic motivation" and "intrinsic motivation" written on two of them

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

To really understand why one disengaged employee might still be motivated, but another might not be, we have to talk about the different types of motivation.

Intrinsic motivation comes from within oneself. These are your Type A personalities who are going to show up and excel regardless of how they feel about work or how committed they are to your company. These are the employees who are going to still be high in motivation even when external factors are working against them (e.g. toxic boss/culture, dissatisfied with total compensation, etc.).

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is people who are motivated by external factors. They need to see that paycheck, good benefits, and what’s in it for them to get motivated to do their work.

Let’s be clear that employees who are high in extrinsic motivation shouldn’t be treated differently than those who are intrinsically motivated. It’s totally valid for someone to want to be compensated and for whom the total employee value proposition matters to whether or not they can give work their all. And let’s face it, most people have a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. 

Everyone wants a paycheck. Everyone wants to be valued and rewarded for their contributions.

But those who are higher in extrinsic motivation might show the signs of waning motivation more obviously. When the culture suffers, burnout is high, and compensation falls behind market rate, these employees might be more likely to disengage and even quit.

Motivated and engaged employee celebrating at her desk with her laptop open in front of her

How to Catch Employee Motivation Problems Early

So, how do you spot waning motivation levels?

Catching employee motivation problems early is crucial for preventing disengagement and retaining talent. Here are some effective strategies to help you identify motivation issues before they escalate.

Regular Manager Check-Ins

Encourage your people managers to regularly check-in with their employees. Make sure these conversations are meaningful, not rushed, and not just to “check the box.”

Teach your managers about the importance of having genuine conversations where employees talk about what challenges they’re facing and what kind of support they need. This can help provide valuable insights into how motivated your teams are feeling. And, in all likelihood, actually help you overcome motivation issues early on.

Employee Surveys

Implementing employee surveys is an excellent way to gauge the overall employee sentiment and identify areas of concern. 

Create anonymous surveys that cover various aspects of the work environment, job satisfaction, and employee wellbeing. Include specific questions related to motivation and engagement, allowing employees to share their thoughts without fear of repercussions. 

Analyze the survey results carefully, looking for any red flags that might indicate declining motivation. Use the feedback received to develop targeted strategies for improvement and show employees that their opinions matter.

Conduct Stay Interviews

While exit interviews are common when an employee decides to leave, conducting stay interviews is a proactive approach to understanding employee motivation. 

During stay interviews, have candid conversations with employees who are still with the company to explore their job satisfaction, career aspirations, and any factors that contribute to their motivation or lack thereof. Understanding what motivates employees to stay with the company can inform your strategies to retain and engage them in the long term.

Female employee working from her home office looking bored and unmotivated while staring at her laptop screen

5 Ways to Motivate Employees

Once you’ve identified low motivation problems—or even before these problems pop up–try these five ways to motivate your employees.

1. Talk Openly About Motivation

We tend to make a lot of assumptions in business when it comes to improving the employee experience. But we know that everyone has individual wants, needs, and are motivated by different things.

The best way to motivate employees is to train your managers to be better communicators and actually talk about it. What motivates each individual contributor on their team? How do they want to be recognized and to shape their job and career?

Taking this time to really understand each person is going to go a long way towards improving how motivated each team feels. 

As a communications team, you can support this by coaching your managers and training them on communication skills and how to have these conversations. But it’s then up to the company to empower managers to provide what their employees need and are asking for. If you’re all talk and no action, your employees might actually be demotivated.

2. Create Career Paths

Just sending employees to training sessions or conferences isn’t going to be enough to motivate them. Development plans motivate employees by showing them a future. It gives them something to be working towards that benefits them and shows them what their hard work will lead to.

Without that personal goal to be working towards, eventually your employees are going to feel like they have to look elsewhere to grow professionally. If they don’t see a future at your company, they are more likely to lose steam and feel less motivated.

So the solution is to really think about the various growth tracks at your company. How do you keep employees feeling engaged in their career with your company? This will be a joint effort with management and human resources, but it’s important that you consider this broadly (e.g. a robust internal hiring program so employees can change roles easily) and at the individual level (e.g. promotions) based on performance.

3. Create Meaningful Recognition Programs

One of the best ways to motivate employees is to recognize them properly. To do that, you have to remember that not everyone wants to receive recognition in the same way or form. Remember that we’re all motivated by different things. Someone higher in intrinsic motivation might be far more moved by regular thank yous and public shoutouts than someone who is high in extrinsic motivation and wants raises for excellent work.

Use your open conversations about motivation to learn what kind of recognition would be meaningful to each member of your team and empower managers to provide that type of appreciation. But then also figure out how you can scale recognition to engage more employees.

4. Deliver on Your Promises

Have you ever been at a Company Town Hall or some company event where the C-suite talks about all the incredible programs they’re going to invest in that year—like wellness programs, balancing workloads, and better bonuses—only for none of it to happen?

Yeah. I think we all have. 

While that executive team probably meant well. They probably wanted to give their people all those things and to motivate their teams.

But when we build up expectations that we’re going to help solve challenges and make the employee experience better and fall short of that, employees start to lose trust. And when you tell employees to just “hang on” because “it’ll get better” and it doesn’t…that’s a recipe for demotivating your employees.

To fix this, be incredibly mindful about what you say to your teams. Certainly don’t promise things you have no plan to deliver on. And don’t overextend yourself. Figure out what you can realistically do for your employees and make sure you do it. 

Pro tip: Don’t just assume you met your objective. Ask employees: did this change meet your expectations? If they say “no,” figure out where you missed the mark. For example, if you promise better employee wellbeing but all you give employees is a gym stipend and a few extra days off work, it might not feel like enough if workloads are still unbalanced and pay is still lagging. You might need to do more to address wellbeing holistically for your people.

5. Don’t Leave Employees in the Dark

As a communications company, we naturally believe in the power of good communication strategies. That’s because when we don’t communicate regularly and keep people in the loop, they wonder what’s going on. 

This year is a great example of how this can hurt motivation levels. With the economic pressures of this year, a lot of companies laid employees off. If you don’t address layoffs and your economic situation head-on, your employees are just going to be wondering when the shoe is going to drop. When your company will start laying people off. 

Being proactive about communication and always striving to be as transparent as possible, you shut down the rumor mill and build genuine trust with your workforce. And BONUS, when your employees feel like they know what is going on and why you are doing things a certain way, they are far more likely to feel motivated to be actively involved and trying their best.

employee working from home looking very upset and disengaged

The Most Engaging Internal Comms Channels

When it comes to fostering employee engagement and motivation, leveraging the right internal communication channels is going to be key. Among the multitude of options available, three stand out as the most engaging and impactful: texting, employee apps, and social intranets.

  • Texting has become an essential tool for internal communication due to direct and immediate reach. With text messaging, you can deliver urgent updates, time-sensitive information, and personalized messages to individual employees or targeted groups. Its high open rates ensure that important messages are seen and acted upon promptly, fostering a sense of belonging and connection among employees.
  • Employee apps are a versatile platform for real-time and highly engaging communications. From company-wide announcements and policy updates to team collaboration and feedback, employee apps consolidate all internal comms needs in one accessible space. Furthermore, their multimedia capabilities enable the delivery of more engaging content, such as videos and interactive posts, keeping employees informed and inspired.
  • Social intranets create a virtual community where employees can connect, collaborate, and celebrate achievements. Through features like comments, user mentions, hashtags, calendars, and directories, social intranets help reinforce your desired culture. Recognizing and appreciating employee contributions openly in this space fosters a culture of recognition, boosting morale and motivation.

By using these engaging internal communication channels, you can carry out your recognition programs effectively, keep employees well-informed, and create a workplace where employees feel valued, connected, and engaged. And that is the secret to motivating your employees!



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