10 creative ways to motivate employees

10 creative ways to motivate employees
If you were to ask your employees what would make them feel more motivated, the odds are that many of them would suggest a pay raise. While you might want to make that happen, it’s not the most practical solution when you’re looking to keep your team excited to come to work every day. Fortunately, there are many creative ways to motivate employees. 

Impact of motivation on productivity and engagement

Studies show that employees care about more than their weekly paycheck. A study published in “Psychology Today” showed that having good camaraderie and peer motivation was at the top of the list. Feeling recognized and encouraged came in third place. Meanwhile, money ranked number seven out of the top 10 motivational tools.

Most employees won’t reach their potential without proper motivation.

And feeling like their potential is being squandered leads to 79% of employees quitting their jobs. Even If they don’t quit, they’re highly unlikely to be engaged in their work.

And that impacts your bottom line.

Gallup’s research has consistently shown that companies with engaged employees are more profitable. Some key stats include:

  • Organizations with a high level of engagement report 21% higher profitability.
  • Highly engaged teams show a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity.

The numbers don’t lie — it’s worth your time to find ways to motivate employees.

Learn more in our comprehensive guide to boosting employee productivity

Understanding the psychological drivers of motivation

Before examining specific motivation techniques in detail, it’s helpful to understand the psychological drivers of motivation. Recognizing these factors can help you tailor strategies so they align with your team’s needs and resonate with individual employees:

  1. Meaningful work: Employees are more motivated when they find their work purposeful and impactful.
  2. Autonomy and empowerment: Providing a sense of control and ownership over their work boosts motivation.
  3. Challenging work: Engaging employees with tasks that stretch their abilities encourages growth and satisfaction.
  4. Clear goals and expectations: Well-defined objectives keep employees focused and driven.
  5. Recognition and rewards: Acknowledging and rewarding efforts and achievements is crucial for motivation.
  6. Opportunities for growth and development: Facilitating continuous learning and development fosters long-term engagement.
  7. Positive work environment: A supportive and inclusive workplace culture enhances overall motivation.
  8. Effective communication: Clear and open communication strengthens employee engagement.

Learn how to read between the lines and measure employee sentiment

Overview of traditional employee motivation strategies

Employee motivation - woman with glasses reading sheet of paper

Traditional employee motivation strategies are foundational to building a strong, productive workforce. Let’s explore key methods in this section that have proven effective in various organizational settings.

The following strategies are designed to address employees’ basic and advanced needs, to help ensure their commitment and growth within your company.

Competitive compensation

Providing competitive compensation offers extrinsic motivation, which is the type of external reward that encourages employees to perform well. Conversely, intrinsic motivation is that internal drive individuals experience when they engage in tasks they find interesting or enjoyable.

Employees who experience both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation at work are more likely to remain committed to your company.

Performance-linked bonuses

While competitive compensation establishes a baseline of motivation, directly tying additional financial rewards to individual performance can further boost motivation. Decide on a reward scheme that is substantial enough to make your employees feel genuinely valued and appreciated for their specific contributions.

Career progression and development opportunities

While there will always be workers who simply want to tread water, most of your employees want to grow with their jobs. Therefore, take this approach from the very beginning by providing adequate training and development opportunities for everyone. Not only will doing so help show your employees they’re valued, but it will also help prepare them to take on higher responsibilities.

Employee benefits

According to Forbes, about 40% of workers switch jobs seeking better benefits. To retain your staff, offer eligible employees essential benefits such as healthcare, mental health assistance and paid time off. And be sure to highlight your benefits package in an engaging employee handbook.

Now, let’s shift our focus to various innovative and creative strategies designed to keep employees excited and engaged in their work.

Explore 4 pillars of an effective HR strategy

10 creative employee motivation strategies

These contemporary techniques for employee motivation go above and beyond traditional strategies. They not only add variety and freshness but also boost employee engagement and productivity.

Read on to discover how these 10 creative strategies can transform your workplace.

1. Flexible scheduling

Providing your people with a flexible schedule has never been more important. The good news is that offering flexible scheduling can ensure people are working during their most productive hours. In 2014, 46% of study respondents said they were looking for flexibility in the workplace. A 2021 survey discovered that 43% experienced a surge in productivity thanks to flexible scheduling.

2. Remote work options

Allowing your employees to work remotely opens a new world for you and your workers. It enables them to live wherever they’d like, giving your company a much broader talent pool. It also means your workers can reduce their commute time, costs and stress. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to use your workspace more efficiently and save some money!

3. Personalized recognition and rewards system

Traditionally, workplace perks like coffee coupons or store discounts were only used by less than 5% of employees. However, personalized recognition and rewards can gain more employee buy-in.

Case in point: At Agero,, personalized employee recognition via Simpplr’s modern intranet significantly increased employee engagement. Senior Communications Specialist Ashley Anglisano said recognition on the platform boosted engagement by 22% within a month of launching the program. Now, even groups traditionally quiet on the intranet jump in to give shout-outs and peer-to-peer awards tied to Agero’s company values. Be sure to read the full case study to learn more.

4. Wellness programs

In today’s health-conscious yet time-constrained culture, offering an on-site gym or membership at a local gym is always a good idea. Other programs that support employee health and wellness, include:

  • Smoking cessation program
  • Health coaching
  • Stress management
  • Exercise programs
  • Employee assistance program

These kinds of initiatives can motivate employees to be their best selves at work and beyond.

5. Team-building activities

Carefully planned team-building activities nurture deeper connections among employees — a strong motivator. Other benefits include improved communication, increased engagement, strengthened teamwork and trust, enhanced problem-solving and collaboration, and reduced stress and burnout. Here’s a great list of virtual team-building activities to get you started.

6. More opportunities for learning and development

An easy way to help ensure your employees stick around for the long haul is to offer continual learning and development opportunities. Set up a mentoring program. Provide cross-training in departments that employees express interest in learning more about. Offer stretch assignments that speak to the skills they want to develop.

Professional development realizes higher employee engagement and produces future leaders.

In fact, 94% of workers said they would stay with a company longer if it invested in their learning and development.

And the stronger the leader, the better equipped they’ll be to motivate their team. Offer leadership development opportunities to hone the skills people managers need to keep their employees inspired, aligned and ready to rock their roles.

7. Involve employees in decision-making

Rather than leading in a vacuum, invite your employees have a say in the decision-making process. Not only will this help them feel more invested, it’ll increase your company’s odds of making a good decision. Other perks include increasing employee engagement, making your blind spots easier to discover, and getting buy-in from the people who will be implementing the change.

8. Offer interesting perks

Do you want to reduce turnover costs, boost morale, increase employee satisfaction, and create a better work culture? Consider implementing at least a couple of the following employee motivation strategies:

  • Pet-friendly workplace
  • Free food and drinks
  • Surprise days off
  • House cleaning services
  • Private lactation facilities
  • New baby bonus

Employee motivation - man in button-up shirt working on laptop while sitting in easy chair

9. Leverage a digital workplace

A dynamic digital workplace can work wonders at enhancing employee engagement and productivity (and maybe even attract some new hires). You can reach employees where they are to:

  • automate mundane work so employees have time for more creative and fulfilling tasks.
  • give more transparency into goal-setting and tracking progress.
  • provide opportunities for connection via real-time communication, interest groups and more.

Keep reading for more tips below on using the cornerstone of a digital workplace, the right intranet, to elevate engagement and productivity!

10. Employee-led innovation and co-creation initiatives

Brands like Disney use this clever strategy to bolster employee engagement and involvement to create new ideas, products and services. Here are some ideas:

  • In-house idea hubs: Develop platforms for employees to suggest, develop and collaborate on innovative ideas — creating a hub for creativity.
  • Organizational hackathons: Organize events for teams to solve specific challenges or explore new technologies, sparking innovation.
  • Cross-departmental collaboration workshops: Conduct workshops for diverse teams to create solutions for company-wide issues, enhancing teamwork and broad thinking.
  • Employee-directed research projects: Allow employees to lead R&D projects, supporting their promising ideas with necessary resources.
  • Innovation acknowledgment: Recognize and reward both successful and potential innovative ideas, promoting ongoing creativity.

Making employees feel part of something bigger by giving them more opportunities to innovate and create — sometimes outside their normal job responsibilities — can turbocharge productivity.

Best practices for introducing new motivational strategies

Consider a few of these best practices when introducing new ways to motivate employees.

Get employee buy-in

Proper buy-in from your employees is paramount to implementing pretty much anything new or re-imagined at the workplace.

Engaging in open dialogue is a crucial first step in introducing new motivational strategies.

This involves discussing new strategies with the entire team in a concise yet informative way. Focus on the benefits to employees (what’s in it for me?) and the why behind the change.

Consider employee needs and preferences

Tailor strategies to individual needs and recognize that people have unique preferences and motivations. By customizing your approach to mirror the diversity of your workforce, employees are more likely to embrace new motivational strategies.

Understand that each employee is at a different stage in their personal and professional development so a one-size-fits-all approach likely won’t be effective.

Ensure motivational strategies align with company culture

The ways you motivate employees should reflect your organization’s unique values and cultural vibe. For example, offer smoking cessation for a smoke-free workplace or remote work opportunities if your business is in a big, expensive city.

Be ready to evolve

Workplaces are constantly changing, so prepare for your motivational strategies to evolve as well. Find new ways to keep everyone engaged and ensure your strategies are still hitting the mark.

While the “carrot and stick” method is becoming outdated, focusing on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can offer a more holistic approach when you need to refresh your motivational strategies. This tactic involves catering to higher-level psychological needs in the pyramid, such as belonging, esteem and self-actualization.

You’re more likely to foster a more motivated and productive workforce when you create a work environment that supports these basic human needs.

A few potential challenges and solutions

As with any change, you might run into some challenges as you implement various employee motivation strategies. Here are some tips for approaching common obstacles to help ensure successful adoption and maximum impact.

Balance employee preferences with company resources

Finding a middle ground is key to meeting employee desires without straining company resources. A practical approach involves identifying and prioritizing perks or benefits that are most valued by employees while remaining cost-effective.

For example, if employees really want in-house massages but this perk is a budget-breaker, consider alternatives that rank second or third in preference — like a quarterly stipend for a wellness service. Opting for these more affordable choices helps ensure the sustainability of your business while still offering innovative perks that motivate employees.

Reduce the risk of burnout

Your employees might occasionally get burned out, despite your efforts. The good news is that there are some creative ways to stave off burnout:

  • Give them PTO to take a break.
  • Offer a meditation class.
  • Provide 30 minutes of at-work exercise.

Check out six signs of employee burnout

Leverage your intranet to motivate and inspire employees

Employee motivation - individual employee recognized as "star performer"

The best intranets feature built-in systems that recognize and reward employees in a personalized manner.

This approach enhances the employees’ sense of achievement and belonging, making them feel valued — a powerful motivator.

Simpplr’s Employee Recognition empowers peers and managers to publicly acknowledge each other’s contributions. This positive reinforcement enhances engagement and aligns with research that found that organizations with a strong culture of recognition have 31% lower voluntary turnover rates.

Real-time, multichannel communication

Advanced intranets facilitate real-time, two-way communication and operate across multiple channels to significantly enhance employee connection and workplace collaboration.

The right intranet breaks down communication silos and promotes transparency and a sense of belonging — keys to a motivated organizational culture.

For example, Simpplr’s Smart Feed creates a culture of conversion and promotes two-way employee communication, collaboration, feedback and knowledge sharing. Multi-channel communications ensure broad reach and resonance using targeted messages delivered through multiple channels — including Slack, Teams, email, push notifications and SMS.

AI-powered employee listening

Employee motivation - real-time sentiment measurement in response to acquisition

When employees feel heard, they’re more motivated to stay and do their best work. In fact, a recent  listening study conducted by The Work Project found:

  • 72% of people who don’t feel listened to are looking for a new job.
  • 80% of people who do feel listened to have more good days at work.
  • 45% of respondents said their “dream boss” would be a good listener — the top leadership quality of the five ranked.
A modern intranet integrates employee listening tools that analyze sentiment and identify trends from employee feedback.

With Simpplr, you can leverage insights from surveys, comments and other feedback sources to make data-driven decisions to enhance the employee experience. Simpplr’s Employee Listening combines survey responses with AI-powered passive listening to detect underlying sentiments and emotions — helping people managers identify employee pain points. You get insights into a broad range of sentiment data gathered throughout the Simpplr platform, incorporating polls, pulse and traditional surveys, Sentiment check, Awareness check, and everyday interactions, like comments.

Learn more about how a modern intranet can solve top HR challenges

Get ready to motivate your workforce

Learning how to motivate employees should top your people management to-do list. Experiment and innovate. What works today may not work tomorrow. So take what you can from this list, and keep looking for new and exciting ways to motivate your workforce.

As you seek to keep teams engaged and motivated, consider the critical role of effective internal communication and collaboration tools. This is where Simpplr offers a trusted solution — ranked #1 by Gartner® for employee communications and engagement — to inform and inspire your employees, no matter where or how they work. Request a demo to discover how Simpplr can transform the employee experience and boost productivity!

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