How to motivate employees to improve retention

We all know how important it is to retain top talent. Poor retention can cost companies thousands through recruitment and training costs. Some companies turn to pay-rises to retain staff, while many companies are looking for alternatives as they’re restricted financially.

However, companies shouldn’t rely on pay-rises to boost retention, as there are many more cost-effective measures they can take. Many of these measures are also more effective in retaining employees.

If you’re struggling with retention or are worried about employees leaving, ask the question, how motivated are your employees? Happy and motivated employees are much more loyal and less likely to leave.

So, what can managers do to improve employee motivation?

What is Employee Motivation?
Motivation in business is defined as internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject or to make an effort to attain a goal.

According to research, there are 3 key aspects that affect an employee’s motivation.

  • The individual’s needs
  • The individual’s expectancy of a desired outcome
  • The individual’s job or role and how it’s structured.

We’ll go through each of these aspects in more detail here.

The Individual’s Needs
There are many theories behind a person’s needs. One of the most popular theories is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This outlines an individual’s needs as psychological, security and safety, affiliation, self-esteem, and self-actualisation.

Managers can adhere to these in a number of ways, but here’s just a few examples.

You can meet these needs for your employees by simply offering food and drink options. However, you could go further than this and offer healthier, more readily available food options so there’s something for all your employees, regardless of their dietary needs and goals.

This is split into financial security and physical security. Physical security would involve ensuring suitably secure working conditions. For an office environment this should be relatively straightforward, however for employees out of the office it may be different.

Financial security should also be considered, like wages and pensions. This doesn’t necessarily mean increasing employees’ wages substantially but ensuring they’re financially secure both in the present and in the future.

Every team or company is built on good relationships. This can be achieved through encouraging social interaction and creating an inclusive, positive atmosphere within your organisation.

This can be easier said than done, but if you’re worried that an employee or group of employees are becoming isolated or relationships are breaking down, these should be addressed as soon as possible, as they could lead to increased employee turnover.

A key part of employee motivation is reward and recognition. Praise, respect and encouragement are great motivators. Ensure your employees are motivated by going out of your way to recognise personal or team achievements and offering rewards.

Self-actualisation is the need for self-improvement and personal growth. This can be encouraged by challenging work and opportunities for creativity.

Assigning employees challenging work is covered more under job design, which we’ll explore further on in this article. Encouraging creativity is a little different.

An example of this is something many companies are now doing, which is allowing employees some time in their working week to work on a passion project or something similar. Typically, we consider downtime to be a negative thing, however it actually gives employees vitally important time to think and be creative, ultimately providing benefits for both the individual and the company.

Another thing you’ll need to consider is equity. Employees need to be rewarded fairly. If an employee feels that other employees are being favoured over them or that their salary doesn’t reflect their skills or contribution to the company, they’ll leave in search of equity elsewhere.

Again, this is easier said than done, however it’s still very important.

Along with the individual’s needs, you’ll also need to consider the employee’s expectancy and their job design and how it’s structured, both of which we cover here. Covering these different aspects are not only more effective than handing out pay-rises but they’re also much more cost-effective. Motivated employees are happy and happy employees are much more likely to stay with you in the long-term!