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50 Ideas on How to Motivate Your Employees

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A 2015 Gallup poll shows that in the United States over 50% of employees are not engaged, and 17.2% are actively disengaged. So how do you motivate people when over half of them are not engaged in the work place? Dan Pink in his book Drive, makes a case that employees are not driven by more money but by a sense of purpose and the ability to make a difference. In one of his TED talks he explains that research has shown “as long as the task involved only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as they would be expected, but once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill a larger reward led to poorer performance”. He goes on further and says management doesn’t work, self-direct works better.


Dan emphasizes that there should be three elements of a business operating system: autonomy- people want to direct their own lives, mastery- the desire to learn and get better at something, and purpose- the yearning for us to serve something that is larger than ourselves. If you provide all three elements in your business environment your employees will be more driven to do an outstanding job, and the best part it doesn’t cost you a cent!


What about recruitment? To build a great culture and keep the best people you need to attract the best. Glassdoor surveys show that nearly 3 in 5 (57%) people report benefits and perks being among their top considerations before accepting a job, while 4 in 5 people also say they would prefer new perks over a pay raise. This indicates that most employees value benefits and rewards when making job decisions and determining which companies may be a great fit for them. However, when it comes to what keeps employees at companies and satisfied on the job, it’s a different story. According to Glassdoor Economic Research, culture and values, career opportunities, and senior leadership are the most important factors in cultivating employee satisfaction, which can directly impact employee retention.


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Various companies have tried different approaches to increase employee engagement. Zappos as an example is famous for it’s fun culture where customer centric values are combined with a fun work environment. At Zappos, the customer service employees do not work from a script and are encouraged to use their imagination to make customers happy. They do not have to ask permission from a boss to give their customers the wow factor. For example, they can send flowers to an angry customer to win them back without the need for their manager to approve it. With over 75% of sales from repeat customers, their plan is succeeding. Read here for more information about Zappos culture. Other company examples: Pivotal has a unique culture where having happy employees is one of their core values and to make sure it happens they hire a Happiness Director at every location and hold events like: food truck rally, pumpkin decorating contest and rocks, paper scissors tournaments. REI encourages its employees to get outside by offering two paid days off, called “Yay Days”, a year to enjoy their favorite outside activity. Twilio offers employees a Kindle plus $30 a month to purchase books. 2HB offers a $50 grooming perk each month. Employees can use it for a mani, pedi, or just getting a nice hair cut to gain that extra confidence boost.


[How To Keep Your Employees Happy]


Being an owner of a small business you may not have the revenue that Zappos or other large companies enjoy, but what you have is a lot of flexibility. Being able to customize the work environment to the needs of your employees and to know your employees on a personal level is a huge advantage you have over large companies. Build a culture where everyone’s voice is heard and respected. Where any employee no matter what their title is has a say, and the freedom to make certain decisions to build ownership and pride will not just help with employee engagement but also with sales and customer retention.


You might not be able to afford major benefits to attract employees to your company like health care or retirement plans but you should still try to add some rewards for your workers, simple things like early release during the holidays or providing flexible hours can be a huge moral boost to your workers.


Here is a list of the best ideas we found to improve your employees’ engagement:

  1. If you have minimum wage employees offer a one-week pay advance to prevent employees from falling into payday loan cycle.
  2. Offer vacation cash-out options.
  3. Encourage employees to speak up.
  4. Empower your employees to make inexpensive decisions without the need for management approval.
  5. Hire from the inside first.
  6. Involve your employees into the hiring process.
  7. Have a day every quarter where management cooks a big dinner/lunch for the employees.
  8. Organize 2 annual parties, one for the holidays and one for summer like a family picnic.
  9. Bring breakfast, coffee from your favorite cafe, or free lunch one day a week to the office.
  10. Host a team fun event like a board game or karaoke event.
  11. Organize contests like pumpkin decorating contest, rocks, papers scissors tournament, identify baby photo contest or cookie decorating contest.
  12. Host a happy hour event once a week/month, have it around 4pm either at the office or at a nearby bar for those employees who don’t want to stay late at work for social events.
  13. Host an ice cream social event at the office.
  14. Approve early release on Fridays or certain time of the year when business is slow.
  15. Offer flexible hours.
  16. Offer work from home day.
  17. Provide performance reviews and feedback on a regular basis.
  18. Offer a 13 month payment cycle. The 13th month comes as a lump sum.
  19. Match charity donations to qualified charities.
  20. Offer paid day off to do community service once or twice a year, either as a group or employees can pick individual causes.
  21. Sponsor a charitable event.
  22. Host charity workshops.
  23. Give everyone a quality ergonomics chairs.
  24. Have rules where employees do not need to get permission to go to the doctor or pick up their kids.
  25. Offer three weeks paid vacation to start or unlimited vacation regulated by the work due.
  26. No requirement to work outside of working hours. Not checking email after hours is encouraged.
  27. If employees have a sick kid or spouse they can take time off up to a certain time without burning PTO.
  28. Provide unlimited beverages at the office.
  29. Bring in a massage therapist and offer free chair massages.
  30. Provide yoga classes at the office.
  31. Free gym membership at a nearby gym.
  32. Encourage employee sport team events (soccer, baseball).
  33. Offer continuous personal growth, pay for financial classes to help employees manage their money better and avoid payday loans.
  34. Bring in a motivation speaker every month or every quarter.
  35. Offer training/team building workshops.
  36. Encourage intrapreneurs. Reward employees with the ability to come up with and fund ideas for company growth.
  37. Provide free healthy snacks at the office. Companies like Snack Nation help deliver healthy snacks to your office.
  38. Celebrate personal milestones (new baby, graduation, bday).
  39. Allow pets at work.
  40. Do an employee’s job for a day. “Boss Does Your Chores” e.g., dealing with customer complaints, take the trash out.
  41. Serve as a mentor to the employees.
  42. Provide parental leave and adoption assistance.
  43. Make every month or day a fun holiday theme day, here is a list to choose from the 2017 holidays.
  44. Celebrate a goal that you accomplish as a team not as an individual.
  45. Bring food trucks to the office, if you are a small office check if you can partner with other nearby businesses.
  46. Give your employees gift cards to movie theaters or local restaurants as a thank you for a job well done or if a customer compliments an employee.
  47. Offer Spotify music monthly membership or $30/month to purchase books on Kindle.
  48. Give discounts to your product or service, e.g., free food if you are an owner of a restaurant or 30% off of clothes for retail shop owners.
  49. Offer $50-$100 grooming perk each month.
  50. Have a dress theme day like flannel Friday.


Do you have any unique ways to motivate your employees? Please share.



Author: Raya Khashab

Raya is the CEO and co-founder of ezClocker. She is passionate about customers and building products that change the way people run their business. She is also a big supporter of the startup community and helping people achieve their dreams.


  1. A great way to engage employees is to offer them communication which goes both ways. If they are heard, they feel more like a part of the team and part of the decision making.

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