5 Key Employee Motivators for Today’s Workforce

5 Key Employee Motivators for Today’s Workforce

Table of Contents

Motivators for employees are intrinsic, and include meaningful work, growth, inspiration, and recognition. In the new age of the dispersed, digital workforce, keeping your employees motivated is harder than ever. In this guide, we’ll dig into how you drive intrinsic motivation for employees with these 5 motivators:

  1. Make work meaningful
  2. Challenge employees to grow
  3. Ensure work is mutually beneficial
  4. Create an inspiring environment
  5. Drive a culture of recognition

Why is intrinsic motivation important in the workplace?

So how do you boost employee morale in a rapidly changing world? By focusing on intrinsic motivation. Employee motivators today reflect the changing nature of work, as well as the dynamic relationship between employers and employees. And that comes from within.

Extrinsic motivators are still important factors in employee engagement and job satisfaction. (Examples of extrinsic motivators in the workplace include cash bonuses, healthcare benefits, and other tangible rewards.) However, extrinsic employee motivation works best in the short-term. For long-term positive impact on employee retention — not to mention your bottom line — it’s critical to consider employees’ overall well-being.

Want more on motivation? Check out our report, The Power of Employee Recognition & Rewards. Or, read on for our 5 key workplace motivators.


Key employee motivators

1. Meaningful work

As we outline in our Employee Experience Manifesto, employees today are seeking something different from work. This was true before the COVID-19 pandemic, and even more now. Employees value meaningful work.

Which is totally in your wheelhouse.

First, work with managers to ensure that individual work assignments coincide with employees’ strengths, interests, career aspirations, and development goals. Your employees are unique individuals — when you match their work with their strengths, you infuse their work with meaning.

Additionally, make sure each team has shared goals — and that those team goals are aligned with greater company goals. This helps that team members feel part of something bigger than themselves.

Finally, illustrate the impact of your employee’s work on the community, or on the world. Share customer anecdotes, or meaningful statistics. Tell the story of that impact regularly. Make it a consistent talking point, both for your leaders and yourself.

Example of motivator in action: Infuse meaning into an employee’s work by demonstrating its impact. For example, share positive customer feedback with employees so they can see how their work is helping.

2. Challenging work

Let’s be honest: Work-life balance has been getting pretty blurry in the last decade. And with 37% of America’s workforce full-remote for the pandemic, more of us are working from home than ever before. And working round the clock, in whatever hours we can squeeze in around our ordinary lives.

So, should you give your workers easier tasks? Exactly the opposite. Because we’re spending most of our time at work, it’s one of the primary places that we grow. To motivate employees intrinsically, give them a challenge.

High-performing employees of today want work that stretches them. As a leader, show your team that you’re just as invested in their development as they are. Set ambitious goals together, guide them toward growth opportunities, and share important decision making.

Example of employee motivator in action: Seek opportunities for junior employees to shadow seniors on complex projects. After they’ve shadowed once, ask them to lead the next one.

Unlock the power. Transform your culture.

The Power of Recognition and Rewards

3. Mutually beneficial work relationship

Here’s what we mean. The employer-employee relationship should be a two-way street. Gone are the days of employees grimly punching timecards for a paycheck and an eventual gold watch. In the new future of work, both employer and employee gives and gets the very best.

That’s because a mutually beneficial work relationship builds trust and helps teams adapt with agility to changing priorities. Employees need to feel their manager, their HR team, and their leaders have their best interest in mind, both personally and professionally. Employees who feel supported are motivated to do their best work.

Example of motivator in action: Make sure your employees feel they’re getting as good as they give. Audit your perks, benefits, and rewards offerings. Also, equip managers for success by training them to succeed.

4. Inspiring work environment

The employee experience is built on four pillars: connection, appreciation, performance, and growth. When all of these are present, your employees are inspired to achieve at the highest levels.

So how do you create an inspiring work environment? It’s more than just steeping your workplace in positivity. Inspiration comes from:

  • A clear, moving company mission
  • A sense of connectedness to others in the organization
  • Regular appreciation and recognition

Example of motivator in action: Inspire employees to achieve by boosting their connection with others in your company. Set up digital cross-team meet-and-greets to build connection.

5. Recognition

The number 1 motivator is employee recognition. When employees feel appreciated, they do better work. In fact, 81% of employees say they feel motivated to work harder when a boss shows appreciation. 

Recognition can take many forms. For particularly shy employees, save recognition for private moments. For employees who flourish under verbal praise, take it public. (Visit our blog for more expert employee recognition examples and tips.)

Recognition is most effective when it’s immediate, specific, meaningful, and demonstrates the impact of the person’s action. WorkTango’s Recognition & Rewards makes all of it a snap — plus, connects recognition to company values to support your company culture.

Example of job motivator in action: Recognition can be as simple as saying “thank you” for a job well done. Learn more about the power of a strategic recognition program here.

Major motivation starts with WorkTango

Motivating employees to perform at their best levels should always be a leader’s top priority. Especially given today’s dynamically changing, complex work environment. Using these 5 key employee motivators is a great place to start. But where will you go next?

It’s a new age for the employee experience. The movement we’ve seen toward a more human mode of work has only accelerated in the post-COVID-19 work era. So increasingly, companies are looking for simple solutions that embrace the whole employee.

Like WorkTango. Because we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone.