How to Motivate and Inspire Employees

Retain your top employees with these 10 tips.

Roy Saunderson, chief learning officer at Engage2Excel
Roy Saunderson, chief learning officer at Engage2Excel

Employee recognition and rewards can influence an entire workforce to be more productive, loyal, and motivated. But what about being inspired? How do we motivate our employees so that they are driven from within? How do we get them to commit their hearts and spirits to the mission of the company?

Following are 10 ideas for inspiring —and retaining— employees.

1. Remind People Why They Were Hired.

Take a few minutes to remind a valuable employee why she stood out when you first hired her, why you chose her over every other candidate. Highlight what she since has contributed—and will continue to contribute—to the organization and its mission. Make sure to use concrete examples so that she knows exactly what it is that makes her special.

2. Push Employees to Challenge Themselves.

Payman Taei, founder, HindSite Interactive, hosts group employee sessions for every new product concept. The key is to brainstorm and invite new ideas, but at these sessions, everyone's input matters so that all employees participate and realize their full potential.

3. Ask Employees for Advice.

Make a point of holding regular one-on-one employee meetings to ask them, “How can we inspire you better?” and “What can we do to make you more engaged and committed?” Not only will such meetings show your employees that you care, but they provide them with opportunities to tell you what they need from you.

4. Lead Your Team by Example.

Sergio Alvarez, founder and CEO, Ai Media Group, says that in order to motivate, you have to be motivated yourself. Show them what you’ve accomplished and inspire them to do the same through action.

5. Tap Into Employees' Passions.

Find out what lights a fire in each of your employees outside of work and why it’s his or her passion. Is it a sport? Perhaps he loves volunteering at a food bank? Or maybe she really enjoys collecting stamps. With some creativity, you can tap into and link these passions with work to get them motivated, engaged, and inspired.

6. Ask Your Employees for Feedback.

It is important to ask your employees for their ideas and ask them to create plans supporting them.

7. Highlight employees’ Inspiring and Motivational Stories.

While you can certainly bring in motivational speakers to inspire your team, you may find that the most inspiring story is what a colleague does as a volunteer outside of work. Share such stories. The fact that a motivational story comes from someone down the hall rather than an anecdote by an outsider can yield a more significant impact.

8. Let Employees Share in the Success.

For example, Cary M. Silverman is an eye surgeon who provided free LASIK surgeries to the London 2012 Olympic athletes. He arranged for all of his office staff to meet the athletes and get autographs and pictures.

9. Give Employees Autonomy.

Arman Sadeghi, founder and CEO of All Green Electronics Recycling, says the best way to inspire workers is to give them a heightened sense of ownership of their work. The more ideas they are allowed to come up with, the more they feel like they own a part of the system.

10. Aim to Be Both Teacher and Student.

In order to inspire others, you must both transfer your knowledge to employees and absorb and embrace what employees share.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is the author of Practicing Recognition. He is also a recognition strategist and the chief learning officer at Engage2Excel