A motivated workforce is a holy grail that every organization aspires to have, but only a few experience its advantages today. These advantages provided by a motivated workforce are pretty well tracked — organizations that have a high employee engagement rate are more resilient and able to weather uncertainty. In order to increase the motivation of their employees, organizations end up overpromising — higher salaries, better perks, stock options and so on. These extrinsic rewards can provide traction in the short run, but focusing on them exclusively can lead to a bigger problem in the long run.

What drives employee engagement and motivation?

Compensation and benefits are very important in motivating employees, but they are not the only factors employees consider. These intrinsic rewards like work-life balance, learning and development, and fulfillment at work – are intangible, differ from employee to employee and need special attention from managers to fructify.


Lack of motivation and lack of engagement are different things. Employees can be engaged at work and finish their to-dos on time, but that’s about it. Similarly, motivated employees might sit in front of their computers for hours on end, trying to solve a bug without talking to anyone or taking a break. Managers need to understand the difference and help employees reach common ground in a skillful way. By ensuring that the work of employees is aligned to the goals of the organization, managers can help them plan their career growth while ensuring organizational goals are addressed.


Internally driven managers are satisfied with their jobs the most, and their commitment to the organizations they work for pushes them to move ahead. Once they know their level of motivation, managers can pair the key requirements or deliverables with appropriate team members. This ensures that the tasks assigned to employees help them to learn and grow. By pairing intrinsic rewards with extrinsic ones, managers can achieve high internal motivation among employees, thus enhancing employee engagement and performance. Additionally, developing a coaching style of management can help managers motivate their teams better.


By paying attention to the basics alone, managers can help their team members derive motivation from their work. Here are a few helpful ways:

  • Help employees understand what motivates them.Encourage them to think seriously about their career growth and what compels them to be engaged during work hours. This results in a better definition of their responsibilities. Happy employees are energized, honest and optimistic — and bring their teams’ morale up.
  • Understand the needs and issues of team membersThis helps managers see the person behind the goals and deliverables and helps them engage with the employee in a meaningful way.
  • Grant them authority along with responsibility.Doing so provides a confidence boost to team members. Giving them the authority to do what they feel is right and then gently guiding them reduces the learning curve and increases employee satisfaction.
  • Invest in the growth of employees.By encouraging them to seek avenues of growth, you show employees that leadership cares about them as people more. When they know that they’re being treated as people and not resources, their loyalty goes up.
  • Be genuine with the team. Authenticity is essential to building relationships, and when leaders display this behavior and act on it, the trust factor in the organization increases.
  • Act upon the feedback as soon as possible.This signals to employees that their words and feelings matter. They grow more vocal about the issues and processes, and acting upon them can unearth insights that can help teams streamline their work better.


If HR treats incentive plans as just another box to tick, the chances of such a plan yielding desirable results are very low — no matter how robust the plan. Leaders can avoid this by focusing on a few important tenets.


Employees feel a sense of security and self-worth when they’re supported by their managers and can easily call upon internal motivation. A lack of support, on the other hand, compels employees to feel threatened and just focus on their tasks (and get out of the organization soon). This support that employees need has increased dramatically since the start of the working-from-home era.

Managers can address these issues in one-on-one sessions (which need to be of a regular cadence), along with identifying the areas of improvement for the employee. Also, if possible, ensuring the employee gets the help they need, like on-the-job coaching, allows them to be proactive. When employees know that their managers are trying to help them get better, they feel free to admit to their shortcomings. The conversations then can veer toward problem-solving.


Extrinsic rewards have been used as a key motivational tool throughout the history of the industry, where performers who achieve a preset target get bonuses and raises. This practice of tying someone’s performance improvement trajectory to monetary compensation works in the beginning, but then as targets get higher and higher, disillusion sets in quite easily.

Instead of looking at the reward happily, employees end up seeing only the pressure to achieve specific targets and disregard their sense of self-direction. Having a performance management process that is aligned with objectives and key results (OKRs) brings in more transparency within teams, improves productivity and drives better outcomes.

By understanding this changing need of the current and upcoming workforce, organizations can empower their managers to be more effective than ever.