Business Leadership Today

How To Foster a Culture of Motivation and Productivity (6 Strategies)


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

For employees to stay motivated and productive, they need to be engaged with the work they do and inspired to do it well. The way leaders ensure they are providing the necessary conditions to engage and inspire employees is by meeting the needs they have for engagement. 

There are 14 universal needs employees have for thriving at work. 

Meeting these needs requires a holistic approach that goes beyond perks and addresses the intrinsic motivators that keep employees consistently engaged and productive. But it has to be more than a program or initiative—it has to be a set of principles and values that are embedded in the organizational culture. 

To foster a culture of motivation and productivity that keeps employees engaged and performing well, leaders should embed the following six strategies into their organization’s culture:

  1. Create a positive work environment
  2. Be flexible when possible
  3. Communicate clearly and often 
  4. Promote growth and development
  5. Celebrate impact 
  6. Focus on people over profits

When leaders do these things, they will help their team members meet the 14 core universal needs for engaging and thriving at work. This article will delve into these 14 fundamental needs and discuss how to cultivate a culture that satisfies these needs, thereby enabling employees to remain engaged, motivated, and productive.

The Role of Employee Engagement in Motivation and Productivity

Employee engagement, motivation, and productivity are inextricably linked. When engagement drops, this will be reflected in the overall motivation and productivity of the team because employees can’t stay motivated and productive if they aren’t engaged in their work. 

Engaged employees often stand out as top performers, consistently surpassing their job requirements and going the extra mile. This heightened dedication directly translates to increased employee productivity. In fact, organizations with a high level of engagement report 22% higher productivity.

Disengaged employees will not only demonstrate low motivation and low productivity, but they can also hurt the engagement of other employees, which can decrease their motivation. The contagious nature of disengagement can have a significant and negative impact on team morale, which can hurt the performance of the team and trigger other negative outcomes. 

Leaders can increase employee engagement and motivation by assisting employees in recognizing their own motivations and helping them meet the core needs people have for thriving at work.

Keep in mind, the goal of employee engagement extends beyond merely boosting productivity; it’s about cultivating a vibrant, focused, and competent team that is prepared to tackle challenges proactively.

Meeting Needs Increases Motivation and Productivity

There are 14 universal needs that are closely linked to engagement, as evidenced by years of research. These requirements are fundamentally universal. Nearly everyone has these requirements for flourishing in their workplace and being actively engaged.

1. Clarity of Expectations

A lack of clarity can lead to considerable daily frustration, damage self-assurance, and obstruct engagement.

2. Having the Tools Required To Do One’s Job

Lacking the tools to do one’s job can significantly impact engagement, and consequently, performance.

3. Doing Work That Leverages One’s Strengths

Engagement increases when individuals spend more time on work that they find enjoyable and are proficient at.

4. Appreciation / Recognition

Individuals need to be recognized and appreciated for their efforts.

5. Growth

Individuals need to engage in constant growth for continuous improvement.

6. Feeling Like Opinion Matters / Is Heard

Individuals need to feel like they’re contributing ideas to the team that are at least considered.

7. Meaningful Work

The average person would be willing to sacrifice approximately 23% of their earnings to engage in work that is consistently meaningful.

8. Excellence

Individuals naturally aspire to perform exceptionally well and attain excellence.

9. Belonging

Having a close friend in the workplace is a significant factor in predicting job retention.

10. Feedback

Individuals require consistent, constructive feedback for growth.

11. Autonomy

Individuals need to experience a sense of maximum possible control over their lives.

12. Trust

Individuals need to have trust in their colleagues and, above all, their leaders.

13. Well-Being

Adversely affecting well-being has a strong negative correlation with both engagement and retention.

14. Feeling Cared for by Supervisor

This could be the most potent catalyst for engagement and the basis for satisfying all other needs.

Fulfilling these needs increases both motivation and productivity. There are several strategies that organizations can adopt to foster engagement and establish a culture where all employees are persistently motivated and consistently productive.

Strategies That Foster a Culture of Motivation and Productivity

To foster a culture of motivation and productivity, here are six strategies leaders can utilize to engage employees and help them consistently perform at their best. These strategies help leaders address the 14 universal needs for engagement.

1. Create a Positive Work Environment

Needs: Trust and belonging

Creating a positive work environment can strengthen trust and belonging within your team, which are essential for motivation and productivity. Positive work environments value transparency and the open sharing of information at all levels, including senior leadership, which increases trust. 

A positive work environment where there is a high degree of trust stimulates employees to establish relationships and fully commit, thereby fostering a feeling of belonging.

2. Be Flexible When Possible

Needs: Autonomy and having the tools required to do one’s job.

Flexibility promotes autonomy by empowering employees to make decisions about their work schedules, assignments, and workspaces. Remember: employees want as much control over their lives as possible. When they can work successfully with autonomy, they are equipped with the tools they need to do their job and have as much control as possible over their lives. 

Offering flexibility and equipping employees with the right tools can enable them to work autonomously and maintain the intrinsic motivation they need to perform well.

3. Communicate Clearly and Often

Needs: Clarity of expectations and feeling like opinion matters/is heard.

Transparent communication dispels uncertainty by offering precise guidelines and expectations, enabling employees to better comprehend their duties and clearly understand which projects, initiatives, or priorities they should concentrate on. 

Employees who have open lines of communication with their superiors tend to maintain high levels of productivity throughout the workday. Moreover, when employees perceive that their voices are being heard, it enhances their morale, involvement in their work, efficiency, and overall job satisfaction.

By maintaining strong, transparent communication, we are able to provide the clarity of expectations employees need to engage with their work and stay motivated to perform well, and by engaging in active listening and really hearing what employees have to say, we let them know their opinion and input matters.

4. Promote Growth and Development

Needs: Growth, doing work that leverages one’s strengths, and feedback.

To stay motivated and productive, it’s not enough for employees to merely have potential for growth. They require opportunities to expand, discover their unique abilities, and identify effective methods to utilize and apply these abilities in manners that contribute to the organization’s growth and success.

By providing opportunities for growth, whether through learning or advancement opportunities, we help employees do work that leverages their strengths and unique skills. Growth is also facilitated through routinely engaging in feedback with them so that they can course correct when needed, reach their full potential, and do their best work. 

5. Celebrate Impact 

Needs: Appreciation/recognition and meaningful work.

At its core, celebrating impact goes beyond simply recognizing achievements; it’s about expressing sincere gratitude for the employees’ diligent efforts. This not only instills a sense of value in employees but also helps them see a deeper purpose in their work that can inspire them to maintain top performance. As a result, a regular and meaningful show of appreciation can result in a workforce that is more engaged, productive, and content.

By celebrating the impact of the work our team members do, we are showing appreciation for their contributions and uniting them with a shared sense of meaning that keeps them motivated to pursue the vision. 

6. Focus on People Over Profits

Needs: Well-being, feeling cared for by supervisor, and excellence.

Fundamentally, prioritizing the well-being of employees is advantageous not only for the employees themselves but also enhances the overall success of the organization. It creates a mutually beneficial scenario where both the employees and the organization gain rewards. Therefore, emphasizing people over profits is not only morally correct but also a sound business strategy.

The most important thing an organization can do to cultivate a culture of motivation and productivity is to focus on people over profits and respect over results by valuing employee well-being and demonstrating care toward employees. This can create an environment where employees continuously work toward and achieve excellence in all that they do without putting their physical or mental well-being in jeopardy.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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