What Motivates Employees?

What motivates employees? Employees are motivated by many different things, and quite often, those motivations change due to life circumstances or the ebbs and flows of their job and workplace culture. If you are charged with managing the employee experience, it’s easy to feel like you’re aiming for a moving target.

Employee experience, however, is not a single target but a broader slice of the workplace, perhaps better viewed as an element of company culture. A 2017 survey of 750 workers concluded that primary building block of employee experience is company culture, combined with the company’s technology, tools, and physical environment. Here’s a short list of what motivates employees, and tips managers can use to help their team thrive.

A Sense of Accomplishment

While allowing employees to gain a sense of accomplishment on the job is crucial to their success (and the organization’s), not every position is ripe with a feeling of accomplishment. Savvy managers endeavor to offer other ways to get that satisfying feeling, for example, through contests, or self-improvement such as learning opportunities or wellness programs. Creating partnerships with employees, in which they take an ownership role in new products or new territories, motivates employees and promotes a great sense of accomplishment. Alight‘s 2018 Workforce Mindset Study highlights the importance of creating many opportunities for employees to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Personal Achievement or Growth

Achievement is similar to a sense of accomplishment, but typically pertains more to personal goals. Attaining levels in companies with a standard hierarchical structure may be recognized by a new title or a new office. In less traditional companies, personal achievement can often be outside of the “regular” job description, for example, heading an event or being granted extra scheduling flexibility to reach personal goals.

Social Rewards

Maslow described this as social belonging, but more specific to a professional organization, the focus is on workplace relationships and corporate culture. Offering interdepartmental mixing opportunities, whether in diverse committees or more informal settings, like a place to exercise (on or off the clock), can build relationships among employees at all levels, improving the overall corporate culture.


As every parent has said a dozen (or a hundred) times, trust must be earned. That said, successful workplaces do not operate like homes full of teenagers. A certain level of trust is expected from employees on day one – and it is a two-way street. Employers and managers who lose their subordinates’ confidence need to take immediate action to own their failures and regain their employees’ trust. If they don’t, morale and productivity both suffer. In 2019, part of the two-way trust factor includes respecting employees’ needs outside of office hours, and offering them an opportunity to find fulfillment both on and off the job.

When a workplace is fun, fair, managers listen, and multiple rewards are available to meet workers’ needs, employees are more likely to report a good experience – and stay longer to share their talents and experience. While a corporation certainly benefits from having a highly experienced, seasoned staff, how the staff views that culture and their experience at work is the key to lower turnover and higher productivity.

How Fitness Enhances Company Culture

Few perks are as appreciated as access to fitness centers. Wellness programs and gym memberships are among the most-desired workplace benefits. And, besides its appeal as a recruiting tool, there are many surprising ways offering employee fitness options benefit not only the employees but also their organizations. To put it plainly, a workforce that works out tends to have a healthier culture and a stronger bottom line.

The health benefits of exercise continue to be documented – such as a recent study from the Joslin Diabetes Center that showed how a protein released from fat after exercise actually improves Glucose tolerance. Similarly, the organizational benefits of fostering a health and wellness (exercise) routine at work offers improved communication (particularly listening) among different employee levels.

Working out together – or even just sharing workout routines and goals – can be a great leveler and better, a team building opportunity as well as checking some other boxes related to your employees’ basic needs. Sharing similar goals (weight loss, fitness levels, number of workouts/month) fosters communication and provides a solid base for relationships to grow among all departments and motivates employees to reach their goals. Working toward physical fitness goals also encourages those all-important feelings of personal achievement, which carry over into the workplace.

Does your Workplace Culture Measure Up?

How does your organization do when it comes to offering a positive company culture? You probably have a very good feel for the answer, but you know you can’t rely on gut instinct alone to answer that question. Measurement options range from detailed surveys to more informal data collection methods. However you go about gauging your organization, it is a worthwhile exercise. Because dissatisfied workers disrupt the workplace and also have a clear, negative impact on the bottom line, getting a good understanding of how your organization can improve the employee experience rating is time well spent.