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5 Ways to Motivate Employees

By: Ronda Payne

Published On: January 24, 2018

For some, their interest in working in the Human Resource (HR) field comes from the love of working with people and helping. This takes shape in a variety of ways – and people often ask “what is human resources?” Sometimes graduates from the Human Resources Management Program go on to work primarily in the hiring aspect of HR, many choose to put their efforts into creating benefit programs and the compensation plans employees receive, while others are focused on creating a harmonious workplace by building great relationships.

This post focuses on the latter – creating harmonious work environments – looking at how to increase the motivation and enthusiasm employees have for doing a great job at work.

Whose job is motivation?

Motivation is something many people in a company are responsible for. While some will claim it’s a “top-down” job that needs to begin with senior management attitudes and approaches (which is true), it is also part of what HR management does and what middle-managers must take part in too. HR diploma courses may not always touch on employee motivation specifically, but it will be an underlying theme in many human resources programs.

If you are in human resources management or are taking HR diploma courses, you’ll want to know about the things that motivate employees. Here are just a few ideas of how to create a harmonious workplace from the top of the organization’s structure to the bottom.

1. It’s all about relationships. One of the first things graduates of a human resources program will learn is that there is no one solution to a challenge that involves people. People are individuals and find motivation and enthusiasm from different sources, but the one common aspect in managing human relations is relationships.

All individuals benefit from positive interactions with co-workers and superiors to do a great job, so promoting positive relationships is key for someone in human resources management. This can include repairing strained relationships or simply keeping good relationships positive.

Communication skills are at the heart of good relationships. In order to create respectful interaction and trust, both employees and managers need to have the skills required to be open and honest with each other. This doesn’t necessarily mean they spend time discussing their personal lives, but knowing how both sides see their role is essential.

Communication skills can be built from in-organization courses put on by experts, out-of-office seminars or classes and even books. Many who are managing human resources in an organization build up an informal lending library of books to help build key skills like communication.

2. Games make work feel more like play. There’s a reason that some online games are so addictive. They encourage players to do what’s required to reach the next level. The same can be incorporated into the work place by looking at tasks differently.

Someone in HR management might work together with a middle manager to help inspire employees to reach targets quicker in a large project. By turning each milestone into a level like a game (where rewards like a badge, extra hour for lunch or a gift card are achieved) employees will strive to constantly do more and reach that next level. Human resources programs seldom look at this style of motivator in the curriculum, but savvy HR managers will see the opportunities when presented with requests from the management team of their organization.

3. What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. As mentioned earlier, what works for one individual doesn’t necessarily work for another. Some employees may be motivated by achieving more vacation days, while others will be satisfied with the status quo and younger employees may be motivated by earning more responsibility and access to new tools.

When managing human resources, part of the role includes helping managers of an organization by coaching them to learn what motivates their team. This links to the aspect of communication, in that, getting to know and trust employees will help reveal what motivates them. Managers can then use this knowledge to get work done while making it a win-win.

4. Work is important, but so is downtime. Taking a sick day when someone isn’t feeling well may seem obvious, but when schedules are hectic, people are away and project deadlines are crazy, dedicated employees may be tempted to come in. Both human resources management professionals and supervising managers must stress the importance of self-care in order to do a good job.

Some managers may be tempted to encourage, or even feel proud when red-eyed, sneezing employees drag themselves into work, but this isn’t good for anyone. Employees will feel more motivated when they take care of themselves, are encouraged to do so and keep their germs at home rather than spreading them to others. Not to mention the fact that good work is done by people in good health.

The same goes for vacation days. You’ll learn in human resources programs that part of your role is to help people love their job, but they shouldn’t love it so much that they can’t get away. Taking vacation time helps to recharge people and bring the excitement of a great workplace back into focus. Downtime is essential for motivation.

5. Encourage positive feedback cycles. Everyone does better work when they feel appreciated and encouraged whether it’s from their own manager, a co-worker or someone else within the organization. HR management teams can facilitate positive feedback cycles by promoting regular meetings, activities, or online systems that allow employees to praise one another for specific positive actions.

Some organizations do this by setting up positive feedback systems where the individual giving praise uses their own name as well as the name of the team member they are giving praise too. These should be public. Areas that need improvement should be left private and can be submitted anonymously. This allows for a flow of positive ideas and a channel for areas that need improvement to be assessed, both of which encourage positive motivation.


Motivation in the workplace can’t be underestimated. Those wondering “what is human resources management” will benefit from understanding the role HR plays in motivation and many other aspects. If you think HR management is right for you, there are many local HR diploma courses to get you started in pursuing this exciting and rewarding field.


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