Employee Motivation For When You Need It Yourself

How do you do something you really don’t want to do, when you know it needs to be done?

What about getting your employees to do what needs to be done?

We dug into the research on employee motivation, and here’s what we found: You can motivate every team member in your firm to do what you need them to do.

How to Motivate Employees to Work

There are two different types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Both types are helpful for individuals, employees, and leaders. But some methods are more helpful than others.

These lead not only to better work output, but also to more employee retention, both of which are highly profitable metrics in your company. You’re trying to lead a world-class accounting team, afterall. Let’s look at the definition for each kind of motivation.

Extrinsic Motivation

Like the word, “external,” extrinsic motivation is created by something outside of yourself. Common examples of extrinsic motivation includes receiving an award, bonus, or praise for work well done.

Some examples of extrinsic motivation we enjoy at Jetpack Workflow HQ include yearly, monthly, weekly, and even daily encouragement:

  • Yearly. Excepting 2020, we have yearly retreats and holiday parties during which the whole team celebrates together and has fun, remembering why we all love working together.
  • Monthly. A monthly award to outstanding teammates. We have a once-plush toy that now lives on virtually, whom we named Professor Jetpack. He even gets his own emoji in our Slack workspace. Throughout the month, team members are encouraged to nominate one teammate whom they see embodying our company values exceptionally well. The big reveal for who gets Professor Jetpack happens at each monthly team meeting, and much applause and celebration are shared with the whole team.
  • Weekly. We also have weekly [now virtual] fika dates. This is the one-hour-per-week opportunity for anyone who wants to grab a coffee, tea, or snack and hang out. Sometimes we just chat; other times we play games like puzzles, pictionary, or playing with camera filters to laugh with each other for a bit.
  • Daily. We love offering kudos to each other as often as possible. Looking at any channel in our Slack workspace, you’ll see a ton of Karma being offered up for individuals throughout the day. Whether it’s for a teammate sharing a fantastic joke, helpful resource, communicating needs or changes well, or going above and beyond their job expectations, karma is awarded regularly.

Think back to a time when you got rewarded for something you worked hard on. Hopefully you took the time to celebrate the win and find value in the effort you put into the task. Studies suggest that if you know you’re going to receive a reward at the end of a project, then you’ll work to reach the exact level of proficiency expected to reach that goal.

But if you receive the reward by surprise, you’d feel more pride in the accomplishment. You’d be more motivated to push the limit for the next project, especially if it was a project you were already intrinsically motivated to do. This brings us to the definition of intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic Motivation

Just like the parallel between “external” and “extrinsic,” you can think of intrinsic motivation as “internal” motivation. When you are compelled to accomplish something just for the sake of accomplishing it, this experience is pure intrinsic motivation.

This kind of motivation might feel impossible to create for yourself or for others because it all comes from within, which is something you can’t control. Luckily research from companies and schools have figured out how you can encourage intrinsic motivation.

The four most effective motivational tools to include in your firm are autonomy, relevance, relatedness, and competence. Each tool is interconnected and therefore equally important for successful workplace motivation.

1. Autonomy

Unless you have an undying love for micromanaging and/or being micromanaged, autonomy is a more effective value for you and your staff in the long run. You hired people because you weren’t able to do everything all of the time, right?

Dive deeper into how to encourage more autonomy in each staff member for multiple benefits. Empowering your team to work autonomously not only saves you many hours of your limited time, but it fosters a sense of ownership for each employee in what they were hired and entrusted to do.

Being a business owner definitely has its difficulties, but you probably started your firm because you enjoyed the freedom of doing things yourself, at your own pace, and in your own way. Not every employee wants to be entrepreneurial like you are, but they do deserve the opportunity to use their individual talents to grow your business and their own professional development.

One way to encourage autonomy in your firm is by working collaboratively on goal-setting, a staple in high performance habits. By now, you’ve likely heard all about SMART goals. The power of a SMART goal is in its universality and simplicity. It also implies that you know exactly where to start, what metrics you’ll use to track progress, and why you’re working toward this goal.

2. Relevance

To effectively support autonomy and goal-setting in your firm, you need to set the foundation of relevance.

People are more motivated by working toward a shared purpose. Consider your firm’s values, mission, and vision. Are you still inspired by them? If not, how can you update them to align with what you really want for your firm, your team, and the greater world around you.

Similar to how goal-setting helps with autonomy, agreeing about your bigger “why” is a crucial starting point for staff motivation. When you provide context about why a specific project, task, or account matters to the firm’s bigger vision, your employees have the opportunity for a deeper interest in their work.

Sometimes the best reason for an individual to work hard on a project is just to earn a paycheck. But you have a bigger vision than this for your firm, so make sure you share it regularly not only for better productivity in individual projects, but also for better employee retention.

3. Relatedness

No matter how introverted you and your teammates might be, you still need — and hopefully enjoy — each other’s company. If you don’t, then consider taking a deeper look into your team collaboration and the culture you’ve created.

Would your employees describe your culture as safe and positive? A place where everyone can belong and have mutual trust? Do you, as a leader, model open and honest communication?

No business is perfect, and every culture is unique. But consider some of these characteristics as pillars for your company culture because they’re proven to be the traits that encourage motivation in the workplace.

When we’re able to work together as a trusting team, we not only get much more done, but we get the opportunity to enjoy learning more about each other as humans. Keep in mind each employee’s unique strengths and how you can utilize them, no matter what position or title they hold.

4. Competence

When you feel competent at something, you feel secure in your ability to execute a task well. The goal to work toward for competence in your firm is in mastery. Mastery doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an expert or traditionally educated in the subject, but it is a certain level of proficiency that ultimately supports autonomy. (See? All of the techniques are interconnected in motivating employees.)

Thinking about unique strengths and talents of your staff, there are a few competence-specific questions to consider:

  • Do you believe you have ”the right people in the right seats,” or is each person doing the best with what they were assigned?
  • Do you provide the resources that each employee needs to really excel at their position?
  • If you feel like you have employees in your firm who are not delivering at the level you expect, do you have a talent gap, or is it actually a focus gap? If it’s the latter, then consider revisiting goal-setting for Autonomy or a shared purpose for Relevance.

Whether you only check in once a year with your employees on their progress and professional development, or if you have weekly one-on-one meetings, you can prioritize each employee’s competence. As a manager, it can feel like a big use of your energy and time to check in on each of your direct reports for their comfort level with proficiency.

But taking this time can separate your firm from one that does “just enough” for your clients because having more capable employees means they can offer more to your customers than your competitors.

Want an extra boost when learning how to motivate employees at work? Save time spent managing your staff and projects with a 14-day free trial of Jetpack Workflow today!

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