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Lessons in Leadership: 4 Tips to Motivate and Engage Employees

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

Are your employees excited to come to work? Are they passionate about their jobs? Are they willing to go above and beyond to achieve outstanding results? If not, you may be facing an employee engagement gap, with team members who don’t feel motivated or connected to the organization or their jobs.

There is no arguing that a highly engaged employee is a productive employee. They care about their work, drive innovation, and move their organization forward. Unfortunately, engaged employees are hard to come by. Gallup recently reported that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. The United States, which reported the highest levels of engagement, found that only 29% of employees reported engagement to their work.  These results show that there is a great deal of room for improvement for leaders and organizations.

The good news: There are many ways to make your employees feel more inspired by their work! Many of these strategies are very easy to implement into your leadership practices and can have a profound impact on overall motivation. Below are 4 Tips to Motivate and Engage Employees.


With people’s busy work schedules, it is too easy to forget to devote time to really getting to know your team.  A manager who understands what an employee’s strengths, values, and drives are, is better able to assess how to motivate and coach him or her. If you have a new employee, don’t wait until they have worked for you for months. Spend time with them and ask questions about themselves, their families, what they would like from you, their goals, and their motivators. Make sure that you demonstrate that you are truly interested in learning about them and be prepared to share yourself. Always remember, communication is a two way street. If you are taking the time to ask these questions, make sure you are also taking the time to truly listen.


Compared to other performance management activities, your ability to set realistic performance expectations has the greatest impact on employee engagement. To effectively set realistic performance expectations, you can have goal setting discussions shortly after performance reviews and when your direct reports rotate from one project to the next. Here are some questions that can help you think through the process of setting employee performance expectations:

  • Are the goals relevant to the business?

  • Are there too few or too many goals?

  • Are the goals results-based and measurable? Are they SMART?


Employees of managers who are very effective at development can outperform their peers by up to 25%. As a manager, encourage professional development by having a clear plan in mind. A development plan will help create a road-map for your people. Once their goals are established, pair them with a coach or mentor that can help them in their development. Everyone can benefit from a mentor and it is a great way to use internal company talent. Also, challenge your employees to push themselves out of their comfort zone with special projects or additional assignments outside of their day to day roles.  As humans we are driven to grow and develop new skills.


Everyone wants to be noticed for their hard work. Recognition from you as a manager can go a very long way in motivating an employee, and the effects may be immediate. A good leader knows how different employees like to be recognized and flexes to the appropriate approach. Some employees want the trophy publicly, while others want a more private pat on the back. Get to know your employees (as described above) and try to recognize them in the way that inspires them the most. A one size fits all approach will not drive the same level of motivation as a more customized style of rewards.

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