Top 16 Ways to Motivate Employees

People are at the center of every business regardless of the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence. Profits, productivi...

February 13, 2020
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How would you describe your job to a five year old?
What season would you be?
What is a weird food you have tried? Would you eat it again?
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Would you go in the mother-ship with aliens if they landed on Earth tomorrow?
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Do prefer working from home or the office?
What is your earliest memory of this job?
What is the best thing you have bought so far this year?
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If you had to move to another country, which one would you choose?
You are the best criminal mastermind in the world. What crime would you commit if you knew you would get away with it?
What is your favorite movie genre to watch?
What was the last thing you ate?
What person from history would you add to Mount Rushmore?
What is a weird fact you know?
What is your favorite part of working from home?
Were the Spice Girls a good team?
Imagine you can instantly learn any language. Which would you choose?
If you could live in any state, which state would you pick?
Which fictional team is the best team of all time?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
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Show us the weirdest thing you have in the room with you right now.
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Are you more productive in the morning or at night?
Who is someone in your community that makes a difference?
Who was your most unique pet?
Choose one famous person from history you want on your team during a zombie apocalypse.
What is a good way to give back to the community?
Which song could you listen to over and over again?
Is Hugh Grant funny?
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
Would you want to have an imaginary friend today? Did you have one as a child?
What actor or actress would you want to play you in the movie about your life?
What is the best super power?
What is your New Years resolution?
You can only eat one food again for the rest of your life. What is it?
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Would you rather join Metallica or Backstreet Boys?
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Pick any band to play at your funeral.
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Which superpower would you give to your arch enemy?
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What emoji best describes how you are feeling right now?
If you could live in any country, which country would you pick?
Would you rather live in a city or a town?
What is your favorite holiday?
What is something you accomplished as part of a team?
What is your standard office lunch?
What is your most used phone app?
What is your favorite season?
Have you ever won something as a team?
Imagine you are a professional baseball player. What is your introduction song?
Beach holiday or ski trip?
Have you ever been to a funny comedy show?
Would you rather live at the North Pole or the South Pole?
What is your favorite song to sing?
If you could live in any state, which state would you pick?
Imagine you could teleport anywhere. Where would you go right now?
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What do your family and friends think you do all day?
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What movie defined your generation?
You are stranded on a remote desert island. Are you alone or with your worst enemy?
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Have you ever told someone Santa is not real?
Do you know how to speak more than one language?
On a scale of 1 – 10, how much of a team player are you?
What is your #1 recommendation in this city?
What is your favorite holiday?
What bucket list item do you most want to check off in the next six months?
What is your favorite mythical creature?
What was the first way you made money?
If you could be great at any Olympic sport, which would it be?
Which song could you listen to over and over again?
When did you start liking/hating mushrooms?
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
Do you take your PTO all at one time, or another way?
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Would you want to have a personal assistant follow you around everywhere and do what you asked of them?
Have you ever met your idol?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Would you rather live 100 years in the past or 100 years in the future?
What is your hobby?
When you are alone in the car, what volume is the music at?
Imagine you no longer have to work. How would you spend a Tuesday?
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“You don’t build a business — You build people— and then people build the business.” -– Zig Ziglar

People are at the center of every business regardless of the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence. Profits, productivity and competitive advantage depend on an engaged workforce.

Retention and turnover are a top workforce concern for Human Resources professionals as cited in the SHRM/Globoforce survey. The study has also found that recognition (more recognition award ideas ) serves as one of the most effective ways to impact workplace culture and employee experience. More than one-half of the survey respondents said, “their program positively affects retention (68%) and recruitment (56%).”

A tight labor market makes it more critical than ever to effectively motivate employees. Here are 16 ways to motivate employees.

1. Spruce up the office environment

No one wants to work in a dungeon. But if the work environment is dull or toxic it would have the same non-inspiring result for employees as working in a dungeon. If you see employees dragging themselves in at the beginning of their shift it may be that the environment is not seen as an exciting or pleasant place to be.

Here are some ways to spruce up the environment:

  • Add live plants – having lots of plants provide stress relief and adds fresh air to the office!
  • Consider a fresh coat of paint – light blue can stimulate the mind by emulating the daytime sky or consider other bright colors of your brand
  • Update office furniture – adding new desks like stand-up desks or new furniture can modernize your office space. If you don’t have a large enough budget, consider doing minor upgrades like bookshelves or wall frames to change things up
  • Add couches or beanbags – you can purchase these at relatively low costs and offers a more relaxing atmosphere and can provide some casualness to your environment which can reduce stress

2. Foster a culture of positive relationship and teamwork

According to the SHRM/Globoforce survey, “three-quarters of HR professionals say their organization is actively engaged in maintaining or improving positive relationships and teamwork as well as encouraging a compassionate, caring culture.” Focus on developing positive relationships and teamwork. Make having a diverse and inclusive culture a priority.

Here are some fun ideas to encourage positive relationships and teamwork:

  • Once a month or quarterly team outings – depending on your budget, have a cadence where team members can eat together, have happy hours, or social events like bowling, scavenger hunt, etc
  • Start a mentor/mentee program – pair up cross-department
  • Start a peer-to-peer recognition platform like that of Assembly; it’s easy and free to use. Learn more here

3. Build trust and transparency

There is nothing worse than feeling like you are being lied to or about. Especially if it’s coming from the boss and co-workers. A critical key to establishing a trust centered workplace is value transparency and honesty at all times. Other tips to a trust center workplace include:

  • Leaders be a role model
  • Keep your promises
  • Do as you say you are going to do no matter how big or small
  • Avoid favoritism
  • No surprises -- Provide sincere coaching to those who struggle before abruptly terminating employment
  • Correct work performance or behavior in private

4. Implement zero tolerance for harassment

Laws don’t prevent harassment, leaders do. Don’t tolerate bullying or harassment at any level for any reason. If it’s happening and you don’t know what to do, get an expert in Human Resources involved or another partner supervisor to work with you. But act now. Your employees who have had to endure it will thank you.

5. Provide learning opportunities or stretch assignments

To keep from feeling stagnate employees need to feel like they are growing. Create learning opportunities, education and the ability to earn degrees or certifications. Let them sit in on project meetings or events normally set for leaders so they can expand their understanding of the business.

For example, Pixar provides in-house courses called Pixar University, that employees can participate in. The university is designed to enable training and cross-training supporting on-going career development. More about Pixar employee motivation is found here

Cisco provides stretch assignments to encourage employees to go beyond their day-to-day work. In addition to the assignments they award employees’ willingness to stretch by providing an, “Expand Your Boundaries” award. Learn more about Cisco’s program here:

6. Provide freeing flexibility

Free up the ability to self-schedule the work if possible. Being able to schedule work around life events without feeling guilty has a positive impact on the employee experience.

Dell Technologies had been developing its flexible work program since 2009. The company leaders understood the trend that employees, value flexible work arrangements as much as their paycheck. Examples of flexible work they offer are full-time remote and select specific days on campus and job sharing.

Sodexo is another example of a company offering flexible work arrangements. This company launched its “Flexibility Works! Initiative in 2008. As a result of this program Sodexo is seeing greater engagement – 73% of employees have great job satisfaction, 62% are more loyal, and 53% are more productive because of their ability to work more flexibly. Learn more about Sodexo’s flexible work

7. Give purpose and meaning to the work

Giving employees the big picture and how they fit in gives them a greater sense of purpose and connection to the business. If they truly feel they have a significant place in the big picture has a motivating effect.

One way to give purpose and meaning to the work is to involve employees in identifying when the company’s purpose is being demonstrated. For example, Exact Sciences, a cancer research organization, involves their employees to act as news reporters and contribute regular updates. This motivates employees to keep their eyes on the culture and see their part in the greater purpose of the organization. More about Exact Sciences is found here:

Another tip for making purpose real for employees is to keep the values at the forefront of everyone’s attention. For example, Google has one of the most envied workplace cultures in the world. Google’s values are prominently posted for all to see found here

To be values-driven they need to be integrated into every aspect of organizational communication. Values are communicated and reinforced in the recruitment process, new employee orientation, total rewards communications, spoke about in meetings, and used to help make business decisions.

8. Listen and Act

It's motivating when leaders seek out your input and act on your feedback. Listen to employees and act on their feedback when possible. But this is not a “one and done” effort. Feedback can be obtained through every point of the employment life cycle and on an ongoing basis.

Companies like Apple are seeking feedback from their employees every day utilizing measures such as the employee net promoter score. The employee net promoter score is adopted from being applied to customers to build brand loyalty. Apple began to utilize the approach for employee feedback. Apple implements the survey every four months to measure how likely are they to recommend Apple as a good place to work. This is intended to keep a pulse on employee satisfaction without burdening employees with cumbersome surveys with dozens of questions. Read more about Apple’s approach to employee engagement here

9. Set “go-getter” goals

Establish “go getter” goals. Set up team goals that help the business accomplish its objectives and are attainable. Set up milestones and report frequently the progress. Generate excitement, post visual depictions of team progress.

Here are some goal setting tips:

  • Align employee goals with organizational goals. This will also help employees to see their part in the overall company vision and mission.
  • Get employees to participate in setting their own goals. Work together with them on setting effective goals.
  • The goals should be challenging but not impossible to reach!
  • You can follow the SMART model for setting goals. Make the goals Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timeline.
  • Celebrate goal wins!

10. Acknowledge and recognize – It’s the little things.

One motivator for employees is when they feel top leadership sees and acknowledges them. Get to know employees. Round on the floors and talk with employees at all levels. According to the SHRM/Globoforce survey “60% of organizations help celebrate employee life events.” More about the SHRM/Globoforce survey is found here

Here are simple ways to recognize employees:

  • Celebrate wins and milestones with employees such as their birthdays or anniversaries
  • Recognize their educational accomplishments with a congratulations team lunch
  • Acknowledge their project or goal accomplishments with a sincere thank you in a team meeting

11. Initiate a volunteerism program

Choose worthy causes and make volunteerism available to your employees. Employees want to feel like they make a difference in the world. Sometimes that may mean going outside of the walls of your workplace. Be careful not to make volunteerism a requirement of the job or federal and state wage and hour regulations may apply.

An example of a good volunteerism program is found in Colgate- Palmolive. They provide a Colgate Cares Day were teams from across the organization participate in service project to help make the world healthier and happier. You can find more information about ideal company volunteerism programs at

12. Boost employee well-being

Well-being goes beyond physical health. It is a comprehensive approach for caring for employees. Well-being includes physical, mental, financial and spiritual health. Not only can well-being initiatives help employees’ wellness but also positively impact morale, productivity, and engagement.

If you don’t have a lot of resources consider these quick tips:

  • Creating healthy food days
  • Safe walking and biking trails
  • Bringing in health “lunch and learn” sessions

13. Involve employees in change initiatives

No one likes to be surprised when change is suddenly foisted on them. Even worse is when change initiative wasn’t well thought out and negatively impacts employees’ ability to do their jobs effectively. One way to avoid workflow mistakes and unnecessary resistance towards change is to involve employees in the creation of the solution. Brainstorm with them how to make it work. Not only will they feel respected but also part of the solution.

14. Lighten the environment by loving laughter

What makes the daily grind memorable is appropriate humor. Inappropriate humor such as offensive remarks or innuendos may land you up in the HR office. But appropriate humor comes in the form of self-deprecating humor (being able to laugh at yourself), word plays, puns, funny unexpected responses throughout the day. This can provide much-needed relief from an otherwise stressful day and increase productivity and morale.

15. Strengthen your leadership team

It’s no secret that people leave workplace managers. The relationship between the supervisor and the employee is where the rubber meets the road in employee engagement and motivation. Invest in developing your supervisors to become stronger leaders.

There are many different ways to develop a strong leadership team and to make sure they are supporting a healthy employee relationship. Here are some the top ways:

  • Hire leaders that model company values every day
  • Make sure your leaders are making time in their schedules to meet and communicate regularly with employees
  • Train and consistently reinforce good leadership behaviors

16. Say thank you

Employees feel appreciated when they hear a sincere thank you from both the boss and co-workers. Whether it be verbally or in a written form saying thank you have a positive impact on employee motivation. You can influence a culture of gratitude that makes its way throughout the organization.

Use this article as a checklist to evaluate your workplace. Revisit this checklist periodically to ensure your motivational culture continues on the right path over time. The key is to be sincere and consistent. By adopting new ways of communicating and connecting with employees it will motivate employees and have a lasting positive impact.

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

Explore Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

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Please schedule time with an expert and we will help you to get all your questions answered