7 key factors that have been proven to motivate employees

How does employee motivation impact organizational performance?

The basis of any organization’s growth and success are the hard-working employees. So, it is an organization's responsibility to ensure that hard work is recognized to support employees’ belief that they are an asset to the organization. Motivation and performance are directly correlated and serve as tools for the long-term success of any organization.

Yet leaders in organizations often wonder how to motivate their employees. In practice, we often hear from clients, "Well, we've already given them a high recoupment, a higher salary, but they're still not better off, they're still leaving." Maybe management should be asking more about what demotivates employees instead of what motivates them.

What demotivates employees?

One of the most common demotivators is a fixed salary, which is always the same and does not increase with the quantity and quality of work. The root of the problem may start with the pay system itself, insofar as it provides for the same pay regardless of how much employees do. Cutting costs at the expense of reducing the number of employees reduces the commitment and innovation of those who remain.

Other demotivating factors are the violation of the psychological contract (expectations of what each party will give and receive), boring work, lack of information and confusion, lack of trust, lack of participation in decision-making, lack of feedback on work, not being valued, unfulfilled promises, etc.

If the employee is sufficiently demotivated, this can lead to leaving the company. The most common factors that demotivate employees and cause them to leave a company are:

  • lack of autonomy in carrying out work tasks, 
  • inability to develop professionally and provide additional training,
  • monotony of work if the person is capable of more than the job requires, 
  • non-communication with superiors, 
  • a meaningless rewards system,
  • overly demanding goals and expectations from superiors,
  • inadequate management.

The most common reason why employees are not only unmotivated but very demotivated is a sense of injustice. This feeling can be the result of a specific situation in the organization (e.g. an unfair pay or reward system) or a specific management style. Managers can be demotivating if they distrust and ignore ideas given by subordinates, criticize subordinates, always want to control the situation (with the intention that subordinates must not know everything), withhold information, and make individual agreements with subordinates.

By reducing or eliminating the above factors alone, organizations can automatically help their employees to become much more motivated. However, it's also good to know how to boost employee morale and motivation, so we outlined some tips for you. 

Here are 7 key factors that have been proven to motivate employees

1. Show interest in your employees and actively involve them.

As Wiley states, you must express empathy and understand what motivates your employees. Frequent individual conversations are an effective approach to achieve this. However, especially in larger companies, here is where the problem arises. Due to the large number of employees, these conversations take time and effort. As a result, surveys are used for this purpose to gain insight into the preferences of individuals.

‍How to do it: Ask employees what excites them, and what their goals and desires are. As human beings, we need a sense of belonging, but at the same time, we want others to listen and respect us.

2. Provide all the resources and information employees need to do a good job.

It is important to create a pleasant environment in terms of employee relations, as well as in terms of the general order of the work environment. It can be a nicely decorated, clean office and enough natural light in the room, or for example reliable computer equipment. Moreover, remember to be transparent to your employees and keep them up to date with important information regularly.

How to do it: Instead of just telling your employees what problems you are facing in the company and what activities you are carrying out for future improvements, you should show them that. You can present the data graphically. This way, you can clearly show your employees the current situation and next steps.

3. Emphasize praise and reduce criticism.

Renowned American psychologist Skinner has proven that an animal, that is rewarded for good behavior, learns much faster and also maintains and effectively uses what it has already learned than the animal that has been punished for bad behavior. Subsequent studies have shown that the same evidence can be attributed to humans. When criticisms are reduced and praise is emphasized, the good things people do will intensify even more, while the number of mistakes they make will lessen just by not focusing on them too much.

How to do it: When you notice the good behavior of an employee, sincerely praise this person and avoid unnecessary criticism to foster motivation to continue with the good work.‍

4. Enable work in which employees see meaning and purpose.

Herzberg’s theory of motivation determines that the most successful method of motivation is to incorporate challenges and opportunities for success into work. People are more happy to do work when they believe it has some meaning and purpose. You can achieve this by giving your employees the feeling that they contribute to better results. Therefore, ask them for their improvement tips and if their ideas are good, follow them.

How to do it: Allow those who perform predominantly routine work to test themselves in something else. Also, if it is at all possible, afford to digitize and automate routine tasks.

5. Allow independence at work.

Allow employees to make their own decisions about how they can improve their work. In doing so, make sure to avoid direct commands. As Dale Carnegie argues in How to Win Friends and Influence People: “Instead of telling the employee to do something, formulate questions like “What do you think about…?”, or suggestions like “That might be better…”. No one likes to take orders, which is why employees prefer to take on an assignment if they participate in taking it themselves.

How to do it: You can consider gradually increasing the powers of employees. If possible, permit them to make decisions on their own (without management approval) and encourage them to think independently.

6. Create a positive work environment.

People feel best where positive energy prevails. Therefore, you should encourage a positive attitude and optimism among employees. It is also important to avoid unnecessary criticism, quarrels, and complaints.

How to do it: If you have some extra space in the office and it is not too expensive for you, you can for example consider a table tennis table, billiards or other similar games. These would encourage employees to spend time together and relax a bit while working.

7. Help employees develop new skills and give them a chance to grow.

Each of us desires to grow and become better at something. As defined by Alderfer’s Theory of Needs (ERG), growth, with an emphasis on the desire to achieve and develop, is among one of the three key levels of needs. When this need is satisfied, we are proud of ourselves and motivated to achieve even better results.

How to do it: Offer employees the type of work that will challenge them. Allow them to attend extra education and let them choose the one that best fits their abilities and desires.

Motivating employees requires time and thoughtful action. We need to be aware that people are very different from each other. Some may be motivated by a harsh word, others by kind encouragement. Therefore, we must approach motivation individually and identify the reasons for the lack of motivation.

Our findings about employee motivation in the Quantifly analysis?

Among other things, we at Quantifly analyze the motivational factors of employees which indicate what's most important to them and how satisfied they are with it.

First, a good salary is a must-have (a hygiene factor) for organizations that want to attract and retain top talent. However, it will not be a competitive advantage compared to others who also offer a good salary. That's why creating a work environment where employees feel that are personally growing, have autonomy, feel connected to the organization and coworkers, believe that their work is being appreciated, etc., is also a must-have.

Researches on informal learning in adults show that individuals continuously acquire additional skills, knowledge, and ideas in everyday settings. Of course, this also applies to the workplace. That’s probably why our analysis often shows that the opportunity for competency development is one of the most important motivational factors for employees. Even more important than a good salary. 

Moreover, the reasons to join and the reasons to stay are often different. An organization might attract new employees with good salaries. But if motivational factors such as an opportunity for growth, a sense of autonomy, appreciation of work, etc. are not addressed, employees will probably start looking for other options fast.


Carnegie, D. (2005). How to win friends and influence people. Cornerstone Publishing. Retrieved from https://images.kw.com/docs/2/1/2/212345/1285134779158_htwfaip.pdf

Rajher, B. (2007). Motiviranje zaposlenih in zadovoljstvo pri delu v Termah SPA. Diplomsko delo.

Wiley, C. (1997). What motivates employees according to over 40 years of motivation surveys. International Journal of Manpower, 18(3), 263-280. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235270159_What_Motivates_employees_according_to_over_40_years_of_motivation_surveys

Zupan, N. (2001). Nagradite uspešne: spodbujanje uspešnosti in sistema nagrajevanja v slovenskih podjetjih. Ljubljana: Gospodarski vestnik.