Five ways to praise and motivate your employees

Bob Ferguson, a member of Toastmasters International, explains how to get the best out of your employees. 

Praise is one of the best, and often the simplest, ways to keep staff motivated. However, if you’re going to use praise to motivate your staff you need to ensure you do it right, in order to get the best results from it.

In 2005, Vodafone published its Working Nation survey, which focussed on motivation and happiness in the workplace. One of the questions asked managers how many of them used praise to motivate their staff; 84 per cent said they did. 

However, when they asked the staff who worked for those managers how many of them received praise as motivation the answer was only 32 per cent.

Here are some simple techniques that make sure that you and your staff get the biggest benefits.

1.  Celebrate every success

Keep a look out for occasions when your staff are successful, at work or in their professional lives, and celebrate it. I’ve seen occasions where stunning performance in professional exams and awards has gone completely unrecognised. When you celebrate people’s success openly in the office it sends clear messages to your staff. It makes the person recognised feel good to have their success acknowledge, it makes fellow workers feel good to take part in supporting someone else and it lets everyone know that success is important to your organisation.

2. Use small treats to boost morale

You don’t have to go overboard with celebrations and rewards for them to be effective. A few cakes or cookies will do just as well. On one occasion I gave the travel office a tin of biscuits to say thanks for a wonderful job they’d done for me. They only cost around £3 but the team leader shook my hand like I’d given him the winning lottery ticket. However that tin of biscuits sat in the office for a week as they regaled everyone with the tale of why they’d been given the biscuits. And afterwards – the service was electric – they just couldn’t do enough to help me.

3. Give the praise in writing

Try an experiment by writing a short thank you note on a post-it sticker and stick it on the desk of the staff member and watch what happens. They rarely read it and throw it away. They move it to one corner of their desk and then you’ll see that they go back to it and re-read it. That’s the strength of written praise. It gives the dose of praise and pleasure several times.

4. Make Finding Success a Habit

We’re often guilty on focussing on the 20% of staff performance that needs improving instead of taking active steps to recognise the 80% of performance that is good. I keep a journal, and at the end of the day I look for things to note down that have been successful or good performance from an individual. It means that I can use praise on a regular basis and when things are not going so well I have real examples to put things in context and remind the team that a bit of bad performance doesn’t mean they’re a bad team.

5. Praise in Public if you have the chance

Individual praise is fine and effective if used well, but public praise can hugely magnify the effect.

If you praise staff publicly in say a team meeting or via the staff news, you find that not only do they get the praise from you but their colleagues will be praising them as well. Recently most of the showers were broken in our local gym. I waited until they were fixed and then sent a public comment to their Facebook account thanking them for their superb job in getting them all working again. Their response was immediate, joyful and elated. They felt happy that someone had publically recognised their efforts rather than moaning about the delay. As ever, what do you think their response to me is like now! They cannot be helpful enough.

All these techniques sound simple but beware. In a national survey 84% of managers said they liked to use praise to motivate their staff. Sadly only 32% of employees said they received praise as a motivation. By using these three simple techniques on a regular basis you can motivate your staff and help them enjoy their work far more without busting the budget. For you as a business person the rewards are considerable because motivated staff will provide exceptional performance.

About the Author

Bob Ferguson is a member of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations.



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