Employee Motivation 101: For Employees

Overall, US President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address is seen as one of the best political speeches in American history—but it will forever be remembered by its single most famous line: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” It was a summary of the speech’s main message: we all need to do our own part in order to create a greater good. The more each person can offer the land, the more the land can give back to them in return.

JFK’s point is just as applicable to the current working world. You must sow the work seeds yourself, to reap the (career) returns.

We say, “Ask not what your company can do for you, but ask what you can do for your company.”

Company Carrots

Thankfully, modern companies know that, when it comes to driving employee motivation, the carrot is way more effective than the stick. You’ll find a ton of articles out there explaining why it’s important to keep employees motivated and many ways to do so.

By now, smart companies know that motivating employees is a big part of a leader’s role. They devise a variety of schemes and incentives to keep people happy, beyond salaries and the usual bonuses to free lunches and gym plans. In a landscape where the competition for talent is fierce, these initiatives are super important in attracting and retaining skilled and effective team members—meaning they’re important for company stability and growth. And, certainly, good leaders also strive to create an environment that is respectful and supportive to employees. After all, a happy, empowered employee is a productive one.

But what about the employees themselves? What can they contribute to their own success on the job?

Helping Yourself

You might be thinking, isn’t it the employee’s own responsibility to do their jobs well? Yes, we do agree. We know that, when a manager comes down hard, it tends to really upset and demotivate the team—but does that make it okay for employees to be under-productive or unprepared on the job? To what extent does the responsibility for motivation lie with the manager versus the team members themselves?

Employees, you know you are being paid to do a job. But if you’re performing your required duties while still, say, coming to work late or coming unprepared to meetings, you’re not only not really doing your job, but you’re also getting in your own way! When you share ideas, contribute positively to meetings and strive to make a difference, you show that you care. And when you show that you care, you make the people around you care—about you and about your work. By boosting morale, you raise your own profile and help the company to grow and succeed. And we all know that the better the company does, the better its employees’ long-term prospects! All boats rise on a rising tide.

What you can do 

In order to grow on the job, you need to help the company grow. But, beyond the obvious (you know, the stuff in your contract), what can you do?

Essentially, you want to engage in actions that enhance the energy level and motivation of the entire team. Consider the effect your actions and attitude have on the people around you and the bottom line. Be impressive! Surprise people with new ideas and above-and-beyond moments of dedication. Be prepared, keeping yourself informed about what’s going on around the company (even in different departments) as well as in the wider industry. Be honest: if you aren’t feeling motivated or you note that your energy is flagging, talk to your managers about why that is and what you need to improve. Finally, always have an action plan!

Just remember that employees and management are on the same side: we all want success! Personally and for the company. We need to work together and support each other to get it.

Want more motivating ideas to rev your good-energy engine? Good news! There are plenty of articles written to help employees maximize their own motivation as well. Don’t wait for you company to motivate you; see what you can do to motivate your company! Then prepare to enjoy your success.