According to Gallup, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. That statistic can be daunting to a manager trying to find ways to motivate a team – particularly when the manager is not in a position to give large pay raises.

However, in my experience as an executive recruiter, I have found that financial incentives are often not the most effective way to motivate employees. Successful managers focus on empowering employees, giving employees the opportunity to develop new skills, and making sure that employees feel that their contributions are recognized and valued. Here are five ways that all managers can foster engagement among their direct reports:

1) Management: The number one reason that employees leave a position is because of a poor relationship with their manager. To avoid this pitfall, there are some simple steps you can take to improve the effectiveness of your management style. Make sure that you are clear about expectations, processes and deadlines. Consciously work to adapt your communication style to your direct reports’. Ask for feedback from your direct reports often.

2) Empowerment: Give employees a voice in the decision-making process, no matter what their level. Ask for your direct reports’ opinions and take them into consideration. When employees see that their ideas and opinions have an impact on important decisions, they feel that they have “skin in the game” and are more likely to work hard and really think strategically about projects. Employees who think critically about assignments are more valuable to a company than those who simply execute tasks.

3) Development: Give employees, even junior ones, projects that they can lead and own. These needn’t be major initiatives – even simple assignments can be valuable. This will give employees the opportunity to grow and develop new skills, and will show them that you are invested in their professional development. Being able to take sole credit and responsibility for the outcome of such a project is also a great opportunity for employees to showcase their talents.

4) Context: A fairly easy way to motivate employees is to make sure they understand the larger picture. Hold staff meetings where you go over industry trends, your company’s performance, and your company’s strategic plan for the coming years. Employees will be able to see how their efforts fit into the bigger picture, and will be more engaged in their day-to-day work as a result.

5) Recognition: Make sure to thank employees for their efforts, especially when they are working long hours on a difficult project. When employees do something well, praise their efforts and let the wider team knows about their accomplishments. Sometimes the knowledge that hard work is appreciated can be better than any monetary reward.

While these steps are simple, they are highly effective and can make the difference between an employee who is an engaged contributor and one who feels like he is just a cog in the machine.

What do you do to motivate your employees? Please feel free to share in the comments below.


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