How to Motivate Your Unmotivated Employees


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As a first-time leader, you’re expected to do more than manage operations. You’re also faced with the responsibility of motivating your direct reports. That’s a big ask, given that Gallup’s annual worker engagement survey shows that barely three out of 10 employees feel engaged on the job. Yet, it’s not a duty you can shirk. The sooner you help your team feel more connected to your department and company mission — and each other — the sooner you can start revving up productivity and showing your leadership moxy.

This begs the question: How do you motivate the unmotivated? You can start by understanding why disengagement occurs. When employees feel burned out, unappreciated and devalued, they naturally pull back emotionally and performance-wise. Eventually, they either quietly quit or seek out other work. Either way, that ends up having a negative impact on your business, and it also puts a negative spotlight on your ability to manage.

Your job, therefore, is to build camaraderie and cohesion as rapidly as you can. Doing so will inevitably improve productivity, which can further encourage everyone to row in the same direction. It will also put a “winners” spotlight on your team as a profit-boosting center. If your leadership efforts can cause those effects at your company, you’ll be doing well for both your career and your team’s reputation.

To set the right tone and fuel success among your employees, consider these steps.

Related: 12 Ways You Can Immediately Start To Motivate Your Employees

1. Iron out your training

A 2022 jobseeker survey from The Muse showed 72% of respondents regretted accepting a position because it wasn’t as advertised. This starts with training. Unfortunately, many organizations underestimate the training needed by newer employees. Often, the process goes like this: The business hires someone, has that person shadow somebody else and calls it a day. This is not training.

You have to invest in your employees from the get-go and not expect them to fully ramp up right away. Consider salespeople. Hoping they’ll meet their quota too fast — and without training — is a surefire way to demotivate them. You can’t expect 100% productivity from anyone if you’re giving them minimal training.

Having a consistent training system shows that you’re putting measures in place to help team members reach success. For maximum efficiency and consistency, the training you give your people needs to be a clockwork process with key results tied to the training. Consistency is key when it comes to unlocking higher morale because it establishes a sense of stability, predictability and fairness within a team or organization. When team members experience consistency in their training and development, their efficiency, productivity and confidence increase exponentially.

2. Create A-player scorecards

It’s the everyday activities that separate the best from the rest. Every position can be boiled down to daily standards that need to be met. A-players go through the same processes to do well. But anyone can be a winner if they have a scorecard to follow.

Think about your team’s different positions. For each, write down three to five objective, trackable metrics that successful team members should complete on a daily basis. For instance, one of our company’s sales metrics is the number of daily appointments made. You can then weigh each activity to develop a final score. For instance, if you had four activities, you might want to weigh each at 25%. An employee who meets two in a day would score 50%, whereas one who meets three would net a 75%.

These metrics for each position will become your A-player scorecards. They’re clearly defined and simple to evaluate. Someone either reaches the scorecard goals or does not. There’s no middle ground. Everything’s transparent between you and each of your direct reports. Employees know what you expect of them, which takes away any guesswork. It’s easy to see where someone is lagging or leading, which gives you the opportunity to intervene with personalized coaching, upskilling and reskilling.

Related: How to Find and Assign a Production Statistic to Every Single Employee — Even the CEO

3. Put the spotlight on success stories

Success isn’t just about reaching scorecard targets. It’s about celebrating wins in big and small ways. Showing recognition improves morale and reinforces positive behavior and hard work. It shows you’re paying attention, too. Pew found 57% of people who quit jobs reported feeling disrespected. What could be more respectful than putting the spotlight on good people?

Your celebrations don’t have to be huge and expensive. Experiment with what works to encourage your team to strive for something a little more. Certainly, you can hand out your version of an Oscar now and then. However, just identifying and thanking top performers who keep exceeding their daily scorecard metrics can be good practice.

You can use scorecard results to figure out who wins sales contests. Or you may want to up the bar and add other metrics to sweeten a contest. Never be afraid to celebrate wins just because the same people keep getting kudos. A mid-performing employee may need to see a high-performing colleague receive continual nods to finally up their game.

By taking the time to consider how to lead, you’ll end up becoming a much stronger leader regardless of your experience. Start by focusing on training, scorecards and celebrations — you and your team will benefit from your investment.

Related: Do Your Employees Feel Recognized? 10 Powerful Ways To Set Up Employee Recognition Programs

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