Team motivation: how to get employees excited about work

By Bev Attfield

9 min read

Team motivation: how to get employees excited about work
Illustration by Tiffany Tsai

We hear a lot about wildfires these days, and there’s nothing good about them. But for the sake of this article, we are going to use the analogy of a wildfire and put a positive spin on it.

You could compare team motivation to the spark that ignites the flames of productivity and success within an organization. Like a wildfire that blazes through a forest, team motivation has the power to spread rapidly and ignite enthusiasm and drive among employees. And just as a wildfire transforms the landscape it encounters, team motivation can reshape the culture and dynamics of your workplace, pushing your teams toward their goals with unstoppable determination.

Throughout this article, you’ll come to a better understanding of what team motivation is all about, the different types of motivation, and finally, actionable strategies on how to boost team motivation — and how to implement them.

Understanding motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind our behavior. It influences us to pursue and achieve our goals. At its core, motivation is a psychological process that initiates, guides, and maintains any actions that lead us to our goal. It fuels our desire to accomplish tasks, overcome obstacles, and fulfill our desires. 

So you could say that motivation is not only the ignition point; it’s also the fuel that keeps the fire going, and it’s the fire itself. Like wildfire, motivation is incredibly powerful. But instead of being a destructive force, that power can achieve marvelous things.

The different types of motivation:

  • Intrinsic motivation: Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It stems from personal interests, values, and the satisfaction you get from the activity itself. When someone is intrinsically motivated, they engage in tasks because they find them enjoyable, fulfilling, or meaningful.
  • Extrinsic motivation: On the other hand, extrinsic motivation originates from external factors such as rewards, recognition, or even consequences. People who are driven by extrinsic motivation engage in activities because of the rewards or in order to avoid some sort of punishment or discipline.

The importance of team motivation

Clearly, if motivated teams are so powerful, you want them in your organization because they will drive you to success.

How motivated teams benefit your company:

  • Enhanced productivity: A motivated team is more productive since each member is driven to achieve their goals efficiently and effectively. Since they’re enthusiastic and committed, tasks are completed with greater speed and accuracy, which leads to increased output and profitability.
  • Improved innovation: Motivated teams foster a culture of creativity and innovation since individuals are inspired to think outside the box and explore new ideas. When diverse perspectives and creative problem-solving are encouraged, motivated teams can drive continuous improvement and innovation within your organization.

How employees benefit:

  • Increased job satisfaction: When they’re part of a motivated team, each employee has a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Believing their work is meaningful, getting recognized for their contributions, and being provided with opportunities for growth and development, they’ll experience higher levels of job satisfaction and overall well-being.
  • Greater morale and collaboration: A motivated team creates a supportive and collaborative atmosphere where each team member feels empowered to share their ideas, offer support, and work together toward a common goal. This sense of camaraderie can boost morale, create a sense of belonging, and strengthen the interpersonal relationships within the team.

Strategies to boost team motivation

If you want to effectively lead and manage your team, it means more than just assigning tasks. It also means creating an environment where team members feel valued, engaged, and motivated to excel. Communication is one way of doing this.

Clear communication

Clear and open communication helps establish transparency, clarity, and trust within the organization. It also helps to facilitate collaboration and alignment toward common goals. Here’s why clear communication is essential and how it can boost motivation:

  • Alignment of goals: When you use clear communication it ensures that every team member understands the organization’s objectives, as well as their individual roles and responsibilities in achieving them
  • Enhanced engagement: When individuals feel that they’re kept informed and that they’re involved in the decision-making process, they’re more likely to feel valued and invested in organizational outcomes, leading to higher levels of commitment

Examples of how clear communication can boost motivation:

  • Regular team meetings: Open dialogue and information sharing at team meetings provides opportunities for sharing updates, discussing progress, and addressing challenges — all of which can create a sense of unity, reinforcing motivation and cohesion
  • Transparent goalsetting: This can provide a roadmap for success and inspire motivation since individuals understand the purpose behind their tasks and the expected outcome, making them more likely to feel motivated to achieve them
  • Accessible communication channels: Use channels such as email, instant messaging platforms, intranets, and more to ensure information flows freely within your organization

Recognition and reward

It’s important to understand the impact that recognition and reward have on employee engagement and performance. Acknowledging contributions and achievements reinforces positive behaviors and creates a culture of appreciation and motivation within the organization. But how?

Both recognition and rewards are powerful motivators for employees, it taps into their intrinsic desire for appreciation and maybe even validation. Being recognized and rewarded creates a sense of pride, satisfaction, and value, which then fuels — remember the wildfire! — their motivation to continue performing at a high level. And whether rewards are tangible or intangible, they can provide incentives for individuals to strive for excellence, which will ultimately drive productivity, innovation, and commitment within the team.

Examples of effective recognition and reward systems:

  • Employee appreciation programs: Consider establishing something like an employee-of-the-month award or other key recognition and initiatives, as this allows organizations to publicly recognize and celebrate outstanding performance and contributions
  • Incentive programs: Programs such as performance-based bonuses, monetary rewards, or gift vouchers will provide tangible rewards for achieving specific goals or targets
  • Personalized recognition: Consider things like handwritten thank-you notes, personalized shout-outs and team meetings, or one-on-one appreciation sessions to demonstrate your genuine appreciation, as this will reinforce the value of individual contributions

Opportunities for growth and development

When you provide opportunities for growth and development, you’re cultivating a motivated and engaged workforce. Anyone with access to learning, skill building, and career advancement will typically feel valued and empowered. They see these opportunities as a tangible expression of your support and commitment to their success, and this inspires motivation, enthusiasm, and deepens their sense of purpose in their work. The result? They’re motivated to perform at their best.

Examples of growth and development opportunities:

  • Training and development programs: Workshops, seminars, and online courses help your employees to acquire new skills, expand their knowledge base, and stay up to date with industry trends and best practices
  • Mentorship and coaching: These programs pair employees with experienced mentors or coaches who provide them with guidance, support, and feedback on their career development journey, empowering employees to face challenges, set goals, and realize their potential within the organization

A positive work environment

Have you ever spent any length of time around negative people? Negative people are the equivalent of a firehose — they will douse your flame. In contrast, positive environments help build employee engagement, productivity, and retention. There’s a sense of safety, where employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas, opinions, and concerns without any fear of judgment or reprisal.

Additionally, a positive work environment enhances morale, job satisfaction, and the overall well-being of your employees. When they feel valued, supported, and appreciated by their peers and leaders, it leads to higher levels of motivation, commitment, and loyalty. Not to mention, it reduces stress, burnout, and absenteeism.

Examples of how a positive work environment can boost motivation:

  • Recognition and appreciation: Verbal praise, written commendations, public acknowledgments, or any expression of recognition and appreciation will reinforce positive behaviors and motivate employees to continue performing at their best
  • A collaborative and supportive culture: In an environment of collaboration, teamwork, and mutual support team members have a sense of camaraderie and collective achievement that fuels — lights their fire — their motivation and engagement

A sense of responsibility and independence

When employees have a sense of responsibility and independence, it leads to a feeling of ownership and accountability. When they’re given autonomy and decision-making authority in their roles, they can take ownership of their tasks, projects, and outcomes. This sense of responsibility motivates individuals to demonstrate initiative, proactivity, and commitment.

Autonomy can also lead to creativity — employees who have the freedom to explore new ideas, experiment with different approaches, and make decisions autonomously, are more likely to generate innovative solutions. Their sense of ownership and empowerment can fuel motivation and engagement.

Finally, employees who have a measure of autonomy and independence typically have greater job satisfaction and well-being. They’re able to manage their tasks and time more effectively and pursue projects that are aligned with their own interests and strengths, typically leading to greater fulfillment and happiness in their roles. This is the type of intrinsic motivation that drives individuals to go above and beyond, leading to higher levels of performance.

Implementing motivation strategies

Implementing the strategies mentioned above will require a systematic approach that aligns with the goals, culture, and values of your own organization. Here are some steps to effectively implement them:

  • Assess organizational needs: Begin by assessing how motivated your employees are right now. Conducts surveys, interviews, or focus groups to gather feedback from them about their motivations, challenges, and aspirations. And then use this information to identify areas for improvement and tailor your motivation strategies to address their specific needs.
  • Set clear objectives: Determine what outcomes you hope to achieve, whether it’s increased employee engagement, improved productivity, or reduced turnover rates. Setting clear objectives provides direction and focus for your implementation process.
  • Create an action plan: Outline the specific steps, timelines, and responsibilities needed for implementing your motivation strategies. Break your plan down into manageable tasks and allocate resources, budget, and personnel accordingly. Ensure that all your stakeholders are involved in the planning process, ensuring support and commitment.
  • Communicate effectively: Clearly communicate the rationale behind your motivation strategies, their expected benefits, and how they’ll align with your organization’s mission and vision. Keep your employees informed and engaged throughout the process, asking for their input and feedback.
  • Provide training and support: Make sure your team leaders and managers are provided with all the training and support they need to effectively implement the motivation strategies you’ve decided upon. Offer guidance on how to recognize and reward employees, facilitate career development discussions, and create a positive work environment. Empower your managers with the skills and tools they need to motivate and inspire their teams effectively.
  • Monitor progress and adapt: Finally, you’ll want to monitor the progress of your strategies and evaluate their impact on employee engagement and performance. Collect feedback from your employees, track KPIs, and make adjustments were necessary — all this will ensure that your strategies remain relevant and effective.

Tips for overcoming common challenges:

Even with the best of planning and execution, your implementation process may encounter various challenges. Here are some tips for overcoming common obstacles:

  • Resistance to change: You can address this by allowing for open communication, providing rationale for whatever changes you’re making, and involving your employees in the decision-making process where possible. Highlight the benefits of your team motivation strategies and emphasize how they will align with the organization’s goals and values.
  • Lack of resources: Before starting any initiative, allocate sufficient resources, including budget, time, and personnel. Prioritize investments based on the potential impact of employee engagement and organizational performance.


In conclusion, team motivation drives productivity, innovation, and employee satisfaction — all things that lead to organizational success. We’ve explored several different strategies to boost team motivation and empower employees to reach their full potential. Let’s recap the main points:

  • Motivation can be both intrinsic and extrinsic
  • Motivated teams benefit everyone — the company and the employees
  • Specific strategies such as clear communication, recognition and reward, opportunities for growth and development, a positive work environment, and a sense of responsibility and independence all boost team motivation
  • To effectively implement team motivation strategies, you’ll need to realize the importance of setting clear objectives, communication, training, monitoring progress, and overcoming common challenges

What’s next? It’s time to take action. Start implementing these strategies within your organization to boost team motivation and create a culture of excellence, collaboration, and innovation. 

Ignite the flames of motivation and unleash a wildfire!


A focus on employee success boosts productivity and joy

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Bev Attfield

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