How to instil motivation

Motivated employees make for an upskilled, colourful, innovative workforce. Empower individuals to broaden their horizons, writes Heather MacNeill

Motivation. A willingness for someone to act upon something. The question is: can motivation be taught, or is it an innate quality, strengthening or fading with age and experience? Some argue that motivation depends on the individual, and how eager they are to advance in their career. Others say it’s up to leaders to instill confidence in their employees, which, in turn, motivates them to grow, thrive and succeed.

There is a balance when it comes to motivation in the workplace: good leaders inspire employees to be the best at what they do, and support them along the way by providing the necessary tools and guidance. To complement that support, strong employees act upon their desire to achieve sought-after goals. And at the root of individual ambition lies the drive for continuous learning.

With the fluidity that characterizes many industries and organizations today, the most successful employees are those who adapt quickly to changes and ‘skill up’ – to expand their skillset beyond traditional job descriptions. It is especially important that modern employees learn how to contribute to a network of teams, rather than only to their specific departments. This way of working – this proactive adaptability and need for skilling up – is a newer concept. And now is the perfect time for leaders to develop effective ways for motivating employees, helping them realize the power of expanding their skill horizons beyond immediate areas of expertise. Empower your employees to seize ambition in this way:

1 – Highlight employee growth and future opportunities

Holding informal meetings with employees, to discuss past achievements and where they stand within the company, can be an effective way to kick-start motivation. Consider outlining what the future could look like if the employee strengthens or expands their skillset in a few different areas. Perhaps include salary increase projections, or point out options for inward mobility or leadership roles.

Goal-setting meetings such as these are great for motivating employees to make it to the next level. To breathe more life into the enthusiasm created, guide employees to relevant learning content based on the areas in which they’d like to grow. For example, if your employee wants to manage an intern, recommend specific books and videos to help build leadership and management skills.

2 – Create an environment that empowers your team to learn

Chances are that once you and your employees determine individual professional goals, your team will want to ‘hit the books’. To empower continuous learning in the workplace, consider establishing or refining your learning culture. Offer flexible time for learning. Evaluate whether you need new tools or learning platforms to support modern learning preferences, or simply encourage learning by setting up couches and personal screens loaded with content and collaborative tools. Create the right the mood for learning.

3 – Establish internal collaborative learning groups

Collaborative learning is one of the most effective learning methods. The bulk of knowledge is retained through informal learning experiences. To capitalize on this, consider organizing online learning groups for your employees. Within these groups, employees can share books and videos with one another, paired with their own ideas and feedback. Starting with an online group empowers employees to learn when it is most convenient for them, as opposed to setting in-person meetings. Structured brainstorming sessions may feel forced and hinder your team’s ability to carry on productive discussions.

Bonus tip: make sure online groups can be accessed via desktop and mobile devices to support learning on the go.

4 – Guide team learning

Simply telling someone to “skill up” is beyond daunting. Where do they start? As a learning leader, consider proposing monthly or quarterly team learning topics and provide content recommendations that will help your team achieve its goals.

The key to motivating employees is to help them see the benefits of expanding their skills through continuous learning, and then working with them to construct a plan for professional growth. By empowering employees to expand their skills, you’ll likely see them progress through the company ranks, and grow in new and unexpected ways. 

— Heather MacNeill is head of communications at BlueBottleBiz, the collaborative learning platform for business professionals