10 Effective team motivation ideas for hard times

Written by: Deanna deBara | Edited by: Nora St-Aubin | Illustrated by: Officevibe team
Updated on: Published on: May 6, 2021 |  Reading time: 7m

If you want your team to succeed, they need to feel motivated to engage with you, each other, and the work at hand.

Some people are great at motivating themselves. But after the past year, and all the challenges that came with it, even the most naturally motivated employees may be having a tough time mustering up the drive to get things done. And for people who struggle with motivation in the best of times? Chances are, the pandemic sent their motivation spiralling towards an all-time low.

But motivated teams perform better (and feel better!) at work. So as a manager, it’s your job to keep your team motivated, engaged, excited, and moving forward.

But how, exactly, do you do that? Let’s take a look at 10 team motivation ideas you can use to inspire your team — and empower their best work in the process.

What Motivates Teams?

Between navigating the uncertainty of the pandemic, adjusting to working from home, and trying to juggle work and home/family/personal demands, many employees are feeling burned out — and finding motivation in the face of that burnout can be a real struggle.

That’s why, as a manager, it’s important to understand what motivates teams, and how you can use that to get your team motivated.

A study outlined in a recent Harvard Business Review article identified three positive motivators that generally lead to increased performance:

  • Play: The space to explore, experiment, and have fun can be a major motivator for individuals and teams.
  • Purpose: When people feel like their work has meaning, it motivates them to do better.
  • Potential: The potential to learn and grow is also a key factor in inspiring and motivating teams.

If you work these three elements into your management strategy, you’ll motivate your team and inspire their best work in the process.

So, what do those motivating factors look like in action?

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10 team motivation ideas

1. Host a weekly team meeting to celebrate wins (purpose)

When you celebrate your employees, they feel seen, recognized, and appreciated, which can be a real motivator. Schedule a recurring weekly meeting with your entire team where you recognize individual and collective wins, and invite your employees to also recognize their fellow team members.

2. Host team brainstorming sessions on how they want to see the team grow and change (potential)

You may have ideas about the direction you’d like to take your team-but if you really want to motivate them, they need to give them a sense of control over that direction. Schedule periodic team meetings (for example, once per quarter or at the start of a new project or initiative) to brainstorm with your employees about how they’d like to see the team grow and change.

How do they feel about where things are? Where are the current growth opportunities? And how can you work together to grow, change, and evolve in a way that aligns with the team’s goals, purpose, and desired direction?

3. Let your team set the rules (purpose)

If your team feels like you don’t trust them and that you micromanage everything they do, they’re not going to be motivated to do their best work. Instead, give them more autonomy over how they work and let them set the rules.

Schedule a sit-down with your team and ask for feedback about their ideal workflow. When your team has control over how they work, they’ll feel like they’re in the driver’s seat of not only their day-to-day work experience but their larger career trajectory. Employees will be motivated to work harder as a result.

4. Identify motivation allies and help them motivate the rest of the team (potential)

As mentioned, some people are naturally more motivated than others. As a manager, those people can be one of the best team motivation tools available to you.

Identify the most positive, motivated people on your team, and then invest your time and energy into those people. Use a 1-on-1 meetings software to schedule regular conversations and ask how you can support them. Put them in charge of team meetings, projects, and initiatives. Give them as many leadership and mentorship opportunities as you can.

By giving a more visible and leadership-oriented role to your naturally motivated employees, their positivity and motivation will spread to others. The team will be more motivated and positive as a result.

5. Make room for side projects (purpose/potential)

If your team has the space to work on projects they’re passionate about, it gives them a sense of autonomy and a space to grow their skills in a way that feels true to their goals and aspirations. The purpose and potential that working on personal projects gives your team will help to drive motivation, and that employee motivation will carry through to the projects you need them to work on.

Pro tip: Every week, block out two hours on your team’s calendar: one hour for them to work on a side project of their choice, and another hour to share their projects with the rest of the team.

6. Incentivize your team (play)

Next time you want to motivate your team to hit a goal, give them a clear incentive. For example, if you want to motivate your team to hit a quarterly sales goal, offer a $100 gift card for the team member with the highest sales numbers. If you want to motivate your team to power through a project, let them know that, if they hit the established deadline, you’ll treat the entire team to lunch.

By giving them a tangible reason to put in the effort in the form of a reward, you’ll give your team the extra dose of motivation they need to hit their goals.

7. Use team building to keep people motivated (play)

For your team to do their best work, they need to trust each other. So, if you want to motivate your team to perform? Help them build that trust.

Team building exercises can be a great way to build relationships and foster trust within your team. Which will, in turn, motivate them to collaborate and perform at a higher level. However, with the shift to remote work, these exercises might be harder to have. Schedule at least one small team-building exercise per week, like a “virtual coffee break” to connect in-person and remote workers, or an after-work excursion that gives your team a chance to socialize and get to know each other better.

8. Go to bat for your team (purpose)

There are core essentials your team needs to do their jobs like fair compensation, the right software and tools, and ample learning and development opportunities. And if your team is operating without those essentials, motivation can take a nosedive.

So what can you do if your team is working without the essentials they need? And we mean, not only to do their jobs but also to stay engaged with their work and motivated.

Schedule a meeting with your company leadership. Let them know your team is struggling. If you don’t work out a solution to get your team what they need to thrive, they are going to be unmotivated and won’t reach their full potential. And this can lead to employee retention issues.

In a perfect world, you’ll get everything your employees need. But even if you’re not ultimately successful, just knowing that you went to bat for them can motivate your team to try harder.

9. Ask your team what motivates them

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for employee motivation; different teams need different motivators. So, if you want to know how to motivate your team, ask them!

Schedule a meeting with your team and ask them what they need from you to feel more motivated at work. Follow up with 1-on-1 meetings to get a better sense of how to motivate individual employees. Then, use the information you got from your team to motivate them in a way that works for them.

10. Lead by example (purpose)

You can’t expect your team to be motivated if you’re not motivated yourself. So, if you want to motivate your team, make sure you bring your most motivated self to work every day.

For example: if you want to motivate employees to have a more positive attitude at work, make sure that you’re bringing positivity and optimism to all your team interactions. If you want to motivate them to engage in more professional growth opportunities, make sure you’re investing in your own learning and development.

As a team leader, motivation starts with you. So if you want to motivate your team, make sure you’re leading by example.

Use these strategies to get (and keep!) your team motivated

You know your team has the potential to do amazing work. And now that you know how to motivate them, you have everything you need to empower them to do their best work — and become more successful in the process.