The Simple Way to Find Out What Motivates Your Employees Figuring out what will get your team in tip-top performance mode isn't rocket science. Here's how to do it.

By Tom Borg

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Some of your employees, although they know what is expected of them, simply check in, check out and go home.

I see this a lot with cashiers in self-service gas stations, too many of whom sit behind that bulletproof window thinking their job is to simply take the customer's money. They often do this while simultaneously talking on the phone, chewing gum or chatting with a fellow employee. Their typical response to a customer thanking them at the end of the transaction is either a garbled "no problem" or a half-interested grunt. That type of behavior is definitely not service-oriented.

The question that must be asked is: Are there valued rewards for performing as expected? Just because employees understand and are able to perform as expected doesn't mean they will. Your employees need to be continually reinforced for doing things right. The attitude of some business owners and managers is, "They collect a paycheck; that's all the positive reinforcement they need." That type of thinking is not only shortsighted, it's pure ignorance. Your employees need to consistently receive rewards they value.

Related: 13 Signs of a Disengaged Employee (Infographic)

It's true that you can't really motivate your employees; they have to motivate themselves. Still, there are some things you can do as an owner or manager to create the proper environment for employees to provide their own motivation for doing what is expected of them. To do this, you need to find out what motivates your employees.

Surveys have repeatedly shown that money is not the top motivator for most people between the ages of 16 and 40 years. What's often found at the top of the list are the following:

  • Gratifying work
  • Appreciation for a job well done
  • A feeling of independence in the way they perform their job responsibilities

Money ranked in the middle.

So, how do you find out what specifically motivates your employees? Ask them. Remember, the No. 1 stumbling block to knowing what your employees are thinking and feeling is not the generation gap, but the communication gap. Sit down with each of your employees and ask them what they like about their jobs. Find out how they feel about interacting with their customers and how they like to be shown appreciation for a job well done.

Related: 5 Ways to Avoid Miscommunication With Your Employees

Keep in mind that their answers may vary with their life situations. One month it may be recognition; another month it may be appreciation or in some cases it may be money. Also inquire how they want to be treated when they make a mistake.

Once you find out what some of their self-motivators are, make it a point to consistently use them. The key word is consistently. Smart business owners and managers know that part of their job is give positive reinforcement. Once your employee starts to demonstrate the proper way to service the customer, you must consistently praise and reinforce the desired behavior. By doing so, you will be on your way to creating a more motivated employee.

Related: When Your Employees Are Millennials and Your Customers Are Boomers

Tom Borg

President of Tom Borg Consulting

Tom Borg is a business expert who works with small and mid-size companies to profitably improve customer acquisition and retention and employee performance. He does this through his consulting, speaking, and professional writing. For more information on how he can help you and your company call   (734) 404-5909 or email him at: or visit his website at:

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