How do large companies motivate their employees

Motivate employees: Executives stimulate their team with these tips

Employee motivation - pretty much everyone knows what that means. But how exactly employees can be motivated, even experienced managers have to keep learning, applying and developing.

Recognition, appreciation, gratitude - motivation can be achieved through many small and large adjustments. Managers should know them.


  1. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
  2. Employee motivation starts with the boss
  3. Methods of employee motivation
    1. Appreciation,
    2. Involving employees
    3. Gratitude for achievement
    4. communication
    5. The error culture
    6. The working atmosphere
    7. Exercise and healthy eating
  4. Employee motivation as an economic factor
  5. How employee appraisals help


Many engineers and computer scientists work in management positions and they know: The Employee motivation is an important pillar for the economic success of the company and one's own career. For the manager, employee motivation is basically about influencing the employee in such a way that his performance and / or behavior is visibly improved.

Managers can motivate employees by driving them to perform well. Often this is combined with a monetary benefit. But in the long run this can be frustrating for both the team leader and the employee. Especially when bonuses or other promises are not made. The proverbial carrot in front of your nose can soon look bland. There are other screws that a manager can turn to really motivate employees in the long term.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: what is it?

There are basically two types of motivation: The extrinsic motivation works through external incentives. They can be positive, such as the prospect of rewards, and negative, such as fear of punishment. A typical example of a positive incentive is a pay rise that an employer uses to reward the employee's good performance. An example of negative extrinsic motivation is when employees only do certain work because they fear a warning from the employer.

It looks very different with the intrinsic motivation out. Here the employee develops a motivation for his work and the individual activities from within. Although the impulse comes from within, managers can also exert a positive influence here. An important reason to be motivated can, for example, be that the employee receives positive feedback on their work. As a manager, you can also use employee motivation to ensure that the fun at work is not lost due to external factors such as conflicts with colleagues or inflexible working conditions. To stick to the example, the pleasant working atmosphere should be maintained by defusing conflicts at an early stage and introducing flexible working hours with additional home office options.

Important for every form of employee motivation: It must be individually tailored to the employee and have their needs in mind. For example, while younger employees want targeted support in order to develop themselves and their skills, job security often plays an important role for older employees. For engineers and IT specialists in management positions, it is a question of showing possible perspectives in the company. Ultimately, ideal employee motivation consists of a mixture of extrinsic and intrinsic factors.

Employee motivation starts with the boss

Even the most attractive salary will fizzle out in terms of employee motivation if the employee goes to work every morning with reluctance, for example because he no longer likes his work, feels that he has been passed over for promotions or because he cannot get along with colleagues. The example makes it clear: Employee motivation is multi-layered and complex, and from the large number of employee motivation measures, it is important to select those that suit the employee.

Communication and trust also play a major role in the motivation and management of employees: Engineers or IT specialists in a management position must clearly communicate the ideas and values ​​of the company, but also of the department - and more importantly: set an example. As a manager, you need time for this. Because trust-building is a process that you accelerate if you convey performance, integrity, professionalism and enjoyment at work. The following applies here: Those who demand performance must also perform.

If you want to reach your employees, it is best to start with daily, personal interaction. That alone can be extremely motivating - if you do it right. That means: When you enter the company, you are 100% manager and your employees are important to you. To motivate employees, always show interest in your employees, in what they are currently doing or want to achieve, but also in possible problems and challenges. Nothing works more than sincere interest.

Also read: Compass for Managers: How to Solve Emotions in a Team

Methods of employee motivation: Appreciation is the key

In addition, it is advisable to regularly appreciate the performance of the employees. This does not mean a general pat on the back, but rather the concrete appreciation of a contribution, an achievement or a project goal achieved. The more specific you are here with your appreciation, the more effective the praise will be. This also shows that you are interested in the work of your employees. Managers who attach great importance to the plans and projects of their employees strengthen self-confidence and employee motivation and arouse enthusiasm. If, on the other hand, employees constantly go to work with the feeling that they are just an insignificant, small cog in the system, you will quickly lose interest and motivation.

Not scolded, is it praised enough? Many employees are sure to be familiar with this old motto. This podcast episode explains why this is wrong for motivation and a good mood in a diverse team:

Employee motivation: A boss should also ask for advice

Another form of employee motivation: keep asking your employees for advice. After all, their content is deeper in their work areas than you do. Every employee will feel flattered to be able to pass on some of their knowledge to the boss. Because you turn the roles around for a short time. Now the employee is the master and you are the disciple. Important: Only ask for advice from whom you are actually looking for advice and not because you have read in a manual for managers that seeking advice is motivating. It has to be meant seriously, then it will also have a positive effect on the motivation of the employees.

Employee motivation through gratitude

As a manager, show gratitude for the work and performance of your employees. Perhaps you have people on your team who are happy to help other colleagues solve problems on a regular basis. People who see early on where things need to be done and who tackle them. Be grateful for such employees and express this gratitude and thus the appreciation for these achievements. In the future, employees will be even more motivated to do their job and continue to help other colleagues. It is precisely these employees who enrich a company because they give more of their own accord than is required.

Also emphasize outstanding achievements for employee motivation. Employees who consistently provide excellent performance in the team and for the company should of course receive praise and appreciation anyway. But you can go further to motivate employees. Be creative as a manager and treat your employees to an additional day of vacation, a wellness weekend in a spa hotel or a visit to the zoo for the whole family. In this way you show above-average appreciation for an exceptional performance.

Motivate clear guidelines

Also important: Remain true to yourself and your line when managing employees. Clear and stable positions, guidelines and values ​​also provide your employees with a clear orientation and clear goals. That motivates because it makes work easier for the employees. Also make it clear that it is important to you, for example, that the work results delivered are correct and not how long someone sits in the office every day (if that is actually the case).

In terms of motivating communication, engineers and IT specialists in management positions also need to choose a benevolent language. Focus on the positive aspects. When implementing a project, for example, you can ensure that any hurdles that arise are not presented as serious problems, but rather as special challenges that you want to overcome together with your employees. Avoid prohibitions, restrictions and negative statements in communication.

The right error culture

Of course, mistakes made by employees are annoying, especially when they have negative consequences for the company. And ultimately, as a manager, you have to be responsible for it. Nevertheless, you should continue to treat your employees with appreciation. Make it clear that mistakes made can be valuable in order to learn from them and to avoid such mistakes in the future. This is especially true if, for example, you have transferred an innovative, risky project to an employee for the first time that ultimately went wrong. The employee should not be punished for taking responsibility for it. Maybe all that's missing is the right amount of experience to get it right next time. Support him instead of judging him.

Pleasant working atmosphere and other measures

As a manager, you should also ensure a pleasant and relaxed working atmosphere in which jokes, jokes and laughter are allowed. It is best to work in such an atmosphere and the joy of working is maintained. Regular team building events (e.g. hiking, climbing or bowling together) support the positive working atmosphere. You strengthen the sense of togetherness, bring managers and employees closer together and reduce emerging conflicts among colleagues.

In addition, you can increase employee motivation by expanding their decision-making freedom. This strengthens self-confidence and motivation, because the employees feel that their skills are valued and taken seriously. Further education and training are also a motivating factor. You should therefore discuss with your employees at regular intervals which seminars and training courses they would like to attend or which are also useful from the company's point of view. Acquired skills benefit both sides.

And of course a good, reasonable salary has a motivating effect. Because it not only secures the livelihood. It is also a sign of appreciation for your own work. However, it is not the main motivation for most employees, which is why the effect of salary increases fizzles out comparatively quickly. Managers who nevertheless want to work with the “money” motivator can, for example, pay out project-related bonuses or initiate special payments when certain departmental and corporate goals are achieved.

The general conditions of work that improve the work-life balance are becoming increasingly important. With flexible working hours, employees can, for example, better combine work and private life. Give your employees as managers the space to organize their own work more flexibly. Possible options are, for example, flextime and home office, although these can also complement each other.

Exercise and healthy eating

Regular exercise reduces stress, strengthens stamina and muscles and has been shown to lower the risk of various diseases such as cardiovascular diseases. Employees get sick less often and are more motivated. Here executives in many companies have the opportunity to offer discounted or free memberships in fitness studios or participation in health courses.

If you want to achieve high-quality work, you also have to be able to concentrate well. Proper nutrition plays an important role here: Provide your employees with good calorie suppliers in the form of healthy snacks and fruit. Water should also be sufficient and available at all times. High-calorie fast food meals, on the other hand, should not be part of the meal options for employees.

Employee motivation as an economic factor

Employee motivation is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a significant economic factor. The market research company Gallup has determined that the German economy suffers annual productivity losses of between 76 and 99 billion euros due to the lack of emotional ties between employees and their company. The positive effects of employee motivation are obviously underestimated and not used sufficiently. Most companies have recognized that extrinsic motivation through salary increases, bonuses or company cars has a positive effect. But this is often short-lived. Managers should also absolutely refrain from threatening warnings or even dismissals. Such an approach helps, if at all, in the short term and is counterproductive in the long term. You don't attract motivated employees like that. Such measures are only suitable for really difficult employees who otherwise cannot be dealt with.

It is more promising to reach employees more strongly through intrinsic motivation. It is important for managers to know the tools of intrinsic motivation and to use them consistently. Figures from the Gallup study also show how important this is: 68% of the employees surveyed only work according to regulations and thus only contribute the bare minimum to their work. 16% do not (no longer) feel emotionally connected to the company and have already quit internally. Motivation, commitment and fun at work would lead to considerable increases in productivity for these employees.

Employee appraisals: a means of motivating employees

In order to avoid demotivation and frustration among the employees, regular discussions are required between you and your employees. Such appraisal interviews should take place at least twice a year and should be supplemented by further, shorter discussions if necessary.

The manager should prepare each interview well and align it with the employee. Going through a standard questionnaire will certainly not meet the employee's expectations and needs. Instead, the conversation should focus on individual development opportunities. Then the appraisal interview also contributes to employee motivation.

The three top motivators for employees

In summary, there are three big points that really motivate employees. This is also the conclusion reached by David McClelland. According to his studies, these are the three needs that motivate every employee:

  1. Achieve goals: Those who are successful also want to be seen. Employees want to be proud of their work. The boss should also recognize and appreciate this.
  2. Be part of a team: We are social beings and therefore want to be part of a community. A strong team can ignore many failures if the chemistry between colleagues is right. Celebrate successes together; that's nice and motivating. If a team consists only of lone fighters, the atmosphere can quickly become demotivating.
  3. Bear responsibility: Anyone who feels important and is responsible for their own projects feels part of a bigger whole and that can also motivate. Psychological studies show time and again: The permanent feeling of powerlessness, on the other hand, demotivates.

Further topics:

Everything you need to know about self motivation

How do you actually write a letter of motivation for your application?

How to resolve conflicts among colleagues

Conflict management by executives

A contribution by:

  • Thomas Kresser