The Secret to Motivating Your Remote Employees

The Secret to Motivating Your Remote Employees

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written on June 2020 by Marek Grygier

We all have our own personal motivations that drive us in our work. For us to get up every day and dedicate time to our job, there must be something that makes it worth all the effort.

This motivation can of course be different from person to person. Some of us are motivated financially, others in getting that next promotion, and some in general self-improvement. By identifying what really motivates each of your employees, you can use this fact to help push them further and achieve their goals. That’s the secret!

Ultimately, team members become more engaged, driven, and motivated when they are realising the dreams and aspirations that they have. But unfortunately for us all, the way that managers are rewarding performance in meaningful ways is really at an all time low.

According to Gallup’s Re-Engineering Performance Management report, only around 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that “their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work”1. There’s a lot of room for improvement here, so where do we start?

Types of Motivations

To begin the conversation on motivating your remote employees, we should first of all take a look at the two basic kinds of motivations that people have.

Intrinsic motivations are as the name suggests wants and needs that come internally from a person. Your workers are engaging in behaviours because they find it rewarding for themselves personally. They are motivated in their actions because the behaviour itself is a reward to them. Some examples of intrinsic motivations include working hard on a topic at work because it’s of great interest to you, or doing overtime supporting a colleague because you take pride in and enjoy helping others.

Extrinsic motivations on the other hand arise from external sources, meaning that we take part in an activity or behaviour because there is some reward that we are given. This reward could be praise from our boss, money for working overtime, or on the other side of the spectrum to avoid some kind of punishment. This type of motivation has great use in helping people do tasks they don’t enjoy or have much interest in doing. For example, your boss may encourage you to go on a course that you don’t have interest in attending by offering some kind of bonus.

Identify What Motivates Your Employees

So the best way to use this new information is to find out what is actually driving each employee. That way, you can motivate them a lot more effectively than with rewards, feedback, or other incentives that don’t actually interest or engage them. To do this, you will need to take the time to get to know your team members on a more personal level in both their work and personal life.

When you get the chance (or make time if you find you’re always busy), engage and talk with each employee on topics that aren’t related to their work but their personal life. You can do this organically, or set up “get to know” meetings if you want to formalise the process more. 

Virtual coffees are a great way to do this without making it sound too unappealing for each person, where you take 15 minutes to have a break in your day for a small chat. Of course we can’t just bump into each other at the coffee machine in the remote environment, so it’s best to just schedule a small meeting. Do this towards the start of your working relationship, rather than find things out later on. That way you have more time to motivate and build a genuine personal relationship.

“Motivation is not a thing we give to people — motivation is a thing people already have. Employees inherently have energy, ideas, gifts, and talents that are worth being shared with the world. We, as leaders, simply need to get out of their way and create a space for that energy, ideas, gifts, and talents to thrive. The question we should ask ourselves isn’t, “How can I motivate my team? but rather: How can I create an environment for my team members to motivate themselves?”

Claire Lew – CEO at Know Your Team

Set Goals and Milestones

After taking the time to find out a bit more about each remote employee, you can organize a more formal chat to set goals and milestones together. Making this a collaborative effort rather than coming from above is also an easy way to help improve motivation. Schedule a 1:1 if you don’t already have these in your company, and create clear goals with rewards that appeal to that individual person.

You can simply ask them what kind of motivations they have for the work, and combine this with what you already know about them. By engaging with your remote employee, and bringing them onboard in this decision-making process, you will generate a lot more buy-in and agreement.

Team Perks and Rewards

We highly recommend running similar exercises and meetings with your team leaders and those in managerial positions. These positions naturally attract those who enjoy leading and gain a clear intrinsic reward from helping others. If you go through the same process of creating goals for their teams, drawing up milestones, and discussing what rewards can be given, you motivate more than just them: you motivate their whole team.

As leaders, they are more likely to be able to motivate their colleagues and do so in a more personal way that you can. They work with these people every day, and probably know them better than you. This puts them in the perfect position to help trickle down this motivation.

“At Strategyzer we offer an annual growth allowance that team members can spend on conferences, courses, coaching and certification. This allows individuals to explore opportunities for growth and improvement in their role. Our annual book allowance gives team members the chance to purchase helpful reading that will aid their growth, and teach them new skills. We also provide an outside coach that is there for anything our team wants to work on about themselves, or with the people they collaborate with the most. These “perks”, coupled with an ongoing encouragement of conversation and sacred spaces to hold those discussions, allows us to be proactive about team motivation.” 

Kavi Guppta – Driver of Culture & Growth at Strategyzer

Cultivate a Culture of Being Candid With One Another

Being truthful and straightforward should be a key pillar of any company’s internal culture. This is even more important for us remoters as we don’t get as many opportunities to find things out for ourselves as you would in an office.

A lot of remote companies perform a 30/60/90 onboarding check-in process for new employees, and you really should be doing this too. Here is also the perfect place to implement what we discussed above when setting personal goals and milestones. You also have the key benefit of doing this at the start of your working relationship with that employee.

But that doesn’t mean it should stop there! This candid behaviour can be continued on into the future with a whole remote team. We all work a lot as individuals outside the office, but at the end of the day we mostly are collaborating as teams. So, why not continue these check-ins but at a team level?

Make a conscious effort to have longer check-in sessions once a month to really get a feel and pulse check of everyone’s happiness and progress. Reassess motivations, set new goals, discuss rewards, and repeat in the future.

The Secret to Motivation Isn’t That Difficult!

Only by motivating our remote employees do we really get people to engage with their job. While you can help support someone’s intrinsic motivations, what is easier to do as an employer is offer extrinsic help where you can. This top tip can help you get a lot more out of the teams that you work in. You can use rewards to incentivize good behaviour where needed, and reward people’s intrinsic motivations too. But only by taking the time to get to know each employee can you really do this.

We mentioned that the process can be done with team leads, but this is just one part of the whole motivation cycle. Spend time with everyone, discover more about their passions and drive, then implement your findings. You’ll soon find that everyone feels much more appreciated, and that your remote teams are performing better than ever.


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