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Mentorship Programs

Few things are more nerve-wracking than starting a new job. New hires are often apprehensive when they walk through the door on their first day, and their long-term engagement and success can be affected by how well you onboard them during the first few weeks. One great way to transition your new employees is through mentorship programs. By connecting rookie employees with seasoned mentors, you can improve morale, training quality, and even retention.   Tweet: By connecting rookie employees with seasoned mentors, you can improve morale, training quality, and even retention. http://ctt.ec/UYlu2+

Mentoring offers a host of perks for the entire workplace, such as a friendlier work atmosphere and enhanced job training. Workplace veterans can provide newbies with tips for internal processes, cultural norms, and even job-specific skills. For instance, at Achievers, all new hires are paired with a “buddy” who takes them out to lunch during their first week, introduces them to other employees, and helps them access all the resources they need to complete their onboarding paperwork and checklist.

This relationship can create an increased sense of belonging for new hires as well as a feeling of purpose for long-term employees. Instead of creating a competitive atmosphere in the workplace, you’re encouraging collaboration and peer-to-peer support.

Ideally, mentorship programs should be well-planned and thoughtfully executed to ensure that the process runs smoothly. HR should start off by talking with long-term, respected employees to gauge their interest in becoming mentors. Offering a reward for participation is a great way to entice mentors who might worry about time management and availability. At Achievers, both the new hire and the “buddy” receive reward points when the new hire successfully completes their onboarding checklist. This incentivizes both parties to work together to get everything done.

When building a mentorship program, it’s important to outline specifics like the pairing approach, program length, and collaboration frequency. Mentors will be more likely to participate if they understand exactly what their time commitment needs to be.

You’ll also need to decide how mentorships will be assigned and how outcomes will be measured. What’s the appropriate ratio of new hires to mentors? For smaller companies, a 1:1 ratio is ideal, but many large businesses prefer small groups.

Will new hires be paired with a peer or with a senior team member? Will they be paired with someone on their team or in a different department?

Before you roll out a mentorship program across your organization, consider recruiting a small test group of mentors and new hires that you work with closely to monitor their activities and get feedback. Take your learnings from the test group to create a carefully documented set of expectations and responsibilities for future mentors. Think strategically about how you can set incentives, and then publicize those incentives, to attract the best set of mentor volunteers. Mentoring will be one of the first impressions your company makes on new employees, so you want it to be easy, streamlined, and genuinely helpful.

Commuting to Work

There’s nothing worse than sitting in traffic or squeezing onto a crowded subway. But for many workers, it’s the way they both start and end their day. When we think about the issues that most affect employee happiness and turnover, we often overlook a major factor that actually takes place outside the office: the quality and length of an employee’s commute.

Long commutes can cause personal problems, physical problems, and ultimately disengagement from the workplace. Tweet: Long commutes can cause personal problems, physical problems, and ultimately disengagement from the workplace http://ctt.ec/frg2v+

While a recent study by the Brookings Institution shows that commute distances for both urban and suburban residents are increasing overall, managers do have options. There are a number of changes you can make within your organization to help relieve the negative effects of commuting to work.

One big impact that long commutes have on people’s lives is that they increase their sense of loneliness. Harvard social scientist Robert Putnam has studied social isolation at length, and he discovered that “every 10 minutes spent commuting results in 10 percent fewer ‘social connections’.” To alleviate your employees’ sense of isolation as they travel to and from work, you can help them set up carpool or vanpool options. That way, they can break the isolation and connect with colleagues while underway.

If employees do need to rely on personal vehicles to get to work, you can make their lives easier by flexing hours in response to local traffic patterns. If you allow someone’s workday to begin and end slightly earlier or later than the standard rush hours, they can avoid gridlock and get to and from home faster.

Since long commutes result in more time spent sitting down (and more fast food consumed en route) you can help employees counter these effects by placing stronger emphasis on healthy habits in your workplace. You can replace the office donut box with fresh fruits and raw vegetables, and offer subsidized benefits such as gym memberships and smoking cessation assistance. Get more ideas for encouraging health in the workplace from our article 5 ways to make healthy lifestyle part of your company culture.

Another way to solve the commute issue is to lessen or eliminate it; telecommuting, compressed work weeks, and job-sharing options allow employees to complete work with less physical travel. The number of employees who work remotely grew by almost 80 percent between 2005 and 2012, and these numbers increased across all sectors even during the recession.

Finally, some employers are considering commute time as a selection factor in hiring, and some job candidates have mixed feelings about the practice. Just ask this letter-writer to the Ask a Manager blog who doesn’t understand why potential employers should care about her 2-hour commute.

While this hiring approach might eventually weed out the commuting problem altogether, it might not be the most effective or ethical way to screen candidates. Xerox, for example, decided not to use data regarding job applicants’ distance from the workplace because it wanted to ensure that its hiring policies were not discriminatory – i.e. because in some areas, lower-income communities might be located farther from the city center.

Whichever approach you take, make sure that your people leaders have awareness of and sensitivity toward commuting issues. Small changes and allowances can have a big impact on employee engagement, health, and productivity long term.

Intern with Coffee

Many businesses follow specific procedures when they welcome new employees aboard. Typical activities include tours of the workplace, meeting fellow employees, and completing paperwork. These types of activities can improve employee engagement within the first few weeks, and they help employees understand what is expected of them. However, some businesses skimp on those welcome procedures with temps and interns, thinking: “Well, they won’t be here long, so we don’t need to invest in them.”

Thinking like this is a mistake. First, it leads to wasted time and wasted money as interns and temps struggle to acclimate and become productive. Second, interns and temps represent a recruiting pool from which companies can find employees who already understand and care about the business. You can help your temps and interns be more productive faster by making their lives easier right from the start. Most of these techniques you should already be using for your full-time employees, as well!

1. Eliminate guesswork during onboarding
Explain the situation that requires that a temp or intern be brought on instead of a regular employee. With interns, one possible reason (of several) is that the business values a fresh set of eyes and the recent knowledge in the field that a student brings. With temps, one reason could be that a temp can quickly and efficiently bring in a particular skill set. Doing this gets rid of any guesswork and feelings interns and temps have that they are expendable, and it increases their engagement. They’re aware that your business recognizes and values them.

2. Outline expectations and priorities
Define how you plan to measure success and what you need to see from the intern or temp. For example, you could write in the welcome packet and explain in an in-person meeting that the intern or temp should finish X project by X date, and work with ABC team. Explain priorities, possible challenges and how to address them, as well as the importance of the project. And don’t forget — employee recognition has a big impact on your employees’ happiness, so be sure to acknowledge when they do quality work and accomplish their goals.

3. Assign a mentor or buddy
You could have a handful of designated employees who always serve as “buddies” for your interns and temps, or you could solicit relevant staff to volunteer for this role depending on their department. In any case, the mentor should help the new person feel welcome by going to lunch with him or her, introducing them to other employees, giving them a tour of the office, and serving as secondary resource (along with the manager) for questions about the workplace.

4. Provide a dedicated workspace
Get newbies invested and engaged by giving them a sense of ownership. Ensure they have a dedicated space to work with all the supplies they need. If they have to struggle and scrimp for materials and a place to work from day to day, they won’t have the easiest work experience, nor will they be as eager to work for you in the future.

5. Involve your employees
The day before the intern or temp arrives, send a company-wide email explaining that X person is arriving and why, and what everyone can do to welcome him or her. Explain where he or she will be working, what projects they’ll be working on, and who they’ll be reporting to.

Job Personality Test

In the interests of efficiency, the hiring process is becoming increasingly automated. Hiring managers and recruiters are continually developing new ways to save time, reduce manual effort, and identify the best possible candidates for each open role. One outcome of this shift is that hiring managers are relying to an ever-greater extent on personality assessment tests. According to The Wall Street Journal, 8 of the 10 most prominent private employers now incorporate pre-hire personality testing in their application process.

For employers interested in following this trend, an abundance of such tests are readily available. These tests range from classical personality-type assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to a variety of newer evaluation instruments, some of which are geared to specific industries or jobs. Many employers believe these tests can determine how well prospective job candidates will fare in their organization’s work environment, and whether they’ll be a good cultural fit. This information is particularly valuable given that employees who jive well with their company culture tend to have higher levels of engagement.

Despite their popularity, however, job personality tests do not always result in traceable benefits such as reduced churn or improved employee engagement. In fact, such tests may not even speed up the hiring process. Steven Davis, a University of Chicago economist interviewed in The Wall Street Journal article, found that as companies add more layers of pre-hire screening, the average time before a job is filled has expanded to the longest time on record: 26.8 days.

Furthermore, Harvard Business Review (HBR) points out that research has been available since 2002 demonstrating that personality testing doesn’t necessarily correlate with better job performance. Despite this evidence, however, the researchers found that HR professionals continue to place faith in the efficacy of such tests. The writers attribute this to the fact that busy hiring managers don’t have time to read academic research and are likelier to be swayed by their own industry trends.

There are some types of pre-employment testing that do offer measurable benefits, however. The HBR article cites evidence that testing for specific job-related competency is generally valuable, as are cognitive ability (intelligence) tests. While personality tests tend to measure transient states of mind, cognitive and functional tests measure stable traits that don’t undergo as much change, according to the HBR researchers. Such focused tests are also less subject to being “gamed” by savvy test-takers who can perceive the more desirable answers on personality tests and simply fill them out to please the potential employer.

The fact is that as a hiring manager, you have numerous powerful tools at your disposal for effectively screening job candidates, and you may prefer methods that are supported by solid evidence. Behavioral interview questions can be highly revealing of a candidate’s essential personality, as are job-related test assignments. In the end, however, the art of human resource professionals and the hiring manager’s personal insight still are (and will always be) the most effective employee screening tools in existence.

Want more tips for how to screen candidates for cultural fit? Check out our article “6 questions every recruiter should ask to determine cultural fit

Engage Reader Survey

Gartner recently completed their “Technology Overview for Employee Recognition and Rewards Software,” a comprehensive look at the evolution of R&R technologies over the past five years. They investigated a variety of solutions, including the Achievers Employee Success Platform, to determine what features and functionality consumers can expect, the common use cases for employee recognition platforms, and what criteria HR and IT professionals should use to select a solution.

You can access their full findings and recommendations on our website.

Gartner Report Achievers

 

Employee Onboarding, Training, and Development

Employee onboarding is an essential part of the hiring process, and when it’s done effectively, it can set the foundation for long-term success in the employee’s new role. Too often, however, managers don’t realize the importance of onboarding and the long-term benefits of training and development, so they end up providing a poor-quality employee experience. This has very real effects: according to SHRM, “Half of all senior hires fail within 18 months in a new position, and half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first 120 days.”
Do you know the best practices for effectively onboarding your new hires? See if you identify with either of the scenarios below.

Scenario 1
On your new employee’s first day of work, you sit him or her down at a workstation and give them a large file of HR forms to fill out. After these documents have been submitted, you present the new hire with their first set of tasks and tell them to get started. You assume if they have questions, they will ask. Coworkers mostly leave the new employee alone, because they assume the person has a lot to figure out and doesn’t have time for small talk. You see onboarding as a practical to-do list: setting up a new log-in and work area and making sure the new hire is briefed on logistics such as exit, entry, schedules, and timesheets. Once the logistics are covered, you feel that onboarding is complete.
If the scenario above sounds familiar, you may be losing good employees because you’re not effectively integrating them into your organization right from the start. Scenario 2, below, demonstrates an approach that’s informed by the best onboarding practices:

Scenario 2
You gather together a set of new employees for a multi-day onboarding session, and you encourage them to think like a team. Enthusiastic brand ambassadors provide a personal welcome and company orientation, with form-filling as an interim activity that all new hires do in the same physical space. After the initial session, a peer mentor is assigned to each new hire to introduce them to co-workers and orient them to the expectations for their role. Co-workers invite the new hire to join them for a team lunch and stop by their work station frequently to offer a greeting or helpful tip and check in with how they’re doing. On several occasions after hiring, you seek feedback from your new employee about their onboarding process, and ask whether they have any suggestions for improving it.
The faster your new hires feel comfortable and confident with their new coworkers and new responsibilities, the sooner they will begin contributing to your organization’s mission in a meaningful way. The benefits of appropriate onboarding, training, and development will pay off well in building staff loyalty and strengthening your employer brand reputation for future hires.

The Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility

Organizations with well-defined social responsibility programs can improve their brand reputation, attract more job candidates and customers, and increase employee engagement.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs arose from the understanding that businesses function as a part of society—the success of each deeply affects the other. The importance of corporate social responsibility has increased in recent years, in large part due to the growing influence of millennials. According to the Brookings Institute, within 10 years millennials will represent three quarters of the workforce. For this generation, brand loyalty belongs to companies that offer actionable solutions to specific social problems. Eighty-three percent of millennials expect businesses to try harder and achieve more with their social responsibility programs, according to a recent study.

This discerning generation is seeking out companies to work for and to patronize that make genuine contributions to charitable and social causes. This shift in values makes a real difference financially. A report by the Harvard Business Review pointed out that there is a strong link between CSR programs and profitability: “CSR can be much more than a cost, a constraint, or a charitable deed—it can be a source of opportunity, innovation, and competitive advantage.”

Additionally, the US Federal Reserve found that three out of four (74 percent) of the highest revenue companies in the US now have CSR programs. Globally, the percentage of CSR reporting organizations rose to 80 percent of the world’s largest corporations.

From an HR standpoint, corporate social responsibility programs are instrumental in helping employees feel more engaged and more aligned with the company’s mission, vision, and values. According to Forbes, “More and more, executive management came to realize that employees expected choice and access in their giving and volunteering.”

How can companies allow their employees to get involved with social responsibility at work? Here are some examples of how companies are encouraging employees to get involved with social responsibility programs:

  • Toyota offers each employee a $250 grant to their favorite charity after they complete 50 hours of public service.
  • HP allows employees to take four paid hours for volunteering each month.
  • Timberland invites and encourages employees, business partners, and even customers to get involved in its volunteering efforts.
  • KPMG hosts recognition award dinners where senior managers personally congratulate employees who excel in volunteering.

Other popular CSR programs include the coordination of group trips for employees to volunteer together during the work day, and employer matching for employee donations to specified charities.

The future of business belongs to millennials, who are the largest population group in US history and already outnumber baby boomers. They were raised with concerns about society and the environment, and they look to businesses to solve the world’s greatest problems. Meanwhile, many of the world’s most successful organizations have incorporated social responsibility into their core brand mission and messaging.

At Achievers, we’re such big believers in the power of CSR for employee engagement that we’ve dedicated one of our Achievers 50 Most Engaged Elite 8 Awards to corporate social responsibility. In 2015 the honor went to Netsuite, Inc. for initiatives led by its corporate citizenship arm, Netsuite.org.

Corporate Wellness Programs

Corporate wellness programs can lead to better employee engagement, greater productivity, and fewer long-term health care costs. However, you don’t need enterprise-level resources to support your employees in leading a healthier lifestyle. Even small and mid-sized businesses can introduce changes that will support a culture of health and wellness, and many of them don’t cost anything.

“The workplace is too often an overlooked but important part of the employee well-being equation. With people spending so much time on the job, it’s key for companies to recognize their influence on people’s health, well-being, and productivity,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, the habits-focused well-being company. “Ultimately, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to improving employee well-being, and successfully changing habits goes way beyond a person’s individual willpower. As an organization, anything you can do to support your people’s health will make a difference. It’s all about helping them by making small tweaks to the environment and culture so that healthy choices and changes are easier.”

  1. Promote exercise

Physical activity is one important key to better health. Depending on the size and nature of your workplace, you have many options for encouraging your workers to be active. Secure bike parking and employee showers are great options if your facilities allow for those, but simpler innovations can also be effective. Establish and incentivize a lunch hour walking club, or subsidize gym memberships and give points for hours attended. Fitness trackers are also increasing in popularity, and they allow employees to track their steps and other relevant health data. Holding friendly competitions, such as steps challenges, using these devices is a great way to integrate technology into your wellness programs.

  1. Get everyone on their feet

Numerous research studies indicate that prolonged periods of sitting result in unique health problems, and that “exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting,” according to one biomedical researcher. Provide your staff with standing desk options and encourage hourly stand-and-stretch breaks. Walk-and-talk meetings are another great option, because they simultaneously allow for physical activity while also keeping meetings from running too long.

  1. Offer healthy snacks

Good nutrition will give your employees the stamina they need to stay sharp throughout the workday. While special occasions still warrant cookies and cake, you should support your workers’ daily nutrition with healthier options. Stock vegetable snack trays, fresh fruit baskets, and plenty of low-calorie snacks that people can grab when they’re in a rush. Be sure to position healthy options right within eyesight, and consider hiding less healthy options in cabinets or in opaque containers to reduce temptation. Laszlo Bock, the SVP of People Operations at Google, refers to these easy techniques as “nudges,” and they’re extremely powerful. Google employees were able to cut 3 million calories from their diets as a result of nudges, and your employees could see similar results.

  1. Support mental health

Stress, anxiety, and depression are destructive forces in your employees’ lives. Linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and immune disorders, these mental health issues also lead to sleep deprivation, family problems, and poor performance at work. Your company and employees both will benefit from any programs you put in place to address these common issues. In addition to providing support resources for employees in need, review your health benefits to ensure that you’re providing adequate mental health care coverage, and encourage or require employees to use all of their allotted vacation days.

  1. Prevent illness

Flu season takes its toll each year on productivity, as employees and their family members succumb to long spells of illness. Furthermore, a hard bout of flu weakens the immune system, leaving the person vulnerable to whatever ambient infections cross their path. If possible, provide on-site flu vaccines to your entire staff. If this isn’t feasible, consider subsidizing your employees’ share of vaccine costs and provide paid time to go and get the shots. Additionally, managers should always encourage sick employees to stay home—not only will they recover more quickly, but they won’t spread their illness to colleagues. Ensure that your managers are trained to prioritize employee health over face time.

The health of your business cannot be separated from the individual health of your employees. When your organization becomes an ally in supporting each member’s wellness, you’re committing to better engagement, improved productivity, and increased loyalty. À votre santé!