12 Workplace Motivation Ideas

EPISODE 96 | Guest: Debbie DeWitt, marketing communications manager for Visix

Attracting and retaining talent; employee health, wellness and satisfaction; efficiency and productivity – the success of your organization hinges on workplace motivation and how you’re engaging your workers, whether they’re in the office or working remotely.

In this episode, we cover some surprising stats that show employers are still falling short in the eyes of employees. We also give you some practical tips for what you can do to build a better culture with workplace motivation techniques and how that can translate to your digital signage system.

  • Understand how workplace motivation affect the bottom line
  • Learn what employees are saying they want from their workplace experience
  • Get 12 easy motivation ideas you can start using today
  • Discover how digital signage can supplement your HR and comms efforts
  • Hear where to find inspiration and tools that can help ease workloads

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Get more content tips in our Masterclass Guide 3: Digital Signage Content Guide


Derek DeWitt: You’ll come across the term employee engagement an awful lot these days. I think a term that’s a bit more active is workplace motivation. Why does workplace motivation matter so much? I mean, it seems like it’s common sense, right? And yet, we still see surveys that show employees aren’t motivated. So, to talk about why it’s so important and some ideas on how to better motivate workers, I’m joined by Debbie DeWitt, marketing communications manager for Visix. Hi Deb.

Debbie DeWitt: Hi Derek.

Derek DeWitt: We’re gonna talk about motivation. You motivated to talk about motivation?

Debbie DeWitt: I’m fired up!

Derek DeWitt: Fired up. Thank you for listening to this episode of Digital Signage Done Right. Don’t forget, you can subscribe, and you can follow along by reading the full transcript on the Visix website.

So my original question, why does workplace motivation matter so much? Well, a Gallup survey says only 20% of employees strongly agree that their organization’s management motivates them to do outstanding work. So, I’m gonna just say, employers still don’t get it.

Debbie DeWitt: Oof. 20%. That’s brutal.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s brutal. I mean, what is going on here?

Debbie DeWitt: Well, we all should know by now we’re living through the great resignation or the big quit or whatever you want to call it. But finding and keeping employees is becoming a lot harder. And a lot of that is because they expect you to offer them a culture, not just a job, not just a paycheck. People wanna be seen. They want to know they have a voice in the organization. They want to be acknowledged, appreciated, encouraged, recognized. If you aren’t motivating them, then they’re probably not gonna be productive. You’re gonna lose money and you’re gonna lose them.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, I think that’s the key thing, ’cause the employee turnover rate is brutal and it’s expensive. It’s expensive to onboard a new person.

Debbie DeWitt: Very. And it’s not just the cost of the recruitment, the tests that you might do, but the hiring process, the amount of time invested in training someone to have them go somewhere else for something that’s not even maybe related to their job. It’s more about the culture.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, for sure. Inc. Magazine recently said motivated employees are 87% less likely to resign. So, hmm.

Debbie DeWitt: Right. So I would say, find out what motivates them and do that.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Now, we’re digital signage company. So how can digital signage help with workplace motivation?

Debbie DeWitt: Well, as anyone who listens to this podcast knows I’m a list maker. I love lists and I’ve come up with 12 motivation ideas.

Derek DeWitt: Of course.

Debbie DeWitt: Of course I have. They all easily translate to digital signage, but they’re not just about putting up content on screens. I would say just like sending an email blast doesn’t mean you’re doing great internal communications, putting something up on a screen doesn’t equal workplace motivation.

Derek DeWitt: I think sometimes it’s viewed as, oh, I guess this is just another task we have to do for these, you know, young employees.

Debbie DeWitt: Right. Or We need to launch a project about this.

Derek DeWitt: Right. We need to launch a project to, you know, tick the boxes. But it isn’t really. It’s, it needs to be organic. It needs to be ongoing. It needs to become just part of the weave of the culture really.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And digital signs are a tool you can use to help motivate people alongside your other efforts. Again, we’re not saying this is the answer to it. But some of these tips might help you create that culture or at least get those workflows started.

Derek DeWitt: All right, so you said 12. It’s another listicle episode. So number one, motivational quotes.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I kind of feel like why not hit the nail on the head. You’re trying to motivate. Put some motivational things up there or out there.

Derek DeWitt: Aren’t they corny though?

Debbie DeWitt: They can seem corny, but you know, even corny quotes can speak to some people, you know. And if you’re doing it regularly, somebody somewhere is probably gonna like at least one of your quotes. I mean, the whole point is you’re not going to motivate everyone every time with each thing that you do. You know, this is, this is a little bit of a shotgun approach. If you’re just starting out, until you can figure out, hey, my audience specifically likes this as a motivator.

Derek DeWitt: Right.

Debbie DeWitt: So, I’m talking about like at the beginning, you know, why not throw out some inspirational quotes? You need to make them intriguing. If you’re doing them on digital signs, you know, we always talk about it’s a visual medium. They need to be attractive. They need to be intriguing.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. Design it right. Yeah.

Debbie DeWitt: And sometimes that visual can really add or detract from the quote itself.

Derek DeWitt: Mm-hmm. Where can I find some quotes?

Debbie DeWitt: Oh man. Google. There are so many websites out there and you can search by topic, by the person who said it, by a keyword. There are so many quotes out there. And actually, you know, there are a lot of designs already out there that you can look at. I would not say steal anything, but you can be inspired by some of the imagery you might use to go along with your quote.

Derek DeWitt: I would also say, like if you’re doing a quote and then you do say a Google image search, sometimes it’s actually quite instructive in a, in a funny way to see when the background image used for the quote or the font that they use, they’re just completely wrong.

Debbie DeWitt: Just off. Yeah.

Derek DeWitt: And you’re just like, ooh, that is a mess. Or it’s impossible to read.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I mean, basic design tips always apply, right?

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I suppose you could probably, I mean, you could crowdsource it. I’m sure somebody out there has their favorite quote. You could ask some people in your organization, hey, what are some of your favorite quotes?

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. That’s I mean, that’s, that’s a motivator right there. That all goes into engagement. Make it more of a dialogue than just pushing something out. You’re always gonna do better with that.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And yeah, sometimes you’re gonna get quotes from people that you can’t really use. Like if somebody asked me, one of my favorite quotes is by the German poet, Gunter Eich. And it is…

Debbie DeWitt: Of course it is.

Derek DeWitt: “Be uncomfortable; be sand, not oil, to the machinery of the world.” I don’t really see that one flying on corporate digital signage. <laugh>

Debbie DeWitt: Depends on your mission statement, I guess.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Or maybe we’re an art collective. Okay. Number two, welcome messages. This is apparently a much bigger deal than you might think.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, it sounds very basic, but welcome people to the team. It not only informs everyone else you’ve made a new hire, but it makes them feel recognized right from the start. Again, this is onboarding, this is the employee experience. You need to start right at the outset. Put a message up on your digital signs.

And also, I’d say, put it on your intranet, maybe an email. You wanna make sure everyone can join in welcoming them. This lets the person know you not only value them, but that the culture is one of public appreciation and it’s open and it’s about recognition. So, you’re already signaling, hey, we put a voice to our employees on these signs.

Derek DeWitt: Right. You’re not just a name tag. <laugh>

Debbie DeWitt: Exactly.

Derek DeWitt: All right. You said employee recognition. So number three, employee recognition.

Debbie DeWitt: We’ve talked a lot about this before. We have another episode on this topic. But one of the stats I thought was interesting was that the Society for Human Resource Management says 68% of HR professionals believe that employee recognition positively impacts employee retention.

Recognizing people’s not that hard. You can kind of find something for every person. It doesn’t matter what level they’re at or what team they’re on. You can recognize them with something as simple as like happy birthday. Everybody has a birthday. Everybody has a work anniversary.

Derek DeWitt: And if not, what is happening? <laugh>

Debbie DeWitt: Right. <laugh> You know, and I guess that kind of leads naturally into number four. So, we can talk more about it there.

Derek DeWitt: Which is kudos and shoutouts.

Debbie DeWitt: Exactly. So we all want affirmation. I happen to be an affirmation junkie. So I understand this. We all want to know we’ve done our job well. Kudos are a great workplace motivation.

Derek DeWitt: And I’ll say, so for example, I am not one of those people. I don’t particularly care about being recognized or someone saying good job. And yet secretly I kind of do.

Debbie DeWitt: Right. And it’s very unlikely you’re going to offend someone by saying good job or thank you. I mean…

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s true. How dare you?

Debbie DeWitt: If, so that’s a prickly pear and that’s a whole HR thing. But I would say, you know, it can be at the company level, at the team level or individual level. So, you could give a shout-out to the whole West Coast sales division or just one person on your support team or one person in your admin office.

One of the ideas that we do at Visix that I like is we actually sort of democratize the recognition and kudos process because we let peer-to-peer recognition take center stage. We do this with an intranet form that’s called a shout-out form. People can say, hey, shout-out to so and so, thanks for helping with this. Or they put up customer quotes from emails, things like that. So, it’s kind of crowdsourcing again, but it’s also democratizing knowing that you don’t just have to wait for your manager to say good job.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Hey, everybody saw what a good job I did. Hmm-hmm-hmm-hmm.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah sometimes, and it depends on the mindset, but also sometimes the generation that you’re dealing with, that peer-to-peer recognition can be even more important than top-down recognition.

Derek DeWitt: Mm-hmm, sure. I mean, that makes it all very fun and fun ties into number five, which is gamification. And yes, it’s a word that has been buzzword bingoed to death. And yet I just don’t see enough places actually using gamification techniques, which I think are fantastic.

Debbie DeWitt: They are! I mean, and it’s, it’s interesting because it’s a new, it’s sort of just reframing something that’s always been done. It’s about setting goals and looking at how close you are to those goals, but making that process fun. Everybody’s already setting goals for employees. Everybody’s already judging their progress to those goals. It’s just making it fun, making it visual.

It also creates a sense of urgency and competition. Like if you do contests, or have some sort of a scorecard that comes up on screens, you know, it makes it more exciting. But it also makes it more immediate somehow.

Derek DeWitt: Mm-hmm, right. More active.

Debbie DeWitt: Exactly. And, and you know, the gamification part, another big thing is there’s a reward involved. That might be the thing that a lot of people are stumbling over <laugh> is that they’re used to setting goals. But isn’t the paycheck the reward? No, have some fun rewards, things that are tied outside, not to the paycheck. So, you know, creating a sense of fun and appreciation with that workplace motivation is what gamification is all about.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And you could even, I know that there was a Gallup poll that said employees who get involved in the process of goal setting are like three-and-a-half times more likely to be engaged, which is again, wow! Who knew that was so important?

Debbie DeWitt: Oh, it makes sense. You know, you wanna, again, you wanna have a voice and you don’t just want someone saying, hey, you will accomplish this. You need to have input.

Derek DeWitt: Or else.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. You’re the one doing it. You need to have input. And also, you know, there are goals that aren’t necessarily tied to productivity of what you do in your daily tasks or projects. It could be professional development goals, training, you know. Any, I think, good manager is asking you, where do you see yourself going? You know, do you actually want to sit in that same desk doing that same job for 20 years, or do you have other goals?

So, those may not be gamified, ’cause those are personal and HR, but certainly on your projects and your performance, you can gamify that stuff. And gamification is very easy to visualize on screens.

Derek DeWitt: Talking about screens and visualizations, let’s talk about data and dashboards and, and things like this.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. We’ve talked about metrics on signs can really have an effect on employee morale and on performance. Data and KPIs with or without any gamification are very motivating.

Derek DeWitt: And sometimes very attractive.

Debbie DeWitt: Exactly. People can take in a visualization a lot faster than stats. We all know this. There’s a reason PowerPoint and Excel turn everything into charts. Because we know people can take in a pie graph a lot easier than they can a bunch of numbers. It’s odd, but they seem more meaningful when they’re visual.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. And I think we also, we all like to know where we are, you know. I’m not saying everything’s a race, but even say in the context of a race, it’s nice to know where you are. You know, we’re not all just barreling ahead, full, full bore trying to accomplish things as quickly as possible. It’s nice to know where you are. It’s nice to know where your standings are. And I think that kind of helps motivate you as well or can.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Yeah. You wanna know how, how far am I from that goal or have I exceeded that goal? That’s a great feeling.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Oops, hey, I’m awesome. Where’s my kudos?

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. If someone says you’re gonna race, but you don’t know where the finish line is you’re not very motivated. You need to know, like, what am I working toward? That’s gonna motivate you right there. So having dashboards and data that help explain where you are in that process is gonna be motivating.

Derek DeWitt: Now I know there’s a lot of talk about item number seven here, mission values and culture. Again, these all seem sort of nebulous. And I think certainly in say the middle of the 20th century, these were not things that were really considered at all. But as the century came to a close, we started to see that this became more and more important, especially with the dot com tech boom, this suddenly became a, a big deal.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. I mean, I think most companies have had a mission for a very long time, but realizing that, that trickles down into your culture, I think is the new thing, and that it can be very important to potential employees, to prospective hires who are looking at your company.

They want to know that their workplace is more than just about profit. You know, transparency, trust and values are extremely important to today’s workers and to students. You know, they even look at colleges and universities, they want to know, what are you putting out there in the world? I don’t want to be necessarily associated with someone that I disagree with their values.

So, it’s important that every employee knows why your organization exists and how you conduct that business. Are you doing green initiatives? Are you supporting your community? You know, what’s your DEI, diversity, equity and inclusivity, what are those policies? You know, they also need to know how they fit into that mission.

Derek DeWitt: And why are you doing these things? If you are doing them, why are you doing them? Not just because that’s expected now, but there has to be an actual motivation behind it. And if you’re not doing those things, why aren’t you?

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Authenticity is huge. It’s, it’s been very common for decades to have a very flowery, very aspirational mission statement, but you don’t see that in the culture at all.

Derek DeWitt: Right.

Debbie DeWitt: You know, so you’ve gotta walk the talk or those employees will flee.

Derek DeWitt: I know another thing, you said DEI, health and wellbeing has become a big thing as well. And again, I can see maybe more old-fashioned mindset employers saying like, that’s not really, that’s not really our brief, you know. You need to take care of yourself. What are we supposed to do, cook your meals for you and cut up your steak for you? But the fact is, is that we spend a lot of time at work, whether it’s I’m working remotely or not. And I need to be healthy at the end of it.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And I’ll always start by saying, as usual, I think you give employers too little credit. There’s a reason this has come to the forefront and that’s ’cause employers are talking about it. You know, with the recent pandemic, health and wellbeing are very important topics. It’s a huge topic in workplace motivation right now.

Forbes had a stat that 87% of employees expect the employer to support their work-life balance. This became so much more important during the pandemic when people were working at home and dealing with children who couldn’t go to school and they’re trying to balance all of these things. And even though I will say, disclaimer, that stats a bit old, but I can imagine that number’s probably grown in the wake of the pandemic.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. I was gonna say, I bet it’s higher than 87% now.

Debbie DeWitt: Oh, I bet so too. Along with other humanist trends in the workplace, people want their employer to provide a place where they can be happy and healthy as well as productive. All of these studies we’ve quoted, they’re all out there. You can go look for them. Happiness and health boost productivity, o it’s good for the bottom line too.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. It’s kind of a no brainer and it’s not that hard.

Debbie DeWitt: Exactly. So, bringing it back to digital signs, you can post health tips. You can encourage breaks. You know, some of our free messages we give out even have like tips for stretching at your desk. Just basic things that say, we know that health is important, wellness is important. We’re aware of it, we’re supporting it. It’s all about letting people know you care about their body and mind as much as their output.

Derek DeWitt: And then there’s number nine, which is reminding people about benefits. I think sometimes people might forget that, yeah, this job actually does have quite a good number of benefits. It has perks. I mean, you probably had some of that in mind when you accepted the job. It was probably one of the reasons why you went with this company instead of the other company, you know, things like that. I think reminding them of things like this is never a bad idea.

Debbie DeWitt: That’s true. And I think that you might scour that benefits package and all of those other perks when you’re looking for an employer, but six months, nine months down the year, are you gonna remember every single little thing that’s offered to you? I mean, one of the things we have at Visix is you get your birthday off of work.

Derek DeWitt: Right. I was just gonna say, it’s like, oh, I forgot, I get my birthday off.

Debbie DeWitt: I will say most people remember that one. But also, a lot of especially smaller companies, they use PEOs or external HR services. And those places, it’s almost like your credit card rewards program. Like, just because you’re a client of theirs, they have all of this online shopping discounts. They have things like counseling services, legal consultations. So those kinds of things might fall off the top of mind of your employees.

And the other thing you need to remember is you’re onboarding new employees. One of the worst mistakes you can make with digital signs or a town hall or anything like that is you cover something and then you don’t cover it again. And in the meantime, you’ve gained four new employees who have no idea that that’s available to them, whatever the benefit is.

Derek DeWitt: And it’s to remind people that there’s more to their job than just, just a paycheck.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Again, like we said, this is creating a culture. So hopefully as part of that culture, you’ve thought about perks. You’ve thought about more than just healthcare, you know, in terms of your benefits package. So again, thinking about workplace motivation, this is just reminding them, we’ve already taken this into account and it’s just advertising it, so it stays in people’s minds.

Derek DeWitt: Number 10, opportunities for professional development, which is a perk or a benefit.

Debbie DeWitt: It can be, yes. I mean, there can be things as formalized as paying for future education or certifications. But you know, most people just love learning. You know, they’re gonna appreciate that you’re adding to their skillset and their future career opportunities, whether it’s with your organization or another one. You know, some examples are you can’t get motivated about taking over a digital signage system if you don’t know how to use it. You know, if someone opens Photoshop, which I did this, without any training, they’re just gonna shut it down and be afraid of it because it’s overwhelming.

Maybe someone knows they aren’t good at time management and just needs some tips. So, it doesn’t always have to be something as formal as a PD program or paying for that bachelor’s degree or that master’s degree or some certification in a technical field. It can just be someone who’s like, I need to know a little bit more about how to use formulas in Excel. And again, a lot of those HR companies, those PEOs, they have online courses. That’s again, reminders about benefits, going back to the last point.

Or let people look online. You know, I at one point wanted to know more about Google AdWords and Google has its own university, so I just asked. And sometimes it’s not about giving out money, it’s just saying, yes, you can take that time. And so, you know, to translate this, it’s really just putting up those training opportunities, certification opportunities, or just letting people know if there’s an online course you want do, let us know.

Derek DeWitt: We’re investing in your future in the hopes that that future is with us. <laugh>

Debbie DeWitt: Exactly, exactly. Or that at least you’re happier and therefore more productive while you’re with us.

Derek DeWitt: Sure, sure, sure. So number 11, events. Another thing which means basically they could be virtual online, or they could be in person, or they could be a hybrid. But things going on that could be training oriented. They could be meetings, all that kind of stuff.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. And for higher education, you’re gonna have things like certainly athletics, you know, big games coming up. You’re gonna have maybe an art gallery on campus that’s having an exhibition. You’re gonna have your theater group performing. So, lots of events in lots of different organizations. Events are the most popular thing to show on digital signs. So when it comes to your digital signs, you know, don’t just show a schedule. Of course that’s important too, but create some buzz and some anticipation around the event before it happens.

Derek DeWitt: Like what? Like make it a campaign.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah, absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: And you don’t just want to promote it beforehand. You want to, after the event, show highlights, which becomes kind of a promotion for the next time a similar event happens.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Just like, you know, if you’re throwing it up on Facebook or Insta, you know, you can share it on your screens and usually you do that beforehand.

Derek DeWitt: Insta, you said. You’re so hip. <laugh>

Debbie DeWitt: I am so, I am hip, come on! <laugh> But you know, you also tend to show photos or videos afterward, you know, that’s what you want to do, ’cause it’s, it’s all about completing that experience.

Derek DeWitt: Sure, sure. And it’s fun, which ties into the 12th and final thing, fun facts, trivia, etc.

Debbie DeWitt: Fun is always a good thing, I think. So, workplace motivation doesn’t have to be stodgy, doesn’t have to be boring, doesn’t have to be stats. You know, people have a ton of information coming at them and little fun breaks on your screens aren’t just appreciated, but we’re back into health and wellness. You know, you need to take that mental break as well.

So, we show things like mythbusters. We’ve got a bunch of facts that people think are right, but actually are not. We show stress relief tips, like I said, stretching tips. But we also just have fun facts. We actually have some subscriptions that just do fun facts, trivia, inspirational quotes, kind of all mixed together. And a great thing to do with trivia is like post the question one day and do the answer the next.

Derek DeWitt: Ah, it kind of gives you ROI right there.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. Well, it draws attention and also you could gamify it, like we talked about. There could be a prize, you know, the first 10 people to answer this or something like that. One of the things we do at Visix, we have a “Question Time”, which is basically every Wednesday afternoon, we post a question on screen and on our intranet and people get to answer in the comments on the intranet. It’s a great way to drive traffic also to the intranet from our digital signs.

Derek DeWitt: I mean, these are, these 12 items are all very good, but, man, sure sounds like a lot of design work for me.

Debbie DeWitt: Well, it doesn’t have to be. I mean, you don’t have to do all of this at once. You know, start small. You’re not gonna do all of it tomorrow. Hopefully you’re already doing some of them and if not pick one. You know, wrap it into your content schedule and then add another one when you’re ready. Again, I said, I hope this isn’t the only thing you’re doing for workplace motivation. Hopefully your HR, your internal communications, all these people are already working on this. So hopefully you’ve already got some content. You’ve already got some things floating around your organization and this is really reinforcing those.

Derek DeWitt: And I know a lot of these types of messages that you’re talking about, you know, quotes, trivia, et cetera, cetera, et cetera. I know that Visix has a whole bunch of them as free messages on the Visix website in the resources section.

Debbie DeWitt: Yeah. There are over 200 messages. And again, use them on your digital signs, use them on social media, use them on your intranet. You know, they’re free for you to take. They’re all 1920 x 1080, so they will work great up on a big screen. You know, even if you just want them personally, you can use them as wallpapers on your desktop. Download them, share them. They’re just there, again, to help the person who’s trying to fold this into their culture, doesn’t necessarily have the design time or the design skills. So, we’ve kind of given you a little bit of a head start.

Derek DeWitt: So, workplace motivation is important. It affects productivity, which affects the bottom line. It affects employee turnover, which affects the bottom line. And nobody wants to be in charge of a company full of people who don’t like being there. So, it behooves organizations to focus on workplace motivation if they aren’t already. And if they are, hopefully this episode has given you some tips and tricks on how to specifically accomplish just that, so that you just have a better workplace for everybody – bosses and employees.

Well, I’d like to thank Debbie DeWitt for motivating me to do this episode of Digital Signage Done Right today. Thanks Debbie for talking to me today.

Debbie DeWitt: Thank you Derek.

Derek DeWitt: Thank you everybody out there for listening.