Dogs at Word: Allowed!

Employee Motivation: 8 Proven Ways Toward a Happy, Productive Team

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Real-world techniques to motivate staff and encourage productivity at work.

As somebody in charge of employee motivation, you have a lot of responsibility. We know that motivated employees are more productive and lead to a lower turnover, but motivation doesn’t come from thin air. You’ve likely succeeded in boosting employees’ motivation before, only to find out that it’s back to square one just a few weeks later!

At the end of the day, we want a happy team that gets stuff done and hits your company’s goals. We want a company with a great work environment. How can that be accomplished without spending a lot of money (or sometimes spending no money at all)? This article features ACTUAL EXAMPLES of companies succeeding in motivating a productive team.

According to a recent study, experiences make people happier than possessions. You need to keep this in mind: in the long run, gifts might not be as motivating as tickets to see the show or a company-wide outing. However, a small keepsake (“possession”) in addition to the company outing (“experience”) will serve as a constant reminder of the good time!

We’ve asked several businesses to tell us how they motivate employees and make them happier.  Now, we’re sharing our findings with you!

Dogs At Work – Allowed!

Dogs at Word: Allowed!
Photo by flickr user mikecogh

Dogs are known to reduce stress, which makes it a great idea to bring them to work (as long as they’re well-behaved, of course!).  Many start-ups and established businesses are making this latest trend a part of their culture and are reaping the benefits. HuffingtonPost reports that allowing pets at the workplace is said to “increase worker productivity, staff morale and camaraderie. Workers who bring dogs to the office may also be encouraged to work longer hours.”

Becky Boyd of MediaFirst, writes that “Having our dogs at work keeps me from feeling guilty that they are home alone all day without me. I know that they are safe and happy and this helps keep me focused more on the job, thus increases my productivity.”

Champions Dinner.

Each month at HubSpot, one of the executives takes the top performer in each department out for dinner. Mark Roberge, VP of Sales, says that this is a great way to get together cross-functionally.

Not only does this get the A-players recognized, this practice allows executives to learn from their employees who are close to customers and to hear their suggestions & ideas.

Company Outings: Sporting Events, Golf, Wine Tastings, Etc.

Company Outing
Photo by flickr user juverna

Top performers-only, company-wide or departmental outings not only let everybody see each other outside of work, but encourage team-building and give everyone the same positive experience. Stephanie Bullis, a marketing manager at, says that the “company encourages a super fun work environment that motivates employees and shows appreciation.” Among company-sponsored events are BBQ’s, wine tastings, and even F1 racing!

Peer-to-Peer Bonuses.

According to Nick Swan at LightningTools, each month every employee has $25 to award to a team member and give the reason for the award. The person who gets the award has to spend it on something “fun” (an evening out with your partner or even new soccer trainers) – and provide others with a picture!

This is one of my favorites on the list, as it can work effectively both for small and large teams. Nick mentions that their team is spread across the globe and this little perk helps keep them all together!

Paid Half-Day Fridays in the Summer!

Lots of businesses slow down during the summer, so why not take advantage of these slow days and allow employees to recharge more by taking half-day Fridays? Both Grasshopper and Eastwick Communications have this option and according to Paul Bernardini of Eastwick, it helps “build a culture that isn’t cut-and-dry, but rather unique, that has a tight knit group of people who WANT to help the company – not HAVE to.”

Cooking & Baking Contests + Food Days.

Activities, like a cooking/baking contest or simply announcing a “Food Day,” are low-cost, but really promote employee engagement. Here at Amsterdam Printing, we have several days throughout the year when all employees are encouraged to bring in a dish. Everyone gets to try each other’s food and judge their co-workers cooking skills!

Cookie Bake-Off by

Similarly at, cooking and baking contests are very popular among the employees. Three contests are held per year: Chili Throw Down, Cookie Bake-off, and Soup Throw Down. Stephanie Ciccarelli, Chief Marketing Officer, states that after the anonymous voting, a winner receives a certificate and is publicly acknowledged on the company’s Social Media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. What a great way to “break bread” together and learn about your co-workers’ skills outside of the job.

Flexible Work Schedules.

Allowing a flexible work schedule is a motivator in itself. Picking up kids, soccer games, car services, doctor’s appointments, and thousands of other reasons can make working strictly from 9 to 5 impossible. “Some of our employees are working moms,” says Jemery Schaedler, President of, and “we often provide flexibility for the employees to take time away from work. It costs very little, yet goes a long way in building trust which often translates into more productive employees.”

Play Room!

Lounge Area of CPX Interactive
Photo by CPX Interactive

Your employees work hard and nobody can stay focused all day long. Taking short breaks allows us to recharge and gain back that much-needed concentration. Surprisingly, people who take short breaks are more productive than those who don’t. A 2009 study at University of Melbourne concluded that “People who do surf the Internet for fun at work – within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office – are more productive by about 9% than those who don’t.”

Some companies have embraced this fact and provide Play Rooms where workers can actively take their mind off of work. For instance SpareFoot, an online search for self storage units, has a foosball table, shuffleboard, and darts in the office. Ross Betts says that “we work hard as well as play hard. The heightened morale produced by our great leadership and relaxed work environment is invaluable to our team.”

Closed a Sale? *DING*

Bell at HubSpotThat’s right – it’s the sound of the bell! At HubSpot, every time a sales person closes a sale, he or she rings a bell to let everybody know the great news. Similarly at Amsterdam Printing, big sales are announced via Intercom to everyone in the company, congratulating our co-workers!

Cost of the bell? $10. Value of the recognition? Priceless.

It’s the little things that count!

Paid Time Off to Volunteer.

Many of us are particularly passionate about certain charities — but with a full-time job and family obligations, it is hard to find time, right? Not at some companies like SEER Interactive or Advent! All employees get paid time off to volunteer for their favorite charities.

Founder of SEER, Wil Reynolds, actually started the company because the older company “didn’t give me time to volunteer,” he writes in his recent blog post, “so I can never turn my back on that.” It fueled a very unique culture at SEER, which helped the company win countless awards.  Also, Wil Reynolds has been named a “Small Business Person of the Year” by Greater Philadelphia’s Chamber of Commerce.



All of these unique ideas will help your company increase productivity, but this shouldn’t be your end goal. Your goal is to foster great relationships among workers, genuinely appreciate everybody’s contributions, and give credit when it’s due. All of that contributes to a great work environment where everyone can “work hard, play hard” and to quote Paul Bernardini of Eastwick again, everyone “wants to help the company — not have to!” Good luck with your new motivation programs!

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2 thoughts on “Employee Motivation: 8 Proven Ways Toward a Happy, Productive Team

  1. Thank you so much for including us, it was also cool to read the other companies and how they approach stuff. BTW the link to my site is broken buddy.

    TY again.

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