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Performance management principles: part 7 – motivation

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, motivation is defined as both “enthusiasm for doing something” and “the need or reason for doing something”. This split instantly provides us with the carrot and the stick, the opportunity and the necessity.

You can see for example that there is a clear different between the obligation some may feel in compliance training and the intrinsic motivation that drives employees to go above and beyond. When we talk about motivation in performance management, the ideal is to focus on the carrot. This side of HR doesn’t only focus on the top performers, it covers everyone, so what can we do to avoid the stick in the workplace?

Enough of old metaphors. What we’re really talking about here is generating engagement and enthusiasm, and a solid performance management process can do just that.

If motivation and enthusiasm is so important, how can we actually create it through performance management?

To finish off our principles series, here are our top 5 ways to encourage engagement and enthusiasm from your employees through effective performance management.

1. Give employees autonomy over their careers

A reality of the modern workforce is that they want autonomy over their direction in life. This means, if you can allow for it within their job role, providing opportunities for flexible working and getting them involved in their own goal-setting. When you’re setting objectives, encourage your employees to steer the conversation and, where you can, accommodate their interests and curiosities.

Ultimately, if you don’t give them autonomy over their progression, the modern workforce is more likely than ever to take back control and seek it elsewhere.

2. Encourage continuous development

A great way to encourage the enthusiastic motivation we’re striving for is to allow your curious, career-hungry employees to continuously develop their skills and interests in and out of the workplace. We’re seeing more and more organisations of all shapes and sizes shift away from annual appraisals and towards a more agile performance management approach. Employees who feel stifled are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere, so use a process that facilitates continuous growth for the employees who want it.

3. Value the input of your employees

This is something that applies across the board when it comes to employee engagement. But when it comes to performance management, it’s important to value what the goals and wishes of your employees are. Of course, it’s always important to tie objectives into organisational KPIs but, similarly to autonomy, having their input heard makes employees feel valued and in control.

This can also help if you are thinking of implementing a new performance management process. Before embarking on something which will impact every employee in your organisation, why not ask them what they need from the process? There is no one size fits all, but a great place can start is an employee survey or focus groups that are representative of each demographic of the business impacted by the upcoming change.

4. Foster a culture of transparency

Let’s be honest, in a world of social media, Glassdoor, and constant online access to pretty much any information about any organisation, your employees deserve transparency and honesty. If they don’t get it from you, chances are they will find it somewhere else.

Back at the CIPD ACE conferences in November, we learned a lot about the importance of creating a culture of transparency within your organisation. This transparency is just as important at an organisational level as it is at a team level, and the increase in trust that follows is highly likely to see employee retention and performance increase.

5. Recognise employee achievements

There are few bigger motivators in the workplace than a simple well done. Morale increases when team members support each other, but our psychological evolution as social beings means we are hard wired to strive for appreciation and recognition within a group. As such, a pat on the back, a quick email, or recognition in terms of employee awards can work wonders when it comes to improving morale and performance in the workplace.

While finances and paying the bills will often be part of the “necessity” to do something, feeling appreciated and recognised adds to the coveted “enthusiasm” side of motivation. The best leaders are always happy to put their teams first and recognise achievements of individual employees.


Motivation often comes down to putting people first. With increasingly high workloads and stripped back teams in the modern workforce, it can be hard to remember the importance of the individual. Being recognised, listened to, and having control over our own lives are all huge factors when it comes to motivation, and if you want to increase enthusiasm within your organisation, these are great places to start.

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Written by Claire Moloney

Claire is an enthusiastic and meticulous content writer whose passion is to support growth and continual learning for everyone.


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