by Roy Saunderson | December 05, 2011
Employee recognition and rewards can influence an entire workforce to be more productive, loyal, and motivated. But what about being inspired? How do we motivate our employees so that they are driven from within? How do we get them to commit their hearts and spirits to the mission of the company?

As we get into the holiday season and the end of the year, it's usually a time for reflection and when companies are particularly mobilized to gear up their engines. I have compiled my ideas on the best ways to inspire employees and asked a few executives to do the same.

1. Remind people why they were hired. Take a few minutes to remind a valuable employee why she stood out when you first hired her, why you chose her over every other candidate. Highlight what she since has contributed—and will continue to contribute—to the organization and its mission. Make sure to use concrete examples so that she knows exactly what it is that makes her special.

2. Push employees to challenge themselves. Payman Taei, CEO of HindSite Interactive Inc., an award-winning web design and development company, hosts group employee sessions for every new product concept. The key is to brainstorm and invite new ideas, but at these sessions, everyone's input matters so that all employees participate and realize their full potential.

3. Ask them for advice. Make a point of holding regular one-on-one employee meetings to ask them, “How can we inspire you better?” and “What can we do to make you more engaged and committed?” Not only will such meetings show your employees that you care, but they provide them with opportunities to tell you what they need from you.

4. Lead them by example. Sergio Alvarez, COO of Ai Media Group, a group of Internet marketing professionals with a consultative approach to Internet marketing and paid search, says that in order to motivate, you have to be motivated yourself. Show them what you’ve accomplished and inspire them to do the same through action.

5. Tap into their passion. Find out what lights a fire in each of your employees outside of work and why it’s his or her passion. Is it a sport? Perhaps he loves volunteering at a food bank? Or maybe she really enjoys collecting stamps. With some creativity, you can tap into and link these passions with work to get them motivated, engaged, and inspired.

6. Give employees purpose. Zul Momin, CEO of LynxSquare, a new online marketplace where shoppers share the costs and the use of products, says it is important to ask your employees for their ideas and ask them to create plans supporting them. LynxSquare’s business model is the product of the best of many ideas.

7. Highlight employees’ inspiring and motivational stories. While you can certainly bring in motivational speakers to inspire your team, you may find that the most inspiring story is what a colleague does as a volunteer outside of work. Share such stories. The fact that a motivational story comes from someone down the hall rather than an anecdote by an outsider can yield a more significant impact.

8. Let employees share in the success. For example, Cary M. Silverman is an eye surgeon who provides free LASIK surgeries to Olympic athletes. As he works with London 2012 competitors, he arranges for all of his office staff to meet them and get autographs and pictures.

9. Give employees autonomy. Arman Sadeghi, founder and CEO of All Green Electronics Recycling, says the best way to inspire workers is to give them a heightened sense of ownership of their work. The more ideas they are allowed to come up with, the more they feel like they own a part of the system.

10. Be both teacher and student. Danielle Lanyard, CEO of Green Breakfast Club, a new monthly networking events startup intended to grow local green business communities through the exchange of resources, says that in order to inspire others, you must both transfer your knowledge to employees and absorb and embrace what employees share.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Recognition Way and president of the Recognition Management Institute,, which consults companies on improving employee motivation that leads to increased productivity and profit. He can be reached at Also, tune in every Tuesday to his radio show, Real Recognition Radio.