Last Updated 12 May 2020

Learn a Little Psychology to Motivate Employees and Increase Productivity

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Hiring talented employees for a startup can be extremely difficult. Retaining such talent, if they do come onboard, is doubly challenging. Such employees need high levels of motivation and trust in your vision to become part of your team.

Unlike large corporations, it can be difficult for startup entrepreneurs to provide scores of financial incentives to attract and retain high-quality employees. This is why they need to convince potential recruits about the growth prospects of the company and their career trajectories as startup employees.


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As an upcoming enterprise, it is imperative to choose your employees with care. This initial group of people can eventually become the backbone of your organization, and in many ways, steer the company in the desired direction. However, you need to look for some crucial traits in individuals when recruiting them.

Enthusiasm and self-motivation are vital in a prospective recruit. Joining a startup can be a risky decision for an individual. Make sure the employees you hire are motivated enough to enhance their skill set, and offer value to the organization.

Working at a startup may require employees to put in double the effort and be flexible enough to meet the diverse demands of the initial stages of the business. Potential employees should be able to understand these challenges.

The startup environment is dynamic and unexpected problems can crop up from all quarters. Employees, therefore, must be able to think outside the box to find solutions in unexpected places. They should be critical thinkers and make quick decisions.

Finally, they need to be loyal, trustworthy and honest. They should be loyal to the company, have integrity in personal and professional dealings and be trustworthy enough to deliver in all situations.

Once you have assembled the perfect team, keep them motivated. They are your true assets, and the guiding force behind the success of your venture.

Let's take a look at an effective psychological hack that can be used to keep them inspired and productive. It's called The Hawthorne Effect, which states that employees work harder if they know they are being observed.

In the late '20s and early '30s, a landmark study, carried out at Western Electric's factory in Hawthorne, Chicago, marked a quantum leap in determining the way people think about work and productivity.

Related Book: No B.S. Ruthless Management of People and Profits by Dan S. Kennedy | | |

In a , the effect of physical conditions on productivity was assessed by Australian-born Sociologist Elton Mayo. The employees, who served as guinea pigs, were divided into two groups - the test group and the control group.

The test group was subjected to changing physical conditions, like improved lighting and varying working conditions, such as working hours and rest breaks.

Every case found that the level of productivity increased whenever there was a change in the work conditions.

The increased productivity remained elevated even when the conditions returned back to normal. The researchers eventually deduced that the increase in productivity was not attributable to the changes in the physical conditions, but to the fact that attention was being paid to them, and employees felt that someone was genuinely concerned about their working conditions.

The Hawthorne Effect can be used to increase employee productivity at modern workplaces by letting employees subtly letting them know that they are being observed. Employees can be made aware that their work - and progress -- is being monitored by letting them know how they are performing.

Let your employees know that you care for their wellbeing and working conditions. Their feedback and suggestions on improving work conditions should be welcomed and considered favorably - if reasonable.

Another way to ensure that your employees know that they are being observed and cared for is by using the subtle art of competition. This competition can start with activities, like playing multiplayer games in the office.

, for example, is a new and extremely popular arcade game that has a multiplayer mode. It mixes up the difficulty levels from the beginning, unlike the conventional method of gradually raising the difficulty bar. This makes the game extremely challenging and fun. You can invite your employees to play the game in a mildly competitive environment, and gauge their responses and the way they handle perplexing situations.

The level of competition can be raised by pitting different departments against each other and . The wining teams may be rewarded, and the reward doesn't have to be monetary. Rewards may include a company leaderboard, a day off, movie tickets for the family or an all-expenses paid, one-day picnic.


The success of a startup depends heavily on its employees, especially those who have been around from the beginning. No startup can make progress if its workforce is not devoted, dedicated and motivated. Employee motivation is a continuous process that involves encouraging teams to go beyond their comfort zones to deliver exceptional performance. Understanding the psychology of your employees, and figuring out what excites, inspires and drives them, can go a long way in creating a truly productive workforce.

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