The difference between working with engaged people and a group of alienated, uninterested ones isn't just the difference in productivity you can expect from each - it gets right down to making the difference between feeling you want to go in to work or stay away to avoid becoming depressed by the unenthusiastic atmosphere.

Managers can't force employees to be motivated but they can contribute to creating an environment that encourages and promotes them to feel self-motivated. Motivation is getting people to do what you want them to do because THEY WANT to do it. The right sort of environment can be summed up in 4 words: security, involvement, responsibility and appreciation.

Making employees feel secure

If you think you can motivate people by instilling fear in them then think again. Over the short term, fear can keep people at a task, if not exactly 'motivate' them to do it. But all the while they are being fearful they are plotting how to get back at you. And that doesn't make for a productive workplace.

The boss who openly threatens to fire employees when they make a mistake or blames individuals when things go wrong is creating a fear culture. On a less obvious level, tolerating things like sexist behaviour or racist slurs in the workplace equally creates a sense of fear in the target.

The workplace should be a level playing field where every team member is treated fairly and respectfully so as to build a constructive atmosphere free of fear. You can go a long way towards creating that sort of environment by clarifying your expectations about how people are to behave (including yourself) in a written company code of conduct or through clearly defined policies about 'how we do things around here'. Clearly defined expectations also form the basis for consistent decision making in other areas of importance to your employees such as fair performance appraisal for deciding promotions.

Getting them involved

People are more motivated when they feel 'in the loop' of what is going on. The key here is good communication. Employees can't work to achieve the business' goals if they don't know what those goals are. You need to communicate your vision and goals for the business to them so they don't feel like they are working in a vacuum. Better still, provide opportunities for them to actively contribute to the business through regular team meetings and promote the contribution of suggestions that could help improve the business. Suggestion schemes encourage engagement and can result in valuable ideas for everything from improving operations and developing new products to providing better customer service.

Empowering your people

If you find yourself micromanaging your employees by constantly telling them what to do you can be certain that you are having a detrimental effect on their motivation. Being given responsibility for something is an important motivator for humans. Your intentions may be good but your 'help' is likely to be perceived as lack of trust.

Managers interested in keeping their employees motivated should set the ground rules and expectations and then allow them to get on with their job. Shift your focus from making sure that specific tasks are completed correctly to establishing standards and expectations. Where the standards aren't being met, the way to fix the situation isn't to constantly look over their shoulder and direct them, it's to help them improve their performance through a coaching or training programme. Most employees actually want to learn new skills, gain new experience, build their personal attributes and take on new challenges, all of which improve motivation.

Showing appreciation for effort

Public and private praise can work wonders in keeping people motivated. Achievement in any area considered important by the company, such as an outstanding sales record, contributing a valuable suggestion or providing great customer service, should earn some form of appreciation. And don't overlook opportunities to build morale by celebrating the business' wins, like getting that new contract. These only happen because of the combined effort of your many individual employees.

While some employees will be innately more passionate about their jobs and careers than others, organisational structures and management styles that deliberately foster engagement with their work play a key role in raising the motivational barometer.