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Small actions matter when motivating staff


Simple interventions can motivate your employees and encourage them to go the extra mile, says Theresa Shaw

Working in healthcare can provide enormous satisfaction but managers need to support staff to maintain the high levels of motivation and commitment that delivering quality care requires.

It can be easy to focus on what needs improving and not acknowledge what is good.

Motivating staff touches so many aspects of nursing. A quick search on generates more than 5,000 hits. These are not “how to” papers but a vast array of care and quality interventions where staff motivation is vital.

As nurse leaders how can we increase motivation? Well, an abundance of information can be found from the web, books, articles, motivational speakers and so on.

How you can motivate your team

  • Show that you value your staff Small things can give others a sense of recognition, value and worth. If a member of staff asks to talk to you, give them time and, if you can’t do it right away, give them a time when you can, and stop and listen actively.
  • Create a more motivating working environment Set aside time for professional development and training. A sense of enjoyment keeps everyone going when times are difficult. Occasions such as staff meetings away from the bedside can be a good time to inject a bit of fun.
  • Recognise and reward staff when you see something good, however small Acknowledging staff for doing a good job can be a real boost. A simple “thank you” can be meaningful if you make eye contact.
  • Show your own motivations and enthusiasm How you arrive at work, your facial expression and body language set the tone. Smile and greet staff positively. You can create a more uplifting atmosphere if staff feel you are motivated too.

I believe using some of the simple interventions on a regular basis can really lift morale and motivate.

It’s important to involve your staff in decisions - knowing their views, skills and knowledge are valued can really inspire your team.

Lead, delegate and trust your staff to do a good job and they are much more likely to be enthused to take their responsibilities seriously.

Watch out for workload increases and staff shortages. Your team will go the extra mile if they know you are trying to help but, if you do not acknowledge or act, enthusiasm will drop.

Finally, while everyone has a role to play in maintaining morale, staff do look to leaders and managers for that extra bit of support. When we feel under pressure it can be easy to forget the impact our responses can have.

Take time to do some of the small things to ensure staff keep going with the essential work of delivering the quality care we are all striving for.

Dr Theresa Shaw is chief executive of the Foundation of Nursing Studies ( and has extensive experience of enabling and supporting the development of nurses and practice in healthcare.


Readers' comments (5)

  • "Show that you value your staff Small things can give others a sense of recognition, value and worth."

    like not telling them that they have to bring their own milk for their tea and coffee!

    like asking them if the could bring their own milk with a good explanation of the reasons why

    there is a difference and it is all about treating all others with respect!

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  • Ask people, don't tell them unless you are addressing small children who have to learn for their own sake and safety
    Adults are often no less intelligent than you are and can usually work things out for themselves
    Do not only give negative feedback. People need positive feedback as well to motivate them
    Do not give unsolicited advice as it may be inappropriate to their situation
    except in emergencies, and only when absolutely necessary, don't bellittle adults by telling them what they 'must' do, what they 'should' do or what they 'have to' do, they are not in the military service!
    suggestions about what they can do and what they could do are far more helpful and elicit a more positive response

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  • I truly believe that as little as a thank you gives your staff the reassurance they need to know that they are being supported in their role and that you as a manager/leader are aware of what they are doing and appreciate them. This truly does make a better workplace environment and you as a manager will get much more out of your staff.

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  • Thank you goes without saying. It is a good start and a genuine smile or a kind word can also go a long way as well. But managers should not need reminding of what are normally inherent and basic good manners learned in childhood unless they are victims of poor parenting.

    Perhaps they also need reminding to treat others (including staff, colleagues, patients and visitors and in fact all with whom they come into contact) with respect and to listen to them, as being treated with respect and being heard, are fundamental (and obvious) human rights!

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  • Listening to them is a key point in motivating your staff to verbalize their individual experiences, challenges and the solutions that they think would best benefit in the future processes in order to avoid or prevent the problems or difficulties they are encountering in a day to day basis and at the same time it empowers them in finding ways to improves themselves. It is like "hitting two birds with one stone".

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