Here are 17 tips on how to motivate your engineers to create a kickass culture and deliver top-notch products.
Let’s face it, engineers are the backbone of any tech-focused company. Without a solid company culture, they’re bound to lose their mojo over time.
#1 Keep the vibe alive at work
The right atmosphere can do wonders for an engineer’s drive. We need cozy workspaces, amazing teammates, and a no-jerk policy.
As Jim Rohn said,
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
For extra inspiration, check out the engineering culture qualities backed by Elon Musk himself.
#2 Equip them with state-of-the-art tools
You wouldn’t ask professional athletes to train in a gym with 50-year-old equipment. It’s because rusty weights could come crashing down on them and end their careers.
Athletes are smart. They know that training facilities reflect how much their owners value them. With a subpar training facility, athletes will look for a trade.
Moreover, owners earn big paychecks from their athletes’ hard work. Yet, imagine them not safeguarding their athletes or, as harsh as it may sound, their assets. Where’s the logic?
The same idea holds for engineers. No engineer wants to mess around with outdated computers. If you’ve ever attempted CAD on an old computer, you know it’s a total nightmare. I’ve been there, and I wanted to hurl my computer against the wall. As an engineer on the job, I also thought:
“Do they even respect me, considering everyone is okay with me working on such an old machine? And yet, they keep assigning me more projects with tight deadlines to design and draft.”
That computer seriously sapped my motivation. To make matters worse, I voiced my concerns, and management did zilch for months on end.
I suggest asking engineers about the tools they’d like to use. If you can’t meet them halfway, don’t expect their best performance either.
#3 Offer competitive pay
You get what you pay for. If you want extremely motivated talent, then pay top dollar. Stellar engineers, especially 10x engineers, are rare gems. Remember, hiring amazing engineers is no easy feat.
Picture engineer ‘A’ discovering that their buddy makes $100,000 more for the same work at another company. Engineer ‘A’ will probably jump ship. Now, imagine if this buddy works at the same company—Engineer ‘A’ would be livid.
Engineer ‘A’ would shut down and lose all motivation to work. It’s no surprise, really. Like anyone, engineers want respect for their efforts, and money is a potent symbol of that.
With the cost of living skyrocketing every year, financial stress is piling up, making competitive pay more crucial than ever.
#4 Provide autonomy
Loads of engineers are naturally creative and introverted.
The point is, engineers want the freedom to work on their own terms, like ditching the typical 9-to-5 grind. Instead, they might prefer burning the midnight oil when their creativity hits its stride.
As a manager, adapt to these unconventional schedules to ward off motivation slumps.
In the end, what counts are the results—not sticking to an outdated, cookie-cutter work model just because it’s the norm. Embrace what brings out the best in your engineers.
#5 Let engineers flex their creative muscles
Drowning engineers in paperwork takes them away from what they do best—technical work.
On top of that, it robs them of their passion for engineering, leading to stress and dwindling motivation. After all, no one becomes an engineer to pore over legal documents all day.
That’s why sports agents tell pro athletes to avoid mixing business with their sport—both areas end up suffering. The same goes for engineers. An engineer who spends all day reviewing legal papers loses their effectiveness.
To be clear, this mainly applies to engineers tackling complex, creative work. Their full attention is vital. I mean, I’ve even compared engineers to Mozart!
#6 Offer challenging work
Talented engineers thrive on challenging tasks. They find these stimulating, and often, meaningful work resonates with them.
On the flip side, doing the same mind-numbing calculations repeatedly gets old fast. An engineer might feel stuck in a rut, and their motivation takes a nosedive.
I’ve heard from engineer friends that their work can be absolutely monotonous—same calculations, day in, day out. No wonder they’re disheartened!
So, keep engineers hooked with engaging, challenging projects. Ask about their interests and what types of work get them fired up.
#7 Hear those engineers out
Brushing off ideas or, worse, ignoring them will make an engineer lose interest in no time. They might think,
“Screw it, why even bother working, as no one ever listens to me.”
Once an engineer checks out, reigniting their motivation becomes a real challenge. Deep down, they’ve lost respect for management.
This issue is even more pronounced in engineering-driven companies. Picture engineers as the lifeblood of a company like Google, yet no one takes their input seriously. That’s a surefire way to run your company into the ground.
In a nutshell, treat others the way you want to be treated.
#8 Limit bureaucracy
This is easier said than done in large companies, but small businesses can definitely steer clear of demoralizing workplace politics.
Top-notch engineers want to work swiftly without bumping into unnecessary obstacles. Roadblocks hinder progress and make work a drag.
I know some companies where you have to submit a formal request just to make a design change. This request is reviewed and passed on to a higher-up division. You might wait weeks before you can even tweak a single design aspect. Talk about a frustratingly inefficient process!
#9 Offer meaningful work
Many engineers want to see the tangible impact of their efforts. If they can’t, they’ll eventually lose interest in their job. That’s why it’s crucial to integrate engineers into the company’s mission.
Imagine working at SpaceX, buried in design work but never witnessing a rocket launch, or not knowing how your efforts contribute to those launches. You’d naturally lose motivation and start to drift.
In contrast, watching a Falcon 9 rocket launch is awe-inspiring. You see this colossal machine breathing fire as it soars into space, and you know you played a part in that. How badass is that?!
Your motivation would skyrocket, and you’d daydream about sending humans to Mars. For me, that’d be motivation on steroids.
It’s vital to make engineers feel united in a common mission. You’re tapping into the innate human desire to belong and contribute to a greater purpose.
#10 Foster a tight-knit work community
We humans are social animals. A robust workplace community helps keep everyone motivated, offering support when times are tough.
Take soldiers in combat, for example. Many return home from battle only to become depressed, even though they faced life-threatening danger. It’s because they forged unbreakable bonds while fighting for survival alongside their comrades. Back home, deep connections are harder to find.
Now, I get it. Engineering work is a far cry from a battlefield. But the same concept applies, albeit to a lesser extent.
Engineers grapple with complex problems on a mental battlefield. Having fellow engineers in the trenches with you forms strong bonds. If a client is giving you a hard time over a design mistake, having your engineering buddies by your side makes weathering the storm that much easier.
#11 Develop a clear career path
Present a transparent progression roadmap for engineers in your company. Many engineers want to know where they’ll be professionally in 1 and 5 years, including responsibilities and pay.
Think of it like an addictive RPG video game. When you know the milestones needed to level up, you’re driven to grind, no matter how challenging or time-consuming it may be.
In short, a meaningful goal can boost focus tremendously.
#12 Conduct regular performance reviews
Engineers want to know how they’re doing, and performance reviews can help them stay on track with their career plans. Reviews can also identify struggling engineers, who may need extra resources or mentorship, so they don’t feel isolated.
Feeling alone at work can turn into frustration and loss of motivation. Even checking in with someone once a month can make a difference. It’s crucial to keep communication open and ensure engineers feel supported.
#13 Acknowledge their efforts
Hey, we’re all human, right? We all want to feel valued and appreciated. Now, engineers might not crave the spotlight, but they do want to know their company has their back.
Feeling appreciated makes a huge difference in an engineer’s life. After all, we spend most of our waking hours at work, and our sense of worth often influences our paychecks.
Imagine doing 90% of the work but only getting 10% of the credit. Not only would you look like a slacker, but you’d probably miss out on that sweet raise. Talk about a double whammy!
So, be sure to recognize the achievements of your engineers. If someone goes above and beyond, take notice. Heck, I’d even say that managers need to have a solid grasp of human psychology because, let’s face it, engineers are people too, and not everyone’s a saint.
I’ve seen my fair share of engineers who don’t pull their weight in a team, yet have no problem taking credit for someone else’s hard work. Keep an eye on who’s doing what, because a resentful engineer can lose steam real fast.
#14 Make work fun
No, I’m not suggesting a trip to Disneyland, although that would be epic!
Instead, try adding some excitement to work assignments, kind of like the game mechanics you’d find in today’s video games.
Lucky for you, engineers aren’t that hard to please. It’s easy to spice things up at the office to keep them happy.
Give engineers a chance to visit construction sites or factories to see their designs come to life. Trust me, watching your hard work materialize is both gratifying and downright cool. You can even offer bonuses for hitting certain milestones, just like in the NBA. Even an extra $5,000 can make a big difference.
And hey, why not add a foosball table or a gaming console to your office? They’re awesome stress relievers and team builders.
#15 Keep work expectations clear
Always fixing someone else’s mistakes? Ugh, talk about a drag. If an engineer signed up for new design projects, they’ll lose motivation if they’re perpetually cleaning up after others.
It’s often harder to fix existing problems than to start fresh. The kicker? You won’t get much credit for the fixes. If anything goes wrong, though, guess who’s taking the heat? Yup, it’s a lose-lose situation!
In short, give engineers the work they signed up for.
#16 Create transparency
Openness is essential for everyone in a business, from engineers to managers.
I get that some topics, like finances, can be touchy. But, other departments need a certain level of transparency to prevent bitterness from brewing. Picture this: a manager tells an engineer a project needs to be done a week early but fails to mention it’s because they caused the delay.
The engineer scrambles, sacrificing personal family time and working without overtime pay, while the manager avoids taking responsibility.
The bottom line? Don’t withhold important info from engineers. The truth has a funny way of coming out eventually, and when it does, you can bet their motivation will nosedive.
#17 Have heart-to-heart chats
If all else fails, sit down with your engineers and have a heart-to-heart. Ditch the formalities and just talk.
Ask why their productivity has dipped and what you can do to help them get back on track. Often, it’s an easy fix—but you won’t know until you ask.
Maybe they’re grieving a lost loved one and can’t focus on work. Since many engineers are introverts, you might need to initiate this conversation.
“How to motivate your engineers?” wrap up
Keeping engineer motivation high is no walk in the park—even when you’re managing top-notch talent. People aren’t machines, after all.
So, managers must consider factors like fatigue, personal lives, and emotions. By using these 17 tips, you can help optimize the work output of every engineer. In the end, everyone, including the engineers, comes out on top!
What are your thoughts on how to motivate your engineers? In what circumstances do you find engineers need the most motivation?
Featured Image Photo Credit: SpaceX (image cropped)
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, our history and future, sports, and fitness.