18 Ways on How to Motivate Your Engineers

Learning how to motivate your engineers is the best way to increase profit margins. Because most all people naturally lose motivation over time.

This includes all types of engineers!

To maximize an engineer’s full potential, I’m going to go over 18 tips. These tips will help maintain an engineer’s focus, and keep their productivity high.

Because it’s not always obvious how to motivate your engineers.

At the same time, use these tips yourself too as a working engineer. Look for jobs that include all these workplace elements we’re going to discuss. If anything is lacking, go speak with your boss.

#1 Healthy work environment

Be sure the work environment is conducive for productive work.

For one, there are no assholes in the workplace. No one wants to work around pricks.

Hence, the importance of hiring great engineers all around. Engineers who are not only talented but are great people.

Great people are the foundation for keeping everyone motivated.

You don’t want to have to feel nervous to go discuss a design element with a colleague. Or, you need to think of ten different ways on how to approach them over their mistake. All because they’ll quickly get offended and become angry.

I even go over the undiscussed qualities of great engineers you should know about. These are the type of engineers who you want working in your company.

#2 Latest tools

You don’t tell a pro athlete to train in a weight facility where equipment is 50 years old. The old weights can come crashing down on them and end their career.

Eventually, the athlete will look for greener pastures.

All because the facility is a reflection of how the team owner views them.

In our example, the owner is collecting big paychecks from the athlete’s blood and sweat. Yet, the owner doesn’t want to keep their athletes safe?! Where’s the logic in that?…

Going back to engineering. Having to do CAD work on an outdated computer is a nightmare.

I’ve done it before, and I was beyond annoyed. I wanted to endlessly kick my machine.

Plus, certain thoughts ran through my mind. “Am I even respected, given everyone is okay with me working on such an old machine? Yet, they keep handing me more projects to design and draft.” It certainly affected my motivation.

So, make sure engineers have the latest tools to use. Also, ask engineers if there are better tools they prefer to use.

Otherwise, you can’t expect maximum productivity, when you’re not meeting engineers halfway.

#3 Competitive pay

You always get what you pay for.

If you want top talent. Then pay top dollar for the talent, because great engineers don’t grow on trees.

In fact, I discuss the difficulties of hiring amazing engineers. It’s no cakewalk.

Imagine an engineer sees his buddy makes $100,000 more than him doing the same work at a different company. Rest assured he’ll jump ship. Now imagine if this buddy is in the same company.

The amount of resentment would be unworldly. You’ll feel like someone shoved a dagger in your heart.

As a result, the lower-paid engineer would shut down. Frankly, I don’t blame them.

Clearly, money is a very important factor in maintaining productivity. Especially with mounting stress at home because of the rising cost of living.

Thus, provide competitive salaries and be fair above all.

#4 Autonomy 

Engineers by nature are creative. At the same, many engineers are introverts.

So they want the freedom to do their work how they want. This means their work schedule may not be formally structured. I’m talking about a normal 8 to 5.

Some engineers are most productive working in the late hours of the night. And you need to accommodate this schedule. Otherwise, you may lose this engineer’s motivation, and then their ear.

Because in the end, results are all that matter. Not following some pre-defined antiquated schedule, just because it’s what “everyone does.”

Also, I find this level of freedom makes engineering work more rewarding too. As you’re not forced to work a certain way that decreases your efficiency.

#5 Freedom to create

Overloading an engineer with endless paperwork will cut into their engineering time. They won’t have time to do what you hired them for.

Even more important, they won’t have time to do what they’re passionate about. This all leads to high levels of stress, and a loss of focus.

It’s why people tell pro athletes not to focus on direct business work when they’re playing. Because they become distracted, and both lines of work will then suffer.

Of course, this applies most to engineers who do specialized complex work. Work that requires your full constant attention.

As another analogy, you don’t become a chef to wash dishes. The same applies to engineers as a whole.

I want to highlight though, some engineering work requires a lot of paperwork. But it’s part of the job description.

What’s more, to level up as an engineer, you’ll never always just do technical work.

In short, the work you assign engineers should fall within the scope of what they signed up for.

#6 Challenges

incoming line into hydroelectric facility

Engineers naturally gravitate towards problems. Also the more ambitious of an engineer you are, the more challenging problems you’ll go after.

At the same time, challenging work typically is meaningful work. It’s work that not every person can do, and thus, you’re the gatekeeper to finishing it.

This gives you a sense of importance, as you’re making an impactful difference.

On the flip side, doing the same boring calculation over and over again gets OLD fast. It’s a surefire way to make an engineer jump ship.

So, the engineer will lose motivation, and I don’t blame them. They’re not learning. Also, they’re realizing how they’re shooting their career in the foot.

I have engineer buddies who’ve said they feel their work is mind-numbing. They’re repeating the same set of calculations day in and day out.

Nothing ever changes. Thus, they feel depressed at their work.

So, keep engineers occupied with challenging work to keep their minds stimulated.

#7 Listen to the input of engineers

Quickly dismissing ideas, or even worse, ignoring, will quickly ostracise an engineer.

They’ll say, “screw it, why even bother, as no one ever listens to me.”

As a result, they’ll quickly disengage and lose motivation.

I find this to be worse in engineering-centric companies.

Imagine treating your chef at a restaurant like shit. Given the chef is the heart and soul of your business. This is a fast and effective way to destroy your business.

All in all, just be a great all-around person. It’s not difficult to treat everyone how you’d like to be treated.

#9 Limit bureaucracy

Easier said than done for large companies. But small companies can easily avoid a lot of politics in the workplace.

Politics make everyone tear out their hair in stress, especially engineers.

Engineers want to innovate fast, and not hit endless roadblocks. Roadblocks that stunt progress and work becomes a tiresome process.

I know some companies, where you need to submit a formal request to make a design change. This request is then reviewed and then passed onto another higher up division.

Thus, you need to wait a couple of weeks before you can make any design changes. Talk about inefficiency combined with high levels of frustration!

#10 Direct impact

spacex falcon heavy landing
SpaceX Falcon Heavy Landing (Photo Credit: SpaceX)

An engineer who can’t see their direct impact will overtime lose interest in their work.

Hence, the importance of directly integrating engineers into the company’s mission. Engineers want to see how their work impacts the company’s mission.

Imagine working at SpaceX. You endlessly do design work in the office, but you never see an actual rocket launch.

Plus, you don’t even know how your work impacts the rocket design. You’ll quickly lose motivation in your work and you’ll begin to drift off.

On the flip side, watching the Falcon 9 rocket launch would be amazing. The insane rush would be unworldly.

You see this monstrous man-made machine breathing fire, traveling into outer space.

Your motivation would shoot through the roof. You’ll think about how your work will soon send humans to Mars. That would be motivation on steroids for me.

Thus, the importance of making engineers feel a part of the global company mission. We all want to feel wanted. It’s a part of our genes to want to feel accepted as part of a tribe.

#11 Close-knit workplace community

Humans are social creatures. Strong workplace communities help keep everyone motivated.

For example, workplace communities greatly help with slumps or down periods. You’ll have someone you can lean on and talk to when you’re emotionally down.

To make a stretch analogy, let’s look at soldiers from the battlefield. When they return home, many become depressed. It’s because they’ve lost the camaraderie they had built up on the battlefield.

Sure, they had bullets whizzing by their ear and the fear of death was around every corner. But at their lowest point, they were around their brothers. Brothers who all depended on one another to survive.

Does it get any deeper than that?!

These are the relationships that become unbreakable.

I know, engineers are in quite the opposite workplace environment. Office versus the battlefield.

But, the same concept applies to a lesser degree.

Keep in mind, engineers operate on the mental battlefield. I’m talking about when engineers solve challenging engineering problems.

So, having other engineers you can depend on to help you solve a problem is priceless!

I speak of experience when I say the following. Your client may clobber you for a design issue. But if you have your fellow engineer by your side as you take the client’s heat, it makes a world of a difference. You feel much better.

Further, I want to point out, many engineers are introverts. But even introverts love to have like-minded people nearby.

#12 Career outlook plan

Have a roadmap for engineer progression in your company.

Many engineers want to know where they’ll be career-wise 1 and 3 years down the road.

They want to see how they can advance and gain greater responsibilities. At the same time, how they can increase their pay.

For example, how to go from an associate engineer to a senior engineer. Also, what milestones they need to hit to make this happen.

It’s like video game mechanics, which are so addictive for players. When you know what milestones you need to reach to get the next weapon, you grind away. No matter how painful and time consuming the grind may be.

Any avid gamer will know what I’m talking about when it comes to leveling up your character.

In short, when you have a meaningful goal to shoot towards, your focus skyrockets.

#13 Consistent performance reviews

People like to know how they’re doing. Performance reviews show people if they’re on track in their ‘career outlook plan.’

Also, you can find out if an engineer is struggling in their work. If they are, you can provide them with resources to improve. This includes mentorship.

This way, the engineer doesn’t think they’re alone on an island unable to level up. Because this frustration can lead to depression and then a loss of motivation.

So performance reviews can make an engineer not feel alone. In return, their motivation will remain consistently high.

Of course, I’m assuming the engineer is genuinely trying to improve themselves.

#14 Recognition

It’s nice to feel wanted. We’re all humans.

That said, most engineers don’t care much if they’re underappreciated by the public. BUT, they do want to feel appreciated by those in their company.

Because this directly will affect their quality of life. You’re in the workplace most of your waking day, so it’s a big deal.

For example, no one wants to do 90% of the work, but they only get 10% of the credit.

Why?

Because you’ll never then get a raise. Also, your boss will view you as a slacker.

So, find ways to recognize the work of your engineers. If someone is going the extra mile, then take notice and speak up. Even the small things matter.

Like in any other professional group, some engineers don’t carry their own weight. But they’ll without hesitation take credit for other people’s work intentionally or not.

So, take notice of who does what. This will lead to a lot less resentful engineers.

#15 Fun times

playing foosball
Photo Credit: Mpho Mojapelo

I’m not talking about going to Disney Land. Even though that’d be pretty awesome!

Rather, build incentives into work assignments for engineers. Kind of like game mechanics found in video games.

The good thing is, the engineering crowd isn’t too hard to please. So you can incorporate fairly easy “fun” elements to please engineers.

Like, send engineers out into the field to see the construction of their design. Or, have them visit a factory to see their design manufactured.

Seeing your hard work implemented in the real world is very satisfying. Plus, it’s just cool!

Whereas staying cooped up in the office, even as an introvert can get old fast. This naturally leads to a loss of motivation.

You can even give bonuses to engineers who reach certain milestones. Kind of like in the NBA. If a team reaches the NBA finals, all the players get a fat paycheck. I’m talking about a $100,000 plus bonus.

Talk about an amazing incentive for NBA players!

Of course, most engineers won’t get a $100,000 bonus. But even $5,000 will go a long way.

Even more, add a foosball table to your office. Playing a competitive game of foosball always releases a boatload of built-up stress.

#16 Fixing other people’s problems

Fixing other people’s problems can get old fast. It’s one thing if this was always your job responsibility.

But if a company hires you as a designer, you’ll quickly become demotivated.

Because a lot of the time, it’s more difficult to fix someone else’s problems than to start from scratch.

Plus, you won’t receive much credit for the project. But, if things go wrong, you’ll get all the blame. It’s a lose-lose situation!

In short, assign people the work they signed up for.

#17 Create transparency 

Transparency needs to exist between all people in a business. This includes all engineers and managers.

I understand the difficulties of this when it comes to certain topics. Like finances.

But companies need certain levels of transparency, or resentment can build up.

For example, a manager tells an engineer a project needs to get completed one week early. But what the manager fails to mention, is how they caused the delay.

So, the engineer works like crazy to get the work done, sacrificing personal family time. All the while, it was the fault of the manager who then receives no blame.

Just be a good person, and don’t hide impactful information. Because sooner or later, the information will come out, and problems will ensue. Then people will quit giving 100% effort.

#18 Have one-on-one conversations

If all else fails, sit down with the engineer. Talk to them.

Have a personal one-on-one discussion. Kick out the formalities.

Ask them why their productivity has dipped. Try to find out what you can do to get them back on track and motivated.

A lot of the time, it’s a simple fix. But until you ask, you’ll never know.

Maybe they lost a loved one, and this has disengaged them from all their responsibilities.

Because many engineers are introverts, YOU need to spark this discussion.

“How to motivate your engineers?” wrap up

Keeping productivity consistently high is no easy task. Even when it comes to top-tier engineering talent.

Because people aren’t machines. People get tired, problems come up in personal life, and different feelings can boil up.

But, you can help optimize an engineer’s motivation through these 18 tips. So, learn to master how to motivate your engineers.

In the end, everyone including the engineers will come out winning!

So, do your best to check off as many of these tips as possible. The more you check off, the better experience your engineers will have.

What are your thoughts on how to motivate your engineers? In what circumstances do you find engineers need the most motivations?  


Featured Image Photo Credit: SpaceX (image cropped)

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