For many managers, employee motivation is a matter of setting goals that apply to everyone and expecting everyone to meet them. That way, in the long term, the lowest performing employees are weeded out and the best retained. This simplistic method of employee motivation is a waste of resources, though. Different employees have different skill sets, and they respond to different sorts of motivation. A more varied, individualized approach to employee motivation is a much better one.

1. Individualize Employee Goals

Ideally, you want every one of your employees to be a top performer. However, you can’t just keep firing everyone who can’t keep up in the hopes that you will eventually luck into the perfect team. Relying on luck is never a good plan. Instead, you need to nurture the talent in the team you have, and help all of your employees develop into the best workers they can be. Review each employee’s strengths and weaknesses and set realistic goals for them. Provide feedback on their performance as they work toward these goals, and after these goals have been met, set higher goals. In this way, you can help even your low performers excel.

2. Use Employee Recognition

Employee recognition is a much more effective means of motivating your employees to work harder than fear of not making the cut. The former always gives them a goal to work toward. The latter has them keeping one eye out for a better position elsewhere. An employee who wants more will keep giving his or her all. An employee in fear of a bad run of luck can’t focus entirely on the job.

There are two kinds of employee recognition, and for best effect, you should use both of them. Planned recognition awards, such as those for highest productivity, outstanding customer service, and employee of the month give all of your employees something to shoot for. Having the awards given in some kind of formal manner, like an awards presentation, can add even more prestige to them, making them even more desirable.

Informal, immediate recognition after an employee does something noteworthy provides a different kind of motivation. This kind of recognition is particularly effective at making your employees feel noticed and valued, which will in turn make them try harder to achieve such spontaneous recognition in the future.

3. Build Bridges

You will get much more out of your employees if you try to build bridges to them instead of walls around them. That means reaching out to them and trying to help them when they’re struggling. It means offering them mentoring and trying to help them achieve their potential. And it means letting them know that they can come to you for help when they have problems without fear of repercussion. If your employees view you as a helpful resource, they will not only do their best for you, they will take advantage of your help and keep making that best better and better.

Motivating your employees is not a simple or easy matter. However, if you have the patience to put in the needed effort, you will be rewarded with the best team you have ever had working for you.