When you think about it, the success of any facet of your business can almost always be traced back to motivated employees. From productivity and profitability to recruiting and retention, hardworking and happy employees lead to triumph.

Unfortunately, motivating people is far from an exact science. There's no secret formula, no set calculation, no work sheet to fill out. In fact, motivation can be as individual as the employees who work for you. One employee may be motivated only by money. Another may appreciate personal recognition for a job well done. Still another may work harder if she has equity in the business.

But you can boil down employee motivation to one basic ideal: finding out what your employees want and finding a way to give it to them or to enable them to earn it. Here we've gathered some of the best and most interesting motivational techniques used by successful entrepreneurs. We hope they'll motivate you, too.

Corporate Culture

Managing One-to-One
Operating under the premise that no two workers are alike, companies that are practicing one-to-one management are figuring out what makes each of their employees tick.
In A Former Life: S. Kenneth Kannappan
CEO S. Kenneth Kannappan discusses how he discovered the key to motivating employees while working at his first job.
It's All in the Details
How do you build morale and a sense of corporate responsibility? In surprisingly small ways.
Hands On: All Together Now
Sure, new ideas are important, but how do you get employees to set aside time to brainstorm?
The Coolest Small Company in America
Why are high-powered M.B.A.'s getting off the fast track to work for a $13-million food company in Ann Arbor?
A Fun Read
Zingerman's entertaining employee manual is proof positive of its deep belief in people and its fascination with management.
How To Uncover Employee Potential
How can you unearth and nurture your employees' strengths? Here are a few tips to help you achieve that goal.
Six Coaching Strategies You Can Apply in the Workplace
Here are six key tools you can use to teach and motivate employees.

Morale Boosters

Measuring Morale
There's only one way to know how good morale really is in your company: ask the people who work there.
Street Smarts: The Tournament
Morale took a real beating this fall. But there's nothing that lifts the spirits like some friendly competition.
Revving Up the "P" Word (Productivity)
Though productivity is often defined in numbers, it relies very heavily upon people and their attitudes.
Leading in Hard Times
CEOs offer 10 tips for leading your company through bleak times.

Non-Cash Incentives

Low-Cost Ways to Build Employee Commitment
Consider the power of the five I's.
It Takes More Than Pay to Keep Good Workers
Companies are finding a number of ways to expand responsiveness and flexibility beyond traditional compensation programs to retain top employees.
Incentives for All Generations
The one-size-fits-all approach no longer suits today's multigenerational workplaces. Check this list of desired perks for mature workers, baby boomers, Gen Xers, and more.
Winter Holiday Rewards
The hectic holiday season is the time to show off a well-thought-out reward strategy that helps yourworkforce stay motivated and focused.
Perks You Can Afford
In this classic Inc. article, take a look at some unique employee benefits that can help you create an environment your workers won't want to leave.

Motivation by Compensation

Trust but Verify
In addition to providing valuable information on the company's 20 restaurants, the Noodles & Co. secret shopper program is used as a motivational tool.
The Store that Stark Built
Not only does every employee at Debra's Natural Gourmet have a management role, in a move unheard of in retail, profits are shared amongst the team.
In a Former Life: Alan Schultz
This CEO learned a valuable lesson during his past life as a steelworker: A company should compensate its sales force based on fair and reachable short-term goals.
Hands On: Showing Up
Are your workers not in the habit of showing up everyday? Try instituting a bonus system to encourage perfect attendance.
Turn Motivation Inside Out
Inside sales teams often go unrecognized and unrewarded. To motivate them and build a winning sales team all around, reward sales support staffers with commissions, too.
Goals, Roles, Pay, and Performance
If you've promised goal-based compensation, you need to clearly communicate roles, goals, and paths; otherwise, you may end up with disgruntled employees.
Turbocharge Your Bonus Plan
Take a regular bonus plan and add a kicker—an increase in the payout if certain targets are met.

Creating a Fun Workplace

The Right Staff
The CEO of Inc. 500 company Lander International has fostered a happy, effective workforce by encouraging employees to integrate work with their outside interests and hobbies.
Have Fun, Make Money
Herb Kelleher, cofounder of Southwest Airlines, explains how company parties help produce better customer service and happier employees.
Fun at Work: Enliven Your Culture
Motivation expert Bob Nelson says that entertained employees are motivated and productive employees. Here are five quick-and-dirty tips for livening up your business.
Hook, Line, and Sinker
Disciples of Fish are bringing the happiness revolution to corporate America.