These days, when I'm asked about motivating employees, I end up talking about the TV show "Bones." I learned one of my most effective motivational techniques from that show.
You see, on Bones, a team of lab techs solves murders by analyzing physical evidence. Whenever one of them makes a breakthrough, he claims the title, "King of the Lab!" One day, I was in the plant when an employee solved a problem and I did the same thing; I actually said, "King of the lab!" When I explained the background, they loved it, and started using it even though the context was wrong.
Now, more than a year later the practice remains, but the phrase has morphed, changing periodically as someone tries something new. For a while it was "Rock Monster," from a Veggie Tales video, then various plays on Charlie Sheen's "Tiger blood" and Winning." Right now I think we're using "Well played, Naomi Price," a line from one of William Shatner's Priceline commercials.
A silly little phrase, but it works for a couple of reasons. First, it allows all of us a cool way to recognize each other. Second, it gives the team an acceptable way to celebrate their own successes. Whether I tell you, "well played," or you declare yourself "king of the lab," it's all part of the game.
And its used -- I'm sure every employee says it multiple times a week. It's easy, it's free, employees buy in because it's trendy, and it works. I can walk into a room and say "Where's Naomi Price" and everyone points to the last person so recognized.
The point for you: You need at least one motivational technique that you can nearly wear out from over-use, something so easy that you can instantly throw out atta-boys as often as they're earned. For me, it's the current variation on "King of the lab!"