What Truly Motivates Your Employees?

Employee engagement is directly linked to motivation. Highly motivated employees tend to be more motivated and therefore more productive. Unfortunately, employee engagement levels are by no means ideal.

An infographic from Office Vibe states that, “70 percent of U.S. workers are not engaged at work.” To extract the most from your workforce, it’s crucial to know what motivates your employees.


Main Motivating Factors

In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink suggests that there are three things that truly motivate employees.

  1. Autonomy – the freedom to choose task, time, technique, and team
  2. Mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters
  3. Purpose – the desire to pursue a cause larger than ourselves

According to Pink, most workers have an innate desire for empowerment and seek to continually grow in their career.

An article from Psychology Today also examines employee motivation and highlights some key factors that motivate workers to go the extra mile. In a study, participants were asked to identify major motivators:

  • Camaraderie, peer motivation (20%)
  • Intrinsic desire to a good job (17%)
  • Feeling encouraged and recognized (13%)
  • Having a real impact (10%)
  • Growing professionally (8%)

As you can see, there’s a considerable amount of overlap with these factors and the ones mentioned by Pink. When you break it all down, most employees want to feel a sense of purpose and that they’re genuinely contributing. They want to grow and progress and not merely be cogs in a wheel.


Is it Time for a New Approach?

In the past, many employers assumed that in order to run a company successfully, they needed to maintain a high level of control. Employees needed to clock in and out at a certain time, be given specific tasks, be told to follow exact directions and so on. There was little wiggle room, and employees were often regarded as subordinates or simply resources.

As of late, more and more employers are switching tactics and choosing to take a results-oriented approach that’s all about the bottom line — getting things done and being as productive/profitable as possible. A new approach revolves around viewing employees as trusted partners, not resources.

Some managers even give employees freedom of when they work, how long they work, the tasks they work on, etc. as long as everything is completed correctly and on time.


Finding Middle Ground

While it’s probably not realistic for most employers to give their employees this type of freedom and the logistics may not compute, it shows that perhaps a new approach is in order. If Pink’s thesis is correct, it would be in an employer’s best interest to give employees some level of autonomy and allow them to develop mastery in their career and realize their purpose.

Rather than viewing the whole process like an assembly line and controlling every aspect of operations, it would make more sense to treat employees as trusted partners and provide them with the tools needed for empowerment.

I think what Pink is trying to say is that employees don’t want to be managed by a strict taskmaster controlling their every move. Knowing what motivates your employees is the key to unlocking their full potential. By letting go, being flexible and giving employees some degree of autonomy over their work, this can increase engagement and create a more unified workforce where everyone contributes in their own unique way.


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