Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough. – Og Mandino
Motivation is your general willingness to do something. It can be intrinsic or extrinsic, but WHAT compels you to action? Simply wanting something is not enough. One has to be motivated to walk the path to pursue goals.
Reaching the next level in one’s career or getting in better physical shape sound worthwhile, but they are much harder to turn into reality in the absence of meaningful goals. – Psychology Today
Motivation changes over time. Two major factors influencing this is maturity and stage of life. What seems important in our younger years is less important as we mature. What drives our career at the beginning is not what drives our career as we advance. Relationship status and parental status can drastically change one’s goals over time. Money isn’t always the driving force of our decisions.
Forbes.com outlined nine factors that motivate employees. Below are my thoughts on their nine listed factors.
- Trust: Employees desire trust in their workplace and managers. Clearly communicated expectations are essential. Feedback must be direct and valuable. Trust and consistency go together. If an employee never knows what to expect from a manager, trust will be hard to establish.
- Being relevant: Employees want to feel like they matter and they have the opportunity to remain relevant in their jobs. They desire opportunities for continuous improvement, opportunities for professional growth in their roles. Employees also want to utilize their strengths.
- Proving others wrong: This one is rather odd. It is better explained as having a drive to achieve and exceed expectations. “Never underestimate an employee’s need to perform until you have properly evaluated and tested their abilities and potential.” (Forbes.com) Managers should embrace innovation in their team by being open-minded and willing to listen. While specific ideas may not be 100% on point, those ideas can lead to greater discussions and progress.
- Career advancement: Employees need opportunities to grown in their jobs and advance. There is no joy in just spinning your wheels. If they can’t advance in their current role, the motivated employee will find a place where they can.
- No regrets: The journey for personal success is made up of failures, successes, and changes. Having enough perspective to value all three is an important motivator. We learn from our failures as they are opportunities to grow and succeed. Success and change also provide opportunities for growth, but our failures are hard lessons learned.
- Stable future: Change is inevitable. However, constantly feeling like your time is limited or feeling that your job is always on the block–very much a de-motivator. On more than one occasion I have heard “good employees don’t get let go” and that is just not true. Due to decreased funding and reduction in force I’ve seen good teachers lose their jobs because they didn’t coach. I’ve seen employees let go because they were the most recent hire and someone had to be released due to budget cuts. If a company is always in the news for their cuts, potential candidates are hesitant to accept a position. Candidates who will accept the position expect more in compensation and they will always have an exit strategy ready. With an exit strategy in place, that means they are a greater risk for accepting a better offer if it comes along. They’re the one’s who are always looking.
- Self indulgence: It would be unrealistic to not include personal goals. Personal goals are a driving force. However, perspective is required to balance short and long-term benefits, or repercussions.
- Impact: Employees want to leave their mark, they want to make an impact. Want to deflate an employee? Ask for their opinion, and then tell them what will happen not even taking their thoughts into consideration. Please, don’t bother asking if it doesn’t matter. That’s insulting.
- Happiness: Self-esteem and self-satisfaction are fueled by happiness. It’s important to enjoy what you do. Happiness isn’t just a smile. Happiness radiates.
It is not possible to motivate someone who refuses to be motivated. While motivating factors can be intrinsic or extrinsic, motivation is non-existent if one rejects it.
I recently heard a story referencing 3M’s approach to motivation. With significant expense a study was conducted that resulted in 900 pages pertaining to employee motivation. Deciding that was too long, the study was repeatedly condensed from 900 pages until it reached one page, then one paragraph, and finally one sentence. “Employees respect what management inspects, not what they expect.” In other words, hold employees accountable. This is not to be confused with micromanagement. Ask how things are going, follow-up, give feedback.
A few responses I’ve heard when asking people what motivates them:
- At first it was monetary. Now, it’s doing a job that’s meaningful, making a difference, and doing something that I enjoy. I’m making a level of money that I’m comfortable with. I’m not going to sacrifice everything else just to make more money. It helps that I believe in the mission and goals of the company I work with. For the most part, employees are aligned with the mission statement.
- I work for my family first. The paycheck is the prime motivator, because that’s how we keep food on the table and gas in the tanks.
- I chose my profession so I could make a difference in someone’s life.
- Having the ability to be creative.
- Freedom to do what I want is my motivator. Setting my own hours and being my own boss.
- I want to leave my mark and when I walk away know that something I’ve done was a positive for the company.
While money is necessary it isn’t the primary motivating factor for employees. Most will leave a job if they can find a better work environment that pays just as well. Many will even take a pay cut in order to have a better work environment or a job that aligns with their personal goals and direction. A recruiter recently told me that potential employees were more interested in PTO benefits than increased pay. Personal time and personal satisfaction are increasingly important in motivating employees in the workplace. A toxic work environment will push employees to be on the lookout for something better. In today’s job market, employers can’t ignore the desires of a changing workforce. Flexibility and adaptability are important if they wish to motivate attract and retain quality candidates.