What Drives Employee Motivation?

Disengaged employees cost the economy at least $300 billion every year. In contrast, companies with engaged employees enjoy 27 percent higher profits, 50 percent higher customer loyalty levels, and 38 percent higher productivity levels than average businesses. Clearly, motivated employees are engaged employees, but what actually drives employee motivation?

Research points to four drivers of motivation: the drive to acquire, bond, comprehend and defend.

The Desire to Acquire

All human beings want to acquire things. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found people lost more weight when offered a cash incentive than without this reward. Companies also find more customers complete their surveys if they have the chance to win prizes. eighty-six percent of workplaces recognize that employees love incentives and run rewards and recognition programs. Gift vouchers, cash bonuses, and small gifts recognizing good work can all help motivate employees.

The Desire to Bond

It’s worth noting that the Mayo Clinic’s weight loss study also found people lost more weight when the cash incentive was offered to a group, rather than an individual. This result speaks to the next driver of motivation: the desire to bond. Human beings naturally want to feel like part of a pack. The best way employers can satisfy this is to focus on creating the right corporate culture.

Corporate culture is a key part of business management and operations. Employers should look to promote teamwork, collaboration, friendships, and transparency. Group projects and shared spaces are good day-to-day motivators, while team-building exercises outside the office can help break up routine.

The Desire to Defend

The desire to defend is related to the desire to bond. When you feel like part of an organization, whether it’s a family, a department, or a business as a whole, you naturally want to protect it when it comes under attack. This is the reason why headhunters typically target people at times of business transition, because that’s when workers feel most vulnerable.

Change is necessary in the business world. Departments are restructured, mergers occur, and employees are let go. However, by acting transparently and keeping employees in the loop, employers can ensure their workers still feel motivated and engaged during these times.

The Desire to Understand

Humans are also driven by a desire to understand the world around them. That is why transparent communication is such an effective means of keeping employees motivated during times of workplace restructure and upheaval. While employees appreciate being given answers, they’re also motivated to find solutions for themselves.

Employers will find their workers become more motivated if they continually challenge them. Challenging tasks encourage employees to grow, while menial tasks demoralize and demotivate. Admittedly, someone needs to do the menial work in any organization, but a corporate culture that rewards effort with advancement opportunities and promotes from within will help boost the morale of entry-level employees and any workers with higher ambitions. Training and education initiatives can also help challenge your employees and keep them motivated.

Several factors drive employee motivation. Understanding them and putting this knowledge into practice is a vital step in creating a more motivated workforce.

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