Motivation within the workplace has been a centuries-old puzzle tackled by history’s greatest minds from Aristotle to Abraham Maslow.
When the sources of employee motivation were researched during the 1950s and 1960s, a discovery was made that still intrigues managers: The aspects of a job that make people satisfied and motivated on the job differ in kind from those aspects which make them dissatisfied. Ask workers what makes them unhappy at work, and you’ll very often hear about an annoying boss, a low salary, an uncomfortable work space, or stupid rules an regulations. Managed badly, environmental factors make people miserable, and they can certainly be demotivating. But even if managed brilliantly, they do not motivate individuals to work much harder or smarter. People are motivated, instead, by interesting work, challenges, and increasing responsibility. These intrinsic factors answer people’s deep-seated need for growth and achievement.
How many articles, books, speeches, and workshops have pleaded plaintively, “How do I get an employee to do what I want?”
Why do we need motivated employees? The answer is survival. Motivated employees are needed in our rapidly-changing workplaces. And to be effective, managers need to understand what motivates employees within the context of the roles they perform.
A review of research literature at Ohio State University concluded that employee motivation was more driven by factors such as interesting work than financial compensation.
Some best practice companies who addressed the issues of low motivation by instituting a job design system whereby tasks are designed for specific roles, and where those jobs are meaningful and foster a sense of contribution to the organization. Other progressive companies have initiated reward systems based on performance.
And finally many companies in their quest to address the issue of low motivation and drive view their leadership approaches towards increasing their transparency of all processes, ensuring fairness throughout the organization, and in the process building trust and openness within their organisation.