How To Motivate Employees In The Workplace

by Kylee Stone May 15,2015

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO
Reading literature on how to motivate employees in the workplace tells you exactly how to do that. But what it does not tell you is why motivation is important.
Why is it so important that in workplace psychology, there is a huge body of work devoted to workplace motivation alone?

A Case Study of Contrasts

I’m going to talk about two people today. Let’s call them Lisa* and Anil* for convenience’s sake.

Lisa and Anil joined work at the same time. They also shared the same manager. The manager in question, though a good manager in most aspects did not really think motivating his employees was an intrinsic part of his job.

Though Lisa and Anil began as dedicated workers, motivated and enthusiastic, a few months down the line, things changed. Lisa was able to carry on, mainly because her motivation was internal and also it was superseded by what she considered a duty to her job. Her output was not affected and she was able to continue working the same way as before.

Anil was not able to carry on. He increasingly became disengaged. His motivation was not internal. He longed for some form of motivation or encouragement from his manager. When his manager provided none, Anil was not able to continue like before. He couldn’t motivate himself either. There was nothing to keep him going. As a result, his drive to work began dwindling. His output was affected. Eventually Anil quit. He could no longer work at a place where he did not receive motivation. Lisa too left the job sometime later on because her internal reserve of motivation had run out.

If this anecdote pings some bells for you because you feel like you are watching a similar situation unfold in your organization, then it is time for you to take hold of the reins.

The Motivation Mottos

A lot of managers labour under the delusion that employees do not need to be motivated. But, motivation is important. Necessary even. If you cannot get out of bed at the start of the day because you lack the motivation to do so, then you really cannot expect your employees to work hard and long hours without even a word of encouragement.

Let us take a look at this seminal psychological theory about human beings.

This is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs1

Maslows Hierarchy Of Needs

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who created a theory: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which posits that human beings can reach their fullest potential only when some basic instinctual needs are fulfilled.

So how does this tie into employee motivation?

Motivation, encouragement, appreciation, these are all internal desires. They cannot be assuaged by material gifts. Two words of appreciation can carry the same weight as a material gift. Maybe, tangible gifts will tide employees over for a while, but when employees find that they are getting nothing in the way of motivation, encouragement or appreciation, they are going to leave. They will recognize that they cannot grow as professionals in an organization that has no value for motivation or appreciation.

To reiterate: motivation is important.

Once you understand that motivation is important, your next question may be how to motivate employees in the workplace?

There are 4 things you need to understand first. Let’s call them the Motivation Mottos.

a) Motivation needs to be constant. It cannot be a one-day affair. If you choose to practice it in the organization, then it is in your best interests to continue motivating your employees.

b) Motivation works differently for people. You cannot use one form of motivation and expect that to work for everybody. You need to probably use different kinds of motivation, with respect to the diverse employees that you have.

c) Motivation is not the same as a physical reward.

d) Motivation also goes hand in hand with encouragement and appreciation.

Employee Rewards?

It’s not wrong that when you think of motivation, you automatically think of rewards. The connection is easy to make and expected even. Rewards, in general, have no effect on motivation. It is the type of rewards that you choose to implement that have an effect on motivation.

There are two kinds of rewards. External and Intrinsic2

External rewards are self-explanatory and easy to understand. They are rewards that are given to you. They are tangible and real and are controlled by the higher-ups in a company.

Intrinsic rewards are rewards that come from within. Within an employee that is. Intrinsic rewards are not tangible or real. Rather, they are emotional and can be defined as satisfaction, happiness, dedication etc, in the context of work and progress.

Here’s the thing about external rewards. When given in conjunction with intrinsic rewards, they help. They provide feelings of security and trust. But on their own, external rewards cannot keep an employee motivated for long.

Intrinsic rewards, on the other hand, they are what keep people going. When you motivate people, provide them with encouragement and support, appreciate them, an employee intrinsically feels that the organization values them. In other words, intrinsic rewards will come up as often as you decide that you want to motivate and encourage your employees to do your best.

The concepts of rewards are not rocket science. Not if you understand that everybody works differently and thinks differently. Finding out what motivates them and what makes them tick, that is what makes an organization hum with success.

There are dime-a-dozen articles on the internet that will tell you how to motivate employees. But in all honesty, you cannot motivate your employees and neither can they motivate themselves, until and unless you understand the motivation behind motivation (pun intended).

If you’re looking for ways to motivate your employees and increase employee engagement, don’t worry, we’ve got you. Take a look at this article of ours which tells you the many creative ways in which you can motivate employees.

The Type of Reward Matters

This is the result of a worldwide survey that was carried out by McKinsey in 2009 3. In this survey, McKinsey measured the efficacy of non-financial incentives when compared to financial incentives. The results were eye-opening, to say the least. Once upon a time, rewards of the external kind may have held plenty of sway, but with millennials making up a large chunk of the workforce, that has changed.

You know one of the main reasons why people leave their jobs? It’s not because the pay at the next place is better. Rather it is because they did not receive the kind of appreciation or encouragement that they wanted!





How can Engagedly help improve employee engagement at your organization? Request a demo today to find out!

Kylee Stone

Kylee Stone supports the professional services team as a CX intern and psychology SME. She leverages her innate creativity with extensive background in psychology to support client experience and organizational functions. Kylee is completing her master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational psychology at the University of Missouri Science and Technology emphasizing in Applied workplace psychology and Statistical Methods.

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