The key to building an engaged workforce is putting in place the necessary measurement and reward systems to capture employees’ extrinsic motivation, while also understanding the unique intrinsic drivers that motivate each of your employees. Often, these intrinsic motivational drivers will differ from person to person, so you need to get to know your employees well enough to understand their intrinsic motivational drivers.
Related: 5 Tips for motivating yourself
Here I cover seven key intrinsic motivators, identified by combing through massive amounts of literature, studies, theories, concepts, and strategies on intrinsic motivation. (You may recognise some of these motivators if you’re familiar with the work of Cynthia Berryman-Fink and Charles B. Fink, authors of The Manager’s Desk Reference [AMACOM].)
Although all employees have some element of each of these seven drivers in their DNA, most have one primary motivational driver and one or two secondary motivational drivers. Some industries and occupations tend to draw certain motivational drivers. The example occupations listed here are not all-inclusive — you can find all types of drivers within all occupations and industries. The seven motivational drivers are as follows:
Employees with this driver want the satisfaction of completing projects successfully. They want to exercise their talents to attain success. They’re self-motivated if the job is challenging enough. Employees who are willing — in fact, longing — to take on that stretchassignment (a project or task given to an employee that is beyond his current knowledge or skill level, designed to “stretch” the employee in order to learn and grow) or to relocate for that promotion, would most likely list “achievement” as their primary motivational driver, as would high achievers and many C-suite executives. Common occupations for people motivated by achievement include executive director, professional athlete, sales professional, CEO, inventor, scientist, and entrepreneur.
Employees with this driver get satisfaction from influencing and sometimes even controlling others. They like to lead and persuade and are motivated by positions of power and leadership. Individuals driven by authority are those who volunteer to be a project manager, lead the project team, and take on more direct reports. If you’ve ever served on a jury, the person who volunteered to be the foreman was most likely motivated by authority. Common occupations for people motivated by authority may include project manager, politician, and law enforcement officer.
Employees with this driver are satisfied through affiliation with others. They enjoy people and find the social aspect of the workplace rewarding. If you’re looking for individuals to fill a task team, be on a committee, or participate in this year’s charity campaign, your volunteers most likely will be those who are motivated by camaraderie. These are the same people who volunteer to be on your town’s recreation committee or help plan the annual food drive for your local church. (Of course, the person who volunteers to lead the food drive probably has camaraderie as a secondary motivational driver, with authority as the primary one.) Be careful if you’re hiring or promoting someone who is motivated by camaraderie to start a new location as a one-person office or to work remotely. Odds are, he won’t flourish. Common occupations for people motivated by camaraderie include HR professional, healthcare professional, hotel and restaurant worker, non-profit professional, and other service industry positions.
Employees with this driver want freedom and independence. They like to work and take responsibility for their own tasks and projects. When looking for employees to work at home, relocate to a remote location, or work in isolation to complete a project, you would be wise to select individuals whose primary motivational driver is independence. Common occupations for people motivated by independence include entrepreneur, freelancer, tradesperson (for example, electricians, plumbers, or carpenters), and research scientist.
Employees with this driver need sincere recognition and praise. They dislike generalities — they want praise for specific accomplishments. (Note that they don’t necessarily require public praise.) You would want employees motivated by esteem on your new task team that will present its findings to the executive team. Experts who volunteer their time to share their knowledge via brown-bag luncheons, webinars, and so on are motivated by esteem. Common occupations for people motivated by esteem include training and development professional, politician, nonprofit professional, author, actor, and comedian.
Employees with this driver crave job security, a steady income, other fringe benefits, and a hazard-free work environment. These employees always worry about getting let go. They may even refuse pay increases for fear that their salaries will become so high that they’ll be on the radar on the next round of layoffs. Common occupations for people motivated by safety and security include clergyperson, government personnel, military personnel, utility worker, and union worker.
Employees with this driver simply want to be treated fairly. They probably compare their own work hours, job duties, salary, and privileges to those of other employees to ensure they’re getting a fair shake. If they perceive inequities, they’ll quickly become discouraged. Employees motivated by fairness pay attention to how much you pay new employees, what their bonus was compared to others, and whose turn it is to be invited to the senior management team meeting. Common occupations for people motivated by fairness include accountant, payroll personnel, and human resources professional.
If you want to increase engagement among your employees, you’ll want to develop a good sense of their internal drivers. How can you do that? Well, why not ask them? At your next department meeting, explain the seven motivational drivers (including how we all have elements of all seven within us), and ask them to write down what they believe to be their primary and secondary drivers. Then have them list what they think are the primary and secondary drivers of their teammates. Emphasise that there are no “wrong” answers. Finally, give team members the opportunity to share their drivers if they want. This entertaining and revealing exercise may lead to some surprises and will enable the members of your team to better understand each other. After the meeting, follow up with team members individually to discuss their motivations in more detail. This will help you determine how best to engage them.
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