Let’s get something out of the way. This is not going to be a post where I tell you to buy your employees a pizza lunch every once in a while, or “7 Tips to Improve Employee Morale”. We’re going to take a hard look at employee motivation, what it means, and what you can do to improve it.
The first thing you have to understand is extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is all that comes from outside yourself – salaries, pizza lunches, bonuses, status, and similar things. When you’re extrinsically motivated, your work is a means to an end – something you’re doing in order to secure something else. Intrinsic motivation, as you can probably guess, is the opposite. When we are intrinsically motivated to do something, we do it for its own sake – for the satisfaction it gives us. When you hear people say “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” – they’re talking about intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are both at play when we work. As long as things cost money and people want them, there will be an extrinsic motivation for labour. Optimally, you want a workforce that’s primarily intrinsically motivated – wanting to have fun and make money doing it. You can keep employees motivated through this principle in a couple of ways. First, talk to your employees about the work that they’re doing and see if they’re intrinsically motivated to do it – if they’re not, see if there are changes that could be made or obstacles that can be removed. On the other hand, if an employee is in an entry-level position, find out what kind of work they would do if they could do anything. Should you have an appropriate role in the company, create a career path with them and a coaching plan to help them achieve their goal. Now you’re using extrinsic (the new role) and intrinsic (their anticipated motivation in the role) motivation together.
The flipside of motivation needs to be addressed – demotivation. This can come from a lot of places, but it will often come from other employees or management who are not intrinsically motivated and/or who place an undue workload onto intrinsically motivated employees. These employees will soon find that the satisfaction they felt from doing good work is sapped away by a feeling of being overburdened and underserved. Look for any employees and management who are taxing intrinsically motivated employees and encourage them to change their ways. If they don’t, you may have to terminate them to keep everyone motivated.
What we’ve given here are rather vague stipulations about motivation because everyone’s motivations, be they intrinsic or extrinsic, are personal. The best way to keep your team motivated is to spend time with them, learn about what really matters to them, and implement plans to connect what matters to them and their work. There’s money in motivation, too (here’s an extrinsic motivator for you). Compass Accounting can help you track the amount spent on learning and encouraging your employees’ motivations and the money earned by increasing their productivity.