What People Want From Work: Motivation

We all seek to experience motivation at work. Here's how work can help.
•••

 

PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images

Every individual person has different motivations for working at a job. The reasons for working are as individual as the person. But, all people work because the workplace provides something that they need from work. The something that you obtain from your work impacts your morale, your motivation, and the quality of your whole life.

Consequently, making sure that you are receiving the benefits that most motivate and make you happy at work is profoundly significant. Here are thoughts about employee motivation, what people want from work, and how you can help employees attain what they need for their work inspiration and success.

Work Is About the Money

Some people work for their love of the work; others work for personal and professional fulfillment. Other people like to accomplish goals and feel as if they are contributing to something larger than themselves, something important, an overarching vision for what they can create. Some people have personal missions they accomplish through meaningful work.

Others truly love what they do or the clients they serve. Some like the camaraderie and interaction with customers and coworkers. Other people like to fill their time with activity. Some workers like change, challenge, and diverse problems to solve. As you can see, employee motivation is individual and diverse.

Whatever your personal reasons for working, the bottom line, however, is that almost everyone works for money. Whatever you call it: compensation, salary, bonuses, benefits, or remuneration, money pays the bills. Money provides housing, gives children clothing and food, sends teens to college, and allows leisure activities, and eventually, retirement. Unless you are independently wealthy, you need to work to collect a paycheck.

To underplay the importance of money and benefits as reasons why people work is a mistake, too. While money will not be your employees' most significant motivator or even the motivational factor they'd first mention in a conversation but earning a living is a factor in any discussion about employee motivation.

According to a roundup of research on what creates employee motivation in the "Harvard Business Review," "The fact that there is little evidence to show that money motivates us, and a great deal of evidence to suggest that it actually demotivates us supports the idea that that there may be hidden costs associated with rewards. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we should work for free. We all need to pay our bills and provide for our families—but once these basic needs are covered the psychological benefits of money are questionable."

Fair benefits and pay are the cornerstones of a successful company that recruits and retains committed workers. If you provide a living wage for your employees, you can then work on additional motivation issues. Without the fair, living wage, however, you risk losing your best people to a better-paying employer.

Got Money? What's Next for Motivation?

Surveys and studies dating back to the early 1980s demonstrate that people want more from work than money.

Meaningful work

"Organizations that provide their members with meaningful, engaging work not only contribute to the growth of their bottom line but also create a sense of vitality and fulfillment that echoes across their organizational cultures and their employees’ personal lives."

Employee recognition

Only 33% of people feel that they were recognized the last time they went the extra mile at work, according to the "TINYpulse 2019 Employee Engagement Report." Another 25% of the employees surveyed said they felt as though their employers consistently valued their hard work—a drop of 16 percentage points from the previous year. About 33% of employees surveyed said they felt undervalued.

Employees want to be valued for a job well done by people they hold in high esteem. People want to be treated as if they are adults who think, make decisions, try to do the right thing, and don't need a caretaker watching over their shoulders.

While what people want from work is situational, depending on the person, his needs and the rewards that are meaningful to them, giving people what they want from work is really quite straightforward.

The basics are:

Control of their work inspires motivation

This includes such components as the ability to have an impact on decisions that affect their job; setting clear and measurable goals; having clear responsibility for a complete, or at least a defined, task; job enrichment; tasks performed in the work itself; and recognition for achievement.

To belong to the in-crowd creates motivation

Belonging to this key employee group includes items such as receiving timely information and communication; understanding management's formulas for decision making; team and meeting participation opportunities; and visual documentation and posting of work progress and accomplishments.

The opportunity for growth and development is motivational

Growth and development include education and training; career paths; team participation; succession planning; cross-training; and field trips to successful workplaces.

Leadership is the key to motivation

People want clear expectations that provide a picture of the outcomes desired with goal setting and feedback and an appropriate structure or framework.

Recognition for Performance Creates Motivation

In "The Human Capital Edge," authors Bruce Pfau and Ira Kay say that people want recognition for their individual performance with pay tied to their performance.

Employees want people who don't perform fired; in fact, failure to discipline and fire non-performers is one of the most demotivating actions an organization can take—or fail to take. It ranks on the top of the list next to paying poor performers the same wage as non-performers in deflating motivation.

Additionally, the authors found that a disconnect continues to exist between what employers think people want at work and what people say they want for motivation.

"Employers far underrate the importance to employees of such things as flexible work schedules or opportunities for advancement in their decision to join or leave a company. That means that many companies are working very hard (and using scarce resources) on the wrong tools," say Pfau and Kay.

People want employers to pay them above-market rates. They seek flexible work schedules. They want stock options, a chance to learn, and the increased sharing of the rationale behind management decisions and direction.

What You Can Do for Motivation and Positive Morale

You have a lot of information about what people want from work. Key to creating a work environment that fosters motivation is the wants and needs of the individual employees. The most significant recommendation for your takeaway is that you need to start asking your employees what they want from work and whether they are getting it.

The Bottom Line

With this information in hand, you'll be surprised at how many simple and inexpensive opportunities you have to create a motivational, desirable work environment. Pay attention to what is important to the people you employ for high motivation and positive morale. When you foster these for people, you'll achieve awesome business success.

Article Sources

  1. Harvard Business Review. "Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research." Accessed July 20, 2020.

  2. PositivePsychology.com. "The Science of Improving Motivation at Work." Accessed July 25, 2020.

  3. TINYpulse. "The 2019 Employee Engagement Report: The End of Employee Loyalty." Accessed July 26, 2020.

  4. Pfau, Bruce N. and Kay, Ira T. "The Human Capital Edge: 21 People Management Practices Your Company Must Implement (Or Avoid) To Maximize Shareholder Value." Accessed July 30, 2005.