The Number One Motivator at Work
Do You Know What it is?
I am often surprised that senior managers don’t know what is the most effective motivator at work. Do you know what it is, from all the research that has been done over the years and across the many organisations and over many cultures?
It isn’t Money
We have many robust conversations in our workshops regarding the effect that money has on people’s motivation. Sure, there are parts of the world that ONLY thinks about money and how to obtain more of it.
The money has to be about right and money has the effect of getting us up and out everyday to get to work. It doesn’t inform us about what we will do when we get there. We use money as a comparison against others and their earnings.
If someone is doing a similar job and you are paid less than they are, then you will feel pain, unloved and overlooked.
If someone gets more of a bonus than you, or gets promoted above you, when they have been at the company less time, then you feel hard done by. But it still isn’t the number one.
All the research puts money way down the list when it comes to what really motivates people at work.
It’s not Recognition
Although this is without doubt a great motivator, recognition is not the number one. There is also a problem with recognition: How do you know that the recognition has been accepted and therefore is truly working as a motivator?
Many bosses give thanks for good work, however the receiver for many reasons discounts these: The main reason is that the thanks are not specific enough. It is better to say: “Thanks for doing this so quickly, as a result of your speed, we’ll likely win the proposal we’re putting together for the client.”
It isn’t Good Relationships
Another great motivator, having brilliant relationships at work really does help us when we are under pressure, or have a better job offer from the competition down the road.
Many bosses rely on this motivator, thinking that this will beat away offers for their best people to go and work for them. Having a great boss is always good to have, however this doesn’t come close to the number one motivator in all the research done in this area.
The No1 Motivator is Autonomy
The latest research at MIT motivation research shows that people want to be in control of their work and be involved about what they should or should not be doing. They also went on to say that mastery of the work itself is key to getting people fired up for high performance. This is a skills-based solution to motivation that has practical benefits to individuals, teams and organisations.
I know many of you will disagree with this, from the responses I’ve had to this. Many will argue that money is the number one, even though all the research tells us differently. Everyone is different and that’s what makes our jobs in HR so rich and fulfilling. Here’s a short story to illustrate the point.
A worker was called to his boss’s office to be told that he was being promoted to supervisor. The boss asked the worker: “When you worked on the farm, how many sticks did you have to herd your goats?”
The worked replied: “I only had one stick, sir”
“Well, now you are a supervisor of people”, said the boss, “You have 10 people in your team and therefore you will need 10 sticks.”
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