What is Employee motivation?

Definition: Employee motivation is defined as the enthusiasm, energy level, commitment and the amount of creativity that an employee brings to the organization on a daily basis.

Motivation is derived from the Latin word, “movere” which literally means movement. All the definitions that you would read in books or in dictionary relate to the fact that motivation is behavior and one needs to channelize this behavior in order to achieve desired goals and results.

Employee motivation is all about how engaged an employee feels in tandem to the organization’s goals and how empowered he/she feels. Motivation is of two types:

  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Extrinsic motivation

Motivated employees are an asset to an organization, they are directly proportional to an organization’s success. Motivation is intangible, difficult to measure and extremely difficult to control, but very easy to facilitate if done right. It’s all about intention, intensity, and perseverance.

Types of employee motivation

There are two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. An organization needs to understand for a fact that not employees are clones, they are individuals with different traits. Thus effectively, motivating your employees will need to acquire a deeper understanding of the different types and ways of motivation.

With this understanding, you will be able to categorize your employees better and apply the right type of motivation to increase the level of employee engagement and employee satisfaction. Some employees respond better to intrinsic motivation while others may respond better to extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation means that an individual is motivated from within. He/she has the desire to perform well at the workplace because the results are in accordance with his/her belief system.

An individual’s deep-rooted beliefs are usually the strongest motivational factors. Such individuals show common qualities like acceptance, curiosity, honor, desire to achieve success.

Research has shown that praise increases intrinsic motivation, so does positive employee feedback. But it should all be done in moderation. If you overdo any of these, there are high chances that the individual loses motivation.

It is well observed in children and I am using this as an example here if children are overpraised for the little things they are expected to do on a daily basis, their motivation level decreases. Now if you are reading this blog, there are good chances you are not a child, although we encourage children to read good content, the purpose of writing this blog is to still focus on adults.

So if you are a manager, supervisor or in a leadership role, please be intentional with your feedback or praise. Make sure it is empowering and your employees understand your expectations.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation means an individual’s motivation is stimulated by external factors- rewards and recognition. Some people may never be motivated internally and only external motivation would work with them to get the tasks done.

Research says extrinsic rewards can sometimes promote the willingness in a person to learn a new skillset. Rewards like bonuses, perks, awards, etc. can motivate people or provide tangible feedback.

But you need to be careful with extrinsic rewards too! Too much of anything can be harmful and as a manager or a supervisor, you need to be clear to what extent are you going to motivate your employees to accomplish organizational goals.

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Top 10 ways to motivate employees

If you are looking for ways to motivate your employees at work, here are the 5 simple ways of making it work:

  1. Employee motivation surveys: Use an online survey software or platform to conduct employee motivation surveys. Let them give candid and genuine feedback about their experience, ideas, and suggestions. This will help you identify areas that need your attention.
  2. Employee satisfaction surveys: Employee satisfaction depends on a ton of factors such as work environment, infrastructure, roles and responsibilities, etc. Conducting employee satisfaction surveys will help Managers understand dissatisfaction factors and act on them. Frequent surveys will help addressing dissatisfaction issues faster.
  3. Job well done- recognize it! Recognition plays a huge role in increasing the motivation levels of the employees. It helps create a healthy bond between the employer and employees. It not only fulfills our basic need of esteem but also facilitates belonging.
  4. Focus on intrinsic rewards: It is true some people need rewards to get tasks done, but extrinsic rewards fade very quickly. Focus on motivating your employees from within. Some may even say, “yeah this is all good but we gotta eat and pay rent”… well, that’s true, for that you compensate your employees well, but make sure you create values for your organization that are long-lasting.
  5. Autonomy not bureaucracy: Micromanagement is the worst thing you can do as a manager. It is not only time consuming, but also really unwanted. If you have hired people with certain skillset let them do their job, be a facilitator, not a dictator. Human beings value autonomy, give them the freedom to get things done in ways acceptable and see the changes.
  6. Create an amazing work environment: No, it’s not Fussball, or free snacks or a coffee machine. According to a study conducted by Ohio State University, your work environment seriously impacts your mood. So it does make sense to invest in the work environment where people actually spend 60 hours a week. Creating a good atmosphere will motivate your staff. Just go ahead and do it.
  7. Be a visionary: Lead with vision. Employees need to know their efforts are driving something important. They need to know their destination and more importantly the path that will take them there. If as a leader you lack the vision for your own organization, how do you expect them to own up to your vision? Make a visual reminder of your organization’s road map, encourage your employees to add to that. You will be surprised how innovative they can get.
  8. Solicit ideas and suggestions, act on them: Now that you have conducted surveys, you have received feedback from your employees. Ensure that the ideas, suggestions, grievances that they have put forth will looked into and addressed in a timely fashion.
  9. Career-pathing: Having a career growth plan with clearly mentioned roles and responsibilities is crucial to employees. It helps them focus, and direct their efforts to an achievable goal. Make sure that you sit down with every employee and come up with a career plan that is transparent and communicated clearly.
  10. Provide flexibility: Not all employees are alike. Some prefer 9-5, others not much; some like coming to work daily, others not much. For some, commuting to work might be long and challenging. Allow some flexibility within reason and your employees will be happy and motivated.

What is the importance of employee motivation?

According to psychologists, self-realization is a very human thing. It is our basic nature to nurture something and see it flourish, it is applicable to most things we do in our day-to-day life. This is true for both social and societal spaces.

Motivation plays a very important factor in a human’s life. Whether it is about improving ourselves or our organization’s performance. Motivated employees don’t need to be told how to get things done, they take initiatives, are eager to take up additional responsibilities, are innovative and go-getters.
Motivated employees ensure:

  • There is a positive atmosphere within the organization
  • Co-workers are happy and feel safe at work
  • Make sure clients are happy
  • They always achieve better results than their counterparts

Motivation, therefore, plays a very important factor and ensures employees remain active and contribute their best towards their organization. Furthermore, a high level of motivation leads to a lower level of employee turnover. In the next section, you will learn about the 5 simple ways to motivate your employees.

Herzberg’s motivation theory

Herzberg’s motivation theory or two-factor theory says there are two factors to which an organization can adjust to influence the levels of motivation at the workplace.

The two factors identified by Herzberg are:

1. Motivating factors: The presence of motivating factors encourages employees to work harder. They are the factors found in the workplace.

2. Hygiene factors: Hygiene factor if not present will discourage employees from doing their best at work. Hygiene factors are the surrounding factors that facilitate employees behavior.
Here are some of the examples of motivators and hygiene factor

Motivators  Hygiene Factors 
Recognition  Security 
Growth  Company policies 
Achievements  Salary 
The work itself Work conditions 
Responsibility  Manager/supervisor 

There are 4 statistics that are involved here:

1. High hygiene & high motivation

This is an ideal situation any manager or supervisor would want to achieve. Here all the employees are happily motivated and have very few grievances.

2. High hygiene & low motivation

In this situation, employees have very few grievances but are also not highly motivated. A very good example of this situation is employees are paid well but the work is not very interesting. Employees simply collect their pay cheques and leave.

3. Low hygiene and high motivation

This is a tricky one, here employees are highly motivated but also have numerous grievances. A typical example of a situation like this is when the work is extremely interesting but the employees are not paid as per the market standard.

4. Low hygiene & low motivation

No points for guessing, it is obviously a pretty bad situation. Here neither the employees are motivated nor are the hygiene factors are in place.

How to use this theory in practice?

1. First and foremost rectify and change bureaucratic company policies. Make sure your Human Resources is in line with what other organizations are offering and they know what are the leadership’s expectations. Keeping both in mind draft policies that is a win-win with everyone.

2. Ensure your managers are also mentors and not just bosses. Each employee should be respected and supported.

3. Organizational culture plays a very crucial role here. No cliches here.

4. Make sure the compensation, perks, and bonuses are as per the market standards. If you don’t compensate your employees well, why would they show interest in taking any initiatives?

5. To increase job satisfaction make sure the jobs are constructed well and employees find their jobs meaningful.

6. Delegate your employees’ responsibilities, make them feel valued. Respect their individuality, listen to their feedback seriously and take action wherever necessary.