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Employee motivation isn’t very hard to get right, but, unfortunately, many companies are still stuck in the past.
What truly motivates employees is the opportunity to grow and make a real difference in the world.
Intrinsic Vs. Extrinsic Motivators
There is so much debate on this subject that I want to try and explain it as simply as possible. When people make the argument that extrinsic motivators don’t work, the response will often be about money and a proper paycheck.
It’s true that everyone needs to earn a living. They have to pay the bills.
People also have to feel that they are fairly compensated for the amount of work that they do, this is what’s known as equity theory.
If it’s not an equal exchange, then the focus will be exclusively on that. But once the subject of compensation is taken off the table, what motivates employees long term are intrinsic motivators.
It’s pretty well known that more money doesn’t ever lead to anything effective. What usually ends up happening, is we adjust our lifestyles to account for the increase in money, so it makes no real difference. We’re often still in the same position financially at the end of the day.
What makes people happy is the feeling of pride from accomplishing something amazing
In one study, that Dan Pink talks about in his book Drive, looks at what happens with rewards and kids drawing.
Researchers divided the children into three groups.
The first was the “expected award” group. They showed each child a “Good Player” certificate and asked if the child wanted to draw in order to receive the award.
The second group was the “unexpected award” group. Researchers asked these children simply if they wanted to draw. If they decided to, when the session ended, the researchers handed each child one of the “Good Player” certificates.
The third group was the “no award” group. Researchers asked these children if they wanted to draw, but neither promised nor gave them a certificate at the end.
Children in the “unexpected award” and “no award” groups drew just as much, and with the same enthusiasm as they had before the experiment. But children in the first group showed much less interest and spent much less time drawing.
The prizes had turned play into work.
In another study, two Swedish economists found that offering a small payment in exchange for giving blood decreased the number of people willing to donate by half.
The researchers suggest “the payment tainted an altruistic act and ‘crowded out’ the intrinsic desire to do something good.”