Motivation is a fickle thing

Motivation to work is a curious thing, one action may work for one person but do nothing for the next. Nonetheless, motivation in one way or another is crucial for a healthy professional life for an employee and a healthy organization as a company.

In my humble and modest experience in the workplace there are 3 types of people:

1)      Highly motivated employees who love and enjoy their work, consider it fun and derive a lot of satisfaction from it.

2)      People who like and enjoy their job but still consider it a necessary evil in order to make things they rather do possible.

3)      People who have (almost) no connection to work and only do it to make a living.

I realize that I may be representing things a little black and white here, but it serves to bring my point across. Now, I don’t mean to talk in stereotypes here but type 3 are more often than not, blue collar workers (they often seem to end up in long-term unemployment). Again, don’t mind the stereotypes please. I certainly don’t mean all blue collar workers are a type 3, there are plenty of blue collar workers who choose and love that type of job or just want to escape the hassle and added stress of a job with more responsibility.

I’ve been wondering how employers could still motivate these employees to increase retention rates and improve the quality of the work delivered. First, what exactly is motivation? Motivation is an employee’s intrinsic enthusiasm about and drive  to accomplish activities related to work. Motivation is that internal drive that causes an individual to decide to take action.

Motivation is influenced by biological, intellectual, social and emotional factors. In short, motivation is a complex, not easily defined, intrinsic driving force that can be influenced by external factors.

Everyone of us has activities, events, people, etc that he or she finds motivation. The trick for employers is to figure out how to inspire employee motivation. Creating a motivating work space involves both intrinsically satisfying and extrinsically encouraging factors.

I guess that there are a couple of possibilities to increase motivation; one thing that still seems very popular here in Belgium (in the average company) is to increase financial benefits. But shouldn’t we know by now that increasing salary only works to a certain degree and only it only helps for a short while? After all, you can’t keep increasing financial benefits forever …

A much better motivator for instance is giving proper and encouraging feedback to workers. Which is good of course, but in my experience there’s one even better that goes hand-in-hand with the daily routine of things. I’m talking about respect. More specifically, respect given to them by their peers and superiors and upper-level executives. I hear stories of supervisors and higher level management that look down un blue collar workers in such a way they won’t even say hello or good morning to them when passing each in a hallway. And that really bothers people, and it should. Everyone deserves and needs recognition for their work and be granted the respect that befits them. Now, that recognition often comes from the small gestures such as saying hello in the morning. This recognition will then translate into a feeling of being a respected person in the grand scheme of things and that will evolve into a drive to do more and better, in other words: Motivation.

And all the extra perks, gamification systems and money just can’t compete with the simplest of gestures.

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One thought on “Motivation is a fickle thing

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