How Do You Motivate People?

Motivation is a crucial key to sustained individual and team performance—perhaps the top key.

Can we directly motivate another person? Not really. But we can intentionally foster a climate that helps people motivate themselves. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said it well: “Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”

Wes Friesen

Wes Friesen

The secret to effective motivation is to promote intrinsic motivation—that internal motivation people have to perform well for psychological reasons that go beyond external rewards. Modern day motivational expert Daniel Pink asserts that “intrinsically motivated employees find more personal satisfaction in their work, and are consistently more motivated, with less prodding and cajoling from management.”

How do we intrinsically motivate employees? We can get some guidance by reviewing the findings of the classic motivation research of Dr. Frederick Herzberg. Let’s review the basic findings of Herzberg’s “Two Factor Motivational Model.”

Satisfiers vs. Dissatisfiers

Herzberg and other researchers have found that work environments contain “hygiene” factors that, if not done well, lead to job dissatisfaction (i.e., they are “dissatisfiers”). Two key points are:

  • Not doing well on these hygiene factors will contribute to job dissatisfaction.
  • Doing well on these factors will not lead to job satisfaction, but will keep motivation neutral.

The primary hygiene dissatisfiers are:

  • Company policy/adminstration.
  • Supervision.
  • Relationship with supervisor.
  • Work conditions.
  • Salary.

The key here is to engage with employees and develop policies, practices and work conditions that are viewed as fair and positive. You won’t be contributing much to the satisfaction and motivation of employees, but you will avoid fueling dissatisfaction and demotivating them.

Satisfiers (Motivators)

Herzberg and other researchers have also discovered a set of factors that are considered “satisfiers” or “motivators.” Assuming the hygiene factors are being satisfactorily met, these factors are what truly inspire and motivate employees:

  1. Achievement: Employees need to have a sense of achievement, that they are accomplishing something that matters.
  2. Recognition: People desire to be appreciated and recognized for their contributions.
  3. Work Itself: The work should be meaningful, interesting and challenging for the employee to perform and feel motivated.
  4. Responsibility: Employees must hold themselves responsible for the work. Supervisors should give them ownership of the work and minimize control but retain accountability.
  5. Advancement: Employees should feel that by excelling in their work, they have the opportunity to advance in responsibilities and into other positions that they find appealing.
  6. Growth: Employees should feel they have opportunities to grow their skills and develop as value-added members of the organization.

External rewards do have their place and can help motivate under some circumstances. But what is interesting about the above list is that these are not external-reward-driven, but involve intrinsic elements that can be cultivated by intentional job enrichment and motivational management practices.

Related story: Stepping Up During Tough Times

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