What really (REALLY) motivates people

imagesI am among those who are convinced that workers must be self-motivated to become actively, productively, and happily engaged in the given enterprise. However, it is possible to create a workplace environment with appropriate supervision within which people are most likely to be self-motivated.

In DRiVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink cites 50 years of behavioral science and more than seven decades of research on motivation to challenge conventional wisdom about human motivation. He offers a more effective path to peak performance. I suggest you check out the information and insights he provides at this website.

According to Pink, “Money is a motivator but in a strange way.” That is, it is necessary to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table by paying a fair market wage. But then, believe it or not, more compensation will not improve their happiness or performance and, in fact, often demotivates them.

Pink focuses on three primary motivators that drive happiness and engagement at work. Here is an abbreviated summary:

1. Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed. More engaged workers are able to thrive in a self-directed environment.

2. Mastery: The ability to get better at what we do. People feel good when they are challenged and able to focus on improving themselves or something they are working on.

3. Purpose: The feeling that we are making a difference.

I presume to add another:

4. Appreciation: On all of the most comprehensive employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction surveys with which I am familiar, feeling appreciated is always ranked among the most important.

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer certainly agree with Pink’s #2 and #3. In The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, they affirm the great importance of “making progress in meaningful work.” Their own extensive research suggests that workers who are actively, productively, and happily engaged “have great inner work lives — consistently positive emotions; strong motivation; and favorable perceptions of the organization, their work, and their colleagues.”

And let’s not overlook the importance of C-level executives who are self-motivated to create and then sustain a workplace within which those entrusted to their care are most likely to thrive.

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