How does a business benefit from having a well-motivated workforce?
As we all know, a well-motivated workforce can provide the following advantages:
Lower levels of absenteeism
Lower levels of turnover
Lower training and recruitment costs
But what is it that encourages or motivates workers to go beyond the confines of their role and job description? What factors make staff go the “extra mile”?
Having “engaged employees” is potentially a source of competitive advantage and can also be invaluable when a business is going through a process of change.
By definition, motivating factors vary from firm to firm and across different industries. Employees in service businesses have different opportunities to attend to customer needs than those operating in the primary or secondary sectors. The organizational structures and cultures of businesses also vary widely.
The role of business leadership is also identified as a strong motivator, which is pretty unsurprising but still important. Good leadership instills a sense of mission & purpose in employees. An employee is unlikely to go the extra mile for a boss who they don’t trust or respect.
Employees who look at their jobs as a service to others, or as serving their boss according to Wharton management professor Adam Grant are the most satisfied with their job roles. Grant has devoted significant chunks of his professional career to examining what motivates workers in settings that range from call centers and mail-order pharmacies to swimming pool lifeguard squads. In all these situations, Grant says, employees who know how their work has a meaningful, positive impact on others are not just happier than those who don’t; they are vastly more productive, too.
Grant also suggests that “task significance” is a key driver, and that face-to-face interactions, even seemingly superficial ones, can serve as a way of driving that significance home. In other studies he has found that engineers, salespeople, managers, customer service representatives, doctors, nurses, medical technicians, security guards, police officers and firefighters who can directly see their impact on others all achieve higher job performance.
Motivation has been studied for decades and leaders in the workplace have used assessments like Myers-Briggs to determine their employee’s personality types to better anticipate behaviors and tendencies. Additionally, motivational books are used as tools to get employees to increase their performance and / or get them back on track. While assessments, books and other tools can help project and inspire short and long performance, the factors that motivate employees to achieve evolve as they mature and begin to truly understand what matters most to them. Therefore, as leaders we must hold ourselves accountable to build meaningful and purposeful relationships that matter with our employees. This allows us to better understand those we are serving, just as much as ourselves.
As a leader, we need to not just read the assessment scores, we should get to know those whom we are leading and be specific about how we help each of them achieve their goals, desires and aspirations. The objective should be to help one another and to accomplish this each of us must identify those things that motivate us both to work together.
Forbes has identified nine (9) things that ultimately motivate employees to achieve.
Trustworthy Leadership – Leaders that have your back and that are looking out for your best interests – will win the trust of their employees who in turn will be more motivated to achieve.
Being Relevant – In today’s world where everyone wants to be noticed and recognized for their work – employees are motivated to achieve to remain relevant.
Proving Others Wrong – This particular motivation to achieve has been heighten as of late from younger professionals that seek to prove themselves faster amongst older generations in the workplace.
Career Advancement – Perhaps the most important factor on this list is the ability to advance. Employees are extremely motivated to achieve if this means that advancement awaits them.
No Regrets – People don’t want to live with any regrets in their career/life and thus are motivated to not disappoint themselves.
Stable Future – People are motivated to have safety and security.
Self-Indulgence – This factor is quite interesting and extremely important to put into proper perspective. People are motivated for selfish reasons to achieve money, attention, fame, etc.
Impact – As mentioned earlier on, today’s employees are motivated to achieve more than ever simply by the opportunity to create impact.
Happiness – In the end, happiness is one of the greatest motivations to achieve. Happiness fuels ones self-esteem and gives people hope for a better tomorrow.
So, as leaders we are obligated to understand our employees motivational drivers and strive to provide the environment and opportunities that will allow them to be successful as well be the fuel driving successful organizations forward.