The next time you find yourself wondering, what can I do to motivate my employees? Think again, because according to Susan Fowler, author of Why Motivating Doesn’t Work... And What Does, you’re asking the wrong question. Fowler has over 30 years of research and professional experience to prove that it’s not about whether your team is motivated or not, but rather why they’re motivated.
Employees are motivated to begin with -- clearly, or why else would they be working for you? Fowler recognizes that humans are intrinsically motivated by three basic needs: autonomy, relatedness, and competence; but not everyone is akin to this. By getting your team in tune with these needs instead of focusing on monetary incentives, you can foster a positive work environment characterized by growth, high self-satisfaction, and high self-worth. When tackling motivation, the vision should be long-term and not just the next sale or marketing campaign. It is helpful to view motivation as something that has multiple types of quality. By shifting employee motivation to a type that is higher-quality than an iPad mini or a Starbucks giftcard, you can boost the productivity, overall energy, and well-being of your team members. Now, let’s focus on the three human needs:
Fowler defines autonomy as “the perception that we are the source of our actions.” We want to feel at least a little bit powerful, like we have a say in something. Availability of options and a sense of control leads to a sentiment of self-empowerment and ultimately autonomy. In job descriptions be sure to detail roles and let your employees know why they are needed. Give them a sense of freedom that allows them to make decisions of their own volition for the benefit of the company. Make it known that they are needed and give them a way to physically see that their work is helping the greater company. For example, show sales representatives how much revenue their sales have generated against the company’s total sales in a pie chart.
There are 24 hours in a day and about 8 hours of it are spent sleeping if we’re lucky. That leaves 16 hours alert and awake. Slap on a few extra hours to the 8-10 hour work days thanks to our lovely mobile devices and that makes upwards of 60% of our waking hours focused on work. If a sense of relatedness is absent at work where we spend most of our mental energy, we feel devoid of a human necessity. As a manager it is crucial that you foster healthy relationships and a cohesive company culture to create a sense of relatedness. To do this, Fowler says to lose the “It’s just business” mindset as it easily lets us neglect something we often forget about in the midst of wok -- quality of relationships and ultimately life.
“Competence is our need to feel effective at meeting every-day challenges and opportunities,” says Fowler. We want to be able to do things, and get better at doing these things over time on our own. What Fowler is getting at is the fact that we are born with a desire to learn and implementing incentives like vacations, promotions, and gift cards disrupts this natural desire to excel in life. Monetary or prize-like incentives undermine the potential of human beings and makes it seem like managers have little to no faith in their employees to do what they’re being paid to do. This drives only short term results as opposed to long-term growth and learning for the company.
By eliminating shallow motivators and implementing long-term incentives that have true meaning in life, we can create sustainable productivity in the work place. We can make happy, healthy, collaborative people who are motivated to do what they love and love what they do as the cliché goes. In a broad sense what people love to do is learn. And look at that, you just learned something new!
Aya Tsuruta is a Content Marketing Journalist at Repsly where she covers sales and marketing content through a creative lens. In addition to writing for Repsly, she is a frequent contributor to the music blog, Indie Music Filter, and BC magazine, the Gavel.