Softworks Blog

What Motivates Employees?

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Thu, May 17, 2012

Employee Motivation

According to a survey of 6,000 employees by PsychTests, employee motivation is no longer as simple (or one-sided) as the old "dangle the carrot in front the donkey" bit - or in this case, dangle the big fat bonus.  PsychTests' latest research reveals that Financial Reward didn't even crack the top ten of their 23 work motivators. The top five motivators were: '

1. Customer Orientation (desire to make customers happy),
2. Achievement (desire to work in a goal-oriented and challenging work environment),
3. Inspiration (desire to inspire others through one's work),
4. Identity and Purpose (desire to work in a company/field that is in line with one's values and ethics),
5. Fun & Enjoyment (desire to work in a position/corporate culture that is inherently entertaining).

Financial Reward took the 12th spot. Gender comparisons reveal that women are motivated by factors like Altruism (desire to help make the world a better place), Balanced Lifestyle (desire for work hours and company culture that is conducive to maintaining a life outside of work), and Customer Orientation.

Men, on the other hand, were motivated by Financial Reward, Power (desire to be in a position of leadership/authority), Status (driven by the social standing their job will bring them), Contribution (desire to make a noteworthy theoretical/inventive/creative contribution to one's field) and Responsibility (desire to take on major projects and be fully responsible for their success). In terms of Financial Reward specifically, it ranked 8th for men and 15th for women.

PsychTests' data also reveal that motivators like Change and Variety, Creativity, Learning, Independence, work flexible hours, and choose one's own approach to projects, and Stability increased with age.

So how does a company keep each of their individual employees motivated without "breaking the bank?" Dr. Ilona Jerabek, president of the company, sheds some light: "When managers think of motivation and incentives, many of them automatically assume it has to be a bonus or some other financial reward. This is clearly not what employees need based on our research - at least not money alone. Our advice is pretty straightforward: Ask your employees what they need from you to thrive in their position. A lot of managers may be surprised to learn that most employees get a motivational boost from simple things like regular verbal praise, opportunities to learn new skills, or more independence and decision-making power. These are incentives that not only boost morale, but also benefit the company in the long run."

And for managers who are still convinced that dangling money in front of their employees is the key to productivity, PsychTests' research reveals one more interesting tidbit:

"When we compared people in different socio-economic brackets, we uncovered significant variability in the types of motivators that were important to each group," explains Dr. Jerabek. "Those in a high economic bracket were motivated by factors like Change and Variety, Independence, Responsibility, Power and, interestingly, they also enjoy being in a very active and high-pressure work environment. Those in the middle class were motivated by Stability, while those in the lower economic bracket only had Structure and Order as a motivator (desire for clear tasks, roles, and a structured hierarchy of employees). Once again, money was not a significant motivator."

Topics: Flexible Working