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What People Want From Work: Motivation

Motivation Is Different For Each of Your Employees

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Each Employee Has a Different Motivation

Each Employee Has a Different Motivation

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Every person has different motivations for working. The reasons for working are as individual as the person. But, we all work because we obtain something that we need from work. The something we obtain from work impacts our morale and motivation and the quality of our lives. Here is the most recent thinking about motivation, what people want from work.

Work IS About the Money

Some people work for love; others work for personal fulfillment. Others like to accomplish goals and feel as if they are contributing to something larger than themselves, something important. Some people have personal missions they accomplish through meaningful work.

Others truly love what they do or the clients they serve. Some like the camaraderie and interaction with customers and coworkers. Other people like to fill their time with activity. Some workers like change, challenge, and diverse problems to solve. Motivation is individual and diverse.

Whatever your personal reasons for working, the bottom line, however, is that almost everyone works for money. Whatever you call it: compensation, salary, bonuses, benefits or remuneration, money pays the bills. Money provides housing, gives children clothing and food, sends teens to college, and allows leisure activities, and eventually, retirement. To underplay the importance of money and benefits as motivation for people who work is a mistake.

Fair benefits and pay are the cornerstone of a successful company that recruits and retains committed workers. If you provide a living wage for your employees, you can then work on additional motivation issues. Without the fair, living wage, however, you risk losing your best people to a better-paying employer.

In fact, recent research from Watson Wyatt Worldwide in The Human Capital Edge: 21 People Management Practices Your Company Must Implement (or Avoid) to Maximize Shareholder Value, (Compare Prices) recommends, that to attract the best employees, you need to pay more than your average-paying counterparts in the marketplace. Money provides basic motivation.

Got Money? What's Next for Motivation?

I've read the surveys and studies dating back to the early 1980s that demonstrate people want more from work than money. An early study of thousands of workers and managers by the American Psychological Association clearly demonstrated this.

While managers predicted the most important motivational aspect of work for people would be money, personal time and attention from the supervisor was cited by workers as most rewarding and motivational for them at work.

In a recent Workforce article, "The Ten Ironies of Motivation," reward and recognition guru, Bob Nelson, says, "More than anything else, employees want to be valued for a job well done by those they hold in high esteem." He adds that people want to be treated as if they are adult human beings.

While what people want from work is situational, depending on the person, his needs and the rewards that are meaningful to him, giving people what they want from work is really quite straight forward. People want:

  • Control of their work inspires motivation: including such components as the ability to impact decisions; setting clear and measurable goals; clear responsibility for a complete, or at least defined, task; job enrichment; tasks performed in the work itself; and recognition for achievement.


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  • To belong to the in-crowd creates motivation: including items such as receiving timely information and communication; understanding management's formulas for decision making; team and meeting participation opportunities; and visual documentation and posting of work progress and accomplishments.


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  • The opportunity for growth and development is motivational: and includes education and training; career paths; team participation; succession planning; cross-training; and field trips to successful workplaces.


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  • Leadership is key in motivation. People want clear expectations that provide a picture of the outcomes desired with goal setting and feedback and an appropriate structure or framework.

Recognition for Performance Creates Motivation

In The Human Capital Edge, authors Bruce Pfau and Ira Kay say that people want recognition for their individual performance with pay tied to their performance.

Employees want people who don't perform fired; in fact, failure to discipline and fire non-performers is one of the most demotivating actions an organization can take - or fail to take. It ranks on the top of the list next to paying poor performers the same wage as non-performers in deflating motivation.

Additionally, the authors found that a disconnect continues to exist between what employers think people want at work and what people say they want for motivation. "Employers far underrate the importance to employees of such things as flexible work schedules or opportunities for advancement in their decision to join or leave a company.

"That means that many companies are working very hard (and using scarce resources) on the wrong tools," say Pfau and Kay. (p. 32) People want employers to pay them above market rates. They seek flexible work schedules. They want stock options, a chance to learn, and the increased sharing of rationale behind management decisions and direction.

What You Can Do for Motivation and Positive Morale

You have much information about what people want from work. Key to creating a work environment that fosters motivation are the wants and needs of the individual. I recommend that you ask your employees what they want from work and whether they are getting it.

With this information in hand, I predict you'll be surprised at how many simple and inexpensive opportunities you have to create a motivational, desirable work environment. Pay attention to what is important to the people you employ for high motivation and positive morale. You'll achieve awesome business success.

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