Motivation is difficult to quantify and even more difficult to inspire, what is motivation for one may be mere irritation for another. The internet is awash with motivational speeches and one only has to look to TED Talks to see an entire subcategory dedicated to talks designed to inspire. However, rousing motivation in the workplace can be difficult and while it might be tricky, motivation is paramount to the success of a business.
Ambition is the driving force for change and development, both individually and for a collective. It is, however, a two sided coin: on the one hand ambition has spurred the development of new technologies and inspired greatness; on the other hand, ruthless ambition can lead to an abandonment of morals and a rise in backstabbing in order to come out on top, without the ambitions of Lady Macbeth, Duncan may have survived the second act. Unfortunately research has not been conducted to measure the extent to which professionals are driven by murderous ambition but one can hope it is at the lower end. Research measuring whether people consider themselves ambitious has been conducted, however; Hays found that 83% of marketers would consider themselves as ‘ambitious’, compared to the UK average of 78%.
Money and Motivation
Interestingly, marketers were less motivated by money in comparison to their peers. Hays surveyed professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds and found that 71% would take a pay cut for a more positive workplace environment, in comparison to the UK average of 62%. ‘Money can’t buy you happiness’, is a clichéd adage often thrown around; tired though it might be, there is evidence to suggest that money is not the biggest motivator for employees. Behavioural economist Dan Ariely notes, ‘When we think about labor [sic], we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing, but the reality is that we should probably add all kinds of things to it…’. Research has indicated that an increased salary does not result in a more satisfied worker. Exploring this research Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology at University College London, concludes, ‘…money does not buy engagement’. In fact, Chamorro-Premuzic suggests that higher financial remuneration can actually detract from job satisfaction as recipients are focused on the increase in money and are not driven to satiate their intellectual curiosity or to learn new skills.
In the same vein as monetary motivation is the incentive scheme, employers often look to incentivised rewards as a way to drive positive results, however, there is conflicting evidence as to the success of these programs. Alfie Kohn writing for the Harvard Business Review comments, ‘Research suggests that, by and large, rewards succeed at securing one thing only: temporary compliance.’ And that when the reward inevitably ceases so does any positive effect it may have garnered. It could be argued that incentives and punishments are actually one of the same; they both rely on manipulation and are contingent on certain conditions being met. In rewarding positive behaviour, and in punishing negative, employers are not encouraging their staff to strive for the right reasons and any increase in performance will thus be temporary.
Alfie Kohn argues that favouring incentive schemes and neglecting employee development are the tool of lazy mismanagement, ‘Treating workers well—providing useful feedback, social support, and the room for self-determination—is the essence of good management…’. The prospect of reward, he suggests, requires far less effort and is thus why incentive schemes are used in such abundance. Strong training and development programmes are powerful motivators and 19% of marketers rate this as the most important factor of a promotion. Instead of dangling the hypothetical carrot companies should motivate their employees through inspiration, Emma Seppala suggests. She proposes that companies should make their employees feel valued, an example she suggests is distributing positive customer testimonials which will imbue a sense of purpose.
Ultimately, inspiring and ensuring continued motivation amongst a workforce is a multi-faceted and challenging exercise. However, in order to retain the top talent and avoid rampant job hopping companies should invest in their candidates and their goals. If you’re looking for a new role that will ensure you’re producing meaningful work, then check out our vacancies page.