Is a decent salary and good pension really enough to motivate people?

After watching a video on motivation shared by Harvard Business Review, there were some points I wanted to share.

Firstly, The Explainer: One more time, how do you motivate employees? says that force is the first thing not to use if you want to motivate employees.  It seems widely accepted today that ordering people to do something is not the way to inspire people and get them on board.

One of my early blogs focused on Daniel Pink’s thoughts on motivation, set out in his book Drive.  He says that the basic need is salary so employers should ‘pay enough to take money off the table’.  This video says something similar, setting out Hertzberg’s ‘hygiene factors’ of salary, working conditions and job security.  These factors echo Maslow’s theory of motivation which suggests that motivation requires people’s basic needs to be met as a starting point.  I’ve worked in organisations where the belief seemed to be that paying a decent salary and good pension is enough to motivate people.  Instead, I would suggest that these basic factors encourage people to stay with your organisation and so come to work every day but they are not enough to make people perform.

What we need to be thinking about as leaders is how to get people to take responsibility and move forward on their own.  This next layer includes factors such as challenging work, autonomy, recognition and advancement.  These things get people interested and fired up to push things forward so that they achieve high performance.

As a manager, I believe that achieving this is about taking a more hands-off approach and giving individuals space to try things and learn from them.  To avoid things taking a long time or moving in the wrong direction, I provide clarity around the overall aims and objectives, advice and guidance on how to complete the task and parameters for the work.  This includes my thoughts on the best way to go about things, how I envisage it will look or feel and time allowed for the task.

For me, this all takes the form of a discussion where individuals can challenge my views and share their own ideas.  Once we have agreed the requirements of the work, I leave them to carry on with it, checking progress on a regular basis and offering support so they know where I am if they have questions or need advice.

This approach requires trust and humility; it requires me to let them be expert in what they do and accept that they might know more or have better ideas.  The more I can let them act on their own beliefs and draw on their expertise, the more happy, satisfied and motivated they feel in their work. It has always seemed to me that it increases loyalty, respect and commitment as well.

Furthermore, I would suggest that motivating people requires an appreciation of the individual and respect for a diversity of views and opinions, spending time as a team and allowing space for relationships to develop, celebrating success, encouraging them to push forward and supporting them to achieve their personal goals.

Do you use any of the techniques above? How do you achieve motivation and performance within your team? Share your thoughts below.

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Mastering motivation

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference and found myself engaged in a debate around what motivates people at work.

The colleague I was talking to was from a large public sector organisation and seemed to be a Theory X thinker, assuming that people would rather be anywhere than in the office and only go to work for money.

My perspective is that whilst people ultimately work because they have bills to pay (who wouldn’t prefer to be on the beach or in the garden), once that basic need is met, money ceases to be the main motivator. In this sense, Theory Y is where I sit as I assume that people want to work and manage my people with this in mind.

Most of my thinking has developed from a concept set out in Daniel Pink’s book called ‘Drive’. This book is so recent that it was not covered in a recent management course I attended. We were told in the session that ‘there hasn’t really been any theory developed on motivation since Maslow’.

But some of us know different.

Pink starts off with an argument that book that generations coming through today are not motivated by money. He believes that the model of performance related pay where people are set targets which are rewarded with bonuses is out of date and actually those joining the workplace over the last couple of decades are driven more by values than money. With this in mind, according to Pink, the first thing employers have to get right is to ‘pay enough to take money off the table’.

Once the basic financial need has been met, we can move away from Maslow’s basic needs of food and shelter and move towards the top of the hierarchy to achieve esteem and self-actualisation.

So to bring it back to Pink’s ideas, achieving motivation requires leaders to allow our employees to achieve the following three things:

Autonomy – Mastery – Purpose

Basically, to motivate people we need to trust them to do things their own way, setting the direction and letting them get on with it. This is AUTONOMY.

We need to give them the space and support them where necessary, allowing them to get really good at what they do. This means that they are able to learn and improve until they achieve MASTERY.

And we need to be clear about why they are doing what we have asked them to do so that they know what they are doing is for a good reason. This means they understand their PURPOSE.

Applying this to the way my team works completely changed my focus and delivered some fantastic results. Of course it didn’t mean I left them on their own completely, it just changed the way we worked together. Instead of telling people what to do and how to do it, this approach requires leaders to set the direction and support individuals to achieve. It requires managers to ask more questions and find out where you can add expertise to improve the outcome. What you will find is that the team checks in with you more because they want to get things right. It’s definitely worth adopting because the rewards of empowering people are immense.

Go on try it! I dare you…

If you want to hear it from the man himself, check out this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation?language=en

Or you can buy the book here:

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