5 Strategies for Motivating Employees
Valuing your employees will help build your business


What motivates people? 

As a business owner or leader it is imperative that you understand what motivates people because without people your business could not succeed.

When building your business model you should have endeavoured to understand what motivates customers or clients to need or want your products or services and what would motivate them to choose your business. Unless you operate as a solo entrepreneur your business planning and management strategy should also include understanding what motivates your employees on an ongoing basis.

The Psychology of Motivation

Motivation is what causes us to act.

Motivation activates, directs and sustains our goal driven behaviors, from a basic act such as obtaining food to a more sophisticated act such as obtaining a Ph.D. or becoming an entrepreneur. At our core people are motivated by our biological/physiological, social, emotional and cognitive needs.

Very often our biological needs motivate us initially before our emotional, social and cognitive needs assert themselves especially as we gain new experiences and form bonds with others.

If they did not then it would be difficult for people to sustain personal relationships including with family. As we build our life’s experiences we add more factors into the motivation puzzle.

People are complex and it is not always enough to satisfy basic biological or even emotional, social and cognitive needs. It is the interplay between all of these factors, coupled with an individuals own experiences and perceptions that drive individual motivation.

It sounds like a difficult task to motivate an individual if we all bring different needs, experiences and perceptions to the table.

Yet there are frequently common factors that do motivate people, although motivate them to different levels. For example, hunger and loneliness can be strong motivational factors generally but these factors motivate people to different degrees at different times.

We often hear motivation described as Intrinsic or extrinsic; intrinsic meaning arising from within and extrinsic from outside.

Extrinsic rewards are often described as material rewards such as a trophy or award including recognition or praise. And intrinsic motivations arise from internal factors such as the desire to climb a mountain or complete a complicated task.

But at the end of the day both internal and external motivation is fuelled by the individual’s own goal driven needs.

Motivating Others

As an employer you can provide your employees with the ability to satisfy some of their needs.

You can provide them with financial rewards that allow them to meet their biological/physiological needs and also meet their other needs as finances are often useful in satisfying social, emotional and cognitive needs. If you pay an employee well enough you may be satisfying their need for recognition and increasing their ability to satisfy social needs.

But while money can be a way to motivate employees it is a blunt instrument and does not work the same with all people and in some cases motivating with money is unsustainable and for every one who it motivates there may be a corresponding person who is demotivated by the lack of a financial incentive.

This does not imply that financial rewards do not have a role to play but financial rewards alone will not be enough to motivate an employee to always do their best, remain loyal and go the extra mile.

If you motivate people only by rewards then when the rewards become common or if they stop the motivation can stop. Rewards motivate people to work towards the rewards where you want employees to work because you want them to meet the needs of your customers/clients or your organization.

Research does show us that in a workplace people are motivated by more than money.

You should pay people an appropriate wage and you can reward them with bonuses and even higher pay but the purpose should not be to motivate them, the purpose should be to show them you value them so they can be motivated to work for you and your business because they are valued contributors who make a different.

Motivated by Being Valued

Once basic needs are met most people are more motivated by social, emotional and cognitive factors over basic biological ones.

Motivations can be sophisticated in their nuances but often they do come back to a desire to fit in, be accepted and not along (social), not be afraid, sad or lonely or to be happy (emotional) and to learn, challenge oneself, become adept and masterful at something (cognitive). Employees that fell valued are more likely to work hard and work happy.

Next page: 6 Tips for motivating employees


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