Employee Motivation Hacks

Pull a lever and motivate employees.

Seems like a fantasy, right?

Like the idea of self-driving cars sounded just a few decades ago.

Yet, earlier this month China put the world’s first driver-less bus on the busy roads of Zhengzhou. Packed with passengers, it made its way on a 32-km journey through the city incident-free!

And now technology is leading another revolution…

Into our understanding of what drives human behaviour.

The converging fields of neuroscience, biology and psychology have allowed researchers to ‘pop the hood’ of our brain, and find out what really motivates us.

In research culminating in the book Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices, authors Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria outline the four basic drivers (or needs) at the core of human behaviour:

  1. Acquire: the need to obtain scarce goods (including intangibles such as social status)
  2. Bond: the need for connection with individuals and groups
  3. Comprehend: the need to satisfy our curiosity and master our world
  4. Defend: the need protect ourselves again external treats and injustices

They then went further, completing two major studies of Fortune 500 companies and employees with the goal of understanding how business managers could satisfy these 4 needs and increase employee motivation.

The research, which was later published in the Harvard Business Review, found that the companies successful in meeting the needs of their employees experienced a significant boost in on-the-job motivation.

Here’s how you can use this research in your business…

Pull these evolutionary levers

  • Leverage the need to acquire by developing your reward system to differentiate between poor, average and great performance levels and promote opportunity for advancement
  • Leverage the need to bond by creating a workplace culture that aligns with the values and goals of your employees, creating a common sense of purpose and community
  • Leverage the need to comprehend by designing job roles that are personally meaningful, interesting and challenging
  • Leverage the need to defend by using transparent, fair and trustworthy processes for performance management

The key to bringing this all together is getting to know your employees on an individual level to learn their personal preferences within each need category.

The Employee Pulse Check template is available to give you an intimate understanding of each employee’s motivation.

I’ve also developed a 3-stage process to help to you roll it out across your business as an initiative:

1. Identify personal motivations (or triggers for loss of motivation)

These may include purpose, ownership, respect, sense of accomplishment, challenge, team environment, recognition, direct manager or interest in a particular area.
Triggers for a loss of motivation may be the opposite. For example, lack of purpose, lack of ownership, concerns regarding stability or other personal problems.
The more aligned an employee’s personal purpose to the company vision and values, the stronger the motivation (satisfying their need to bond).
And where motivation may be an issue within your company, review your company’s ‘why we exist’ statement. Is it strong enough? And are your plans for the business known, supported and believed in?

2. Set personal goals

Understand your employee’s personal goals. For example, they might be flexibility, progression, monetary objectives, learning or security.

Asking questions like ‘Where do you see yourself in 3 years?’ or ‘What key tasks do you love doing?’ will help identify whether employees are on track. (The Employee Pulse Check has 12 of the best questions to ask).

Align the work employees are doing today with where they want to be to help build motivation for mastering their day-to-day tasks. By setting meaningful and challenging tasks you can satisfy their need to comprehend.

3. Regular praise, purposeful encouragement and constructive feedback

Feedback should be realistic, regular and useful.

Encourage an open feedback culture from the time you bring employees into your company. Let them know that you want all staff to constantly and transparently be working on at least one area of development at all times to encourage open discussions and feedback around development.

Leaders are there to make their team the best they can be. Find the way that you can do that by sharing your success stories, learnings and key focus areas. If you can help your team member identify the one area that will provide them with their biggest success – you both can win.

Being transparent and rewarding high performers openly will satisfy employee’s needs to acquire and defend.

Any questions?

If you have questions on this topic or any others, feel free to reach me by email or set up a free one-on-one consultation session, or drop me a comment below.
Thanks for sharing!