In June 2022 Personnel Today reported employee engagement levels in the UK are one of the worst in Europe with fewer than one in 10 UK employees feeling enthusiastic about their job.  Just 9% of UK workers surveyed for Gallup’s ‘State of the global workforce’ report felt enthused by their work and workplace in 2022.  Employee engagement levels in the UK ranked 33 out of 38 European countries.  Globally, just 21% of employees are engaged at work and 33% are “thriving in their overall wellbeing”.

Pa Sinyan, from Gallup said “Leaders can improve employee engagement and wellbeing by enabling frontline managers to understand their people better, including how they feel about life outside of work, and helping them focus on what they do best in the work environment.”

So, how can we do that?  Amongst many other things, I believe it is crucial to understand what motivates our people better so we can support them in the best way. As Mark C Crowley, in his book – Lead from the Heart, says “Our greatest impact with people is to gain insight into what motivates and inspires them in their lives.”

Why is motivation important?

It is simple – Motivation is energy.  We know when we feel motivated, we learn better, we think faster, we find creative solutions and we achieve more.  We have more energy and enthusiasm and it’s far easier to get out of bed in the morning.    The impact of a higher level of motivation on our performance is clear:

Understanding motivation is the key to unlocking people’s potential.  We are all motivated by different things.  Understanding what motivates us is crucial to supporting our well-being and mental health, our performance and our achievement.

Motivation isn’t something that is done to other people. Motivation is intrinsic energy.   

We cannot motivate other people simply by talking to them as we don’t know what motivates them!  What we can do is learn about intrinsic motivation and the conditions we can create to support our own and others’ motivation.  This enables us to provide the right conditions, and the right support to increase our own and others’ motivation – increasing engagement and unlocking hidden potential.

How do we know what motivates us, never mind our team?  When we have recruited the right people for roles, with the skills and experience we need, you would hope that when they join us our new team members are motivated and excited about their new role – but how do we ensure that we can harness and maintain that level of energy and engagement?

In Daniel Pink’s book Drive he tells us that motivation is all about autonomy, mastery and purpose.   

However, there are 9, not just 3, different drivers of our intrinsic motivation.

Each of these drivers has different needs – and it is understanding those needs, and how we can support them that enables us to support ourselves and others in the right way.

Let’s have a look at each motivator in turn:

People with a high need for security and stability like to know what’s happening, when and where.  They like to plan and know what’s expected of them.  They enjoy predictability and dislike change and surprises.

Those with a need for meaningful relationships come to work because their friends are there.  They like to belong, to be part of a community, part of a team, to be sociable and well liked.  They seek friendship and fulfilling relationships

People with a need for recognition are good at their job and want everyone to know about it.  They want to be recognised for their achievements, especially receiving recognition from their peers.  They seek respect and social esteem.

People who like being in charge like to have the power, be in control of people and resources and love to be the one making all the decisions.  They enjoy being delegated to – as it gives more responsibility and more work.

Those motivated by earning and competition are motivated by goals, money and material satisfaction.  They enjoy having targets to hit so they can earn more.  They are highly competitive and require an above average standard of living.

People with a strong motivation or need for learning and development want to be master of their profession or trade.  They seek mastery and specialisation.  They may seek perfection if this is a high motivator for them.  They love opportunities for learning and developing others.

Those motivated by creativity and problem solving thrive on new opportunities to innovate and to develop.  They love problem solving and are a great change agent – they are risk friendly.

People with a strong need for freedom and independence hate to be micromanaged.  They want to manage their own priorities, prioritise their own time and make their own decisions.

Finally, there is the motivation to seek meaning and do meaningful work, providing worthwhile things, to have a process, to be making a difference and to be helping others.  They need plenty of feedback and reassurance and to see that they are making a difference.  Feedback is about their work not about them.

You will recognise all of the motivators, but it is likely that some will be more important to you than others.

We all have all 9 drivers – however they vary in importance to us as we go through our lives. We have different needs dependent upon our different drivers.  Understanding which drivers are important to us means we, and our managers, can ensure those needs are met in the right way. 

As individuals

Understanding our own motivators or needs is crucial – not only to support our own motivation and wellbeing but also so we can understand more about our interactions with others. 

For example, if people who are always talking about themselves and their achievements tend to wind you up it may be that the need for recognition is not important to you.  Understanding this is important in many ways – as a business owner or someone who wants to progress in an organisation, acknowledging that putting yourself forward into the limelight isn’t comfortable for you is important and you can use a motivator that is more important to you to encourage you to do more of this and enable you to achieve your goals.  If you work with someone with a high need for recognition, whilst remembering to give more of it won’t be easy, giving more will be really motivating for them.

As Managers  

If we know the needs of each member of our team, we can support them in a way that is right for them.

For example, Fliss was recruited to a role where she is constantly problem solving and thinking about new ways she can support her clients.  She enjoyed her work and once given her objectives she liked to be left alone to achieve them.  If she needed help, she asked.  She has been doing a great job.

A management change meant Fliss is now managed by John whose motivators are very different.  He likes to know what is going on.  He likes to be in control and know where Fliss is and what she is doing. 

It is clear that Fliss’s motivators are very different to John’s – by understanding what each others motivational needs are they will have a stronger, more effective working relationship.  John can support Fliss in a way that is right for her, rather than in the way he needs to be supported.  Similarly, Fliss can provide John with what he needs as her manager.

In Teams

Understanding the different motivational preferences of team members means everyone can support each other in the best way possible. 

For example, knowing that George comes to work to get the job done but not necessarily for developing friendships and doing social things means that the people who do want meaningful relationships at work won’t take it personally when he turns down invitations to go out after work.  Similarly, George may recognise that whilst going out after work isn’t necessarily his choice of how to spend an evening, doing it occasionally may be for the team.

Recognising that when we have the same or opposite motivators to others in the team helps us to manage the potential tensions this can create.

Measuring motivation levels

We often only know when someone’s motivation is low when they hand in their notice.  At least, until recently, we have struggled to measure their motivation.  As individuals we know when we aren’t motivated but how do we know the level of motivation within our team?  Now, using the unique Motivational Map® tool, we can not only see which motivators are important to someone, and enabling us to support them in the right way but we can also measure how well those motivators are being met, giving us the opportunity to have discussions with people about how we can make adjustments to support them in the best way.

Whether it’s supporting individual staff members, working with teams or measuring motivation levels across the organisation Contact us.