Harnessing Motivation: Transforming Our Experience Of Work

When people understand and take responsibility for what drives them, they can find ways to have their motivators met on a consistent basis. And when they do this, they’ll have the energy to wholly commit at work, expressing themselves fully, doing what they love.

“…and when people love what they do, they do it so much better.”

Only by understanding motivation can people ensure that they are energise by work, rather than depleted by it.

And when people have energy at work, it elevates the human experience of work.

What is motivation?

Put simply, it's the reason for acting or behaving in a particular way. It explains why we do what we do.

What motivates people?

Ask a room full of people what motivates them, and you'll get a wide range of answers, from ‘independence’ to ‘security’, from ‘money’ to ‘purpose’.

Ask a person to track back what has led them to make key decisions in their life and they will recognise that motivation changes with age and stage.

It’s time for a new hierarchy of motivation

New Hierarchy of motivation

Distinguishing needs from wants

There is no doubt that this hierarchy has its uses and is still has some relevance today- particularly during a pandemic when many people’s worlds have been turned upside down.

In ‘normal’ times and in the developed world, with the privilege of our basic needs so often met simply from doing most jobs, our attention must surely turn to how we can do work which feeds our soul, contributes to the human experience of work, and where we can contribute fully from a place of flow. It is not enough to simply work. And done well, work has the opportunity to address diverse challenges such as the economy, public health, community integration and culture change. Work is so much bigger than just exchanging our labour (time served) for money. It is an opportunity to move towards more businesses leading with purpose (and sustained through profit).

Rethinking basic needs

Clearly, the first rung on the hierarchy is essential; without us having our basic needs met (to meet expenses for food, shelter and water), we cannot move on to have our higher level needs met AND then move on to have our wants met.

Unlike Maslow, though, we now know that wants basic needs are met, people ‘stack’ their hierarchy in their own particular order which suits their age and stage of life.

Back to basics

When we talk about basic needs, we're talking about things like food, water, and staying active. We often check in with teams to see how well their work setup (whether at home or in the office) helps them meet these needs easily. Surprisingly, we often find it's easy to fall into unhealthy habits. For example, agreeing to meetings during lunch, having back-to-back meetings, or blurring work and personal time.

Getting back to basics means figuring out what helps you work best and how much of those things you need to be able to work effectively. It’s what makes works possible.

Addressing work needs

‘Work needs’ are those Motivators which you only notice when they're not being met. They are different for different people and change throughout our lives. For some, money is a work need - once a person has ‘enough’, having more of it doesn't drive them to enjoy their work more or contribute more. But if they were to find out that someone else gets paid more than them but does the same job, suddenly this Motivator feels unmet and so they become driven to resolve it. Once resolved, the drive falls away. In other words, it’s a temporary driver to make work acceptable, not one which explains what they are really seeking from work.

Work wants – drivers that make us thrive

‘Work wants’ are our highest ranked Motivators and are those things which we desire most, and which enable us to thrive. In a way, we can never quite get enough of them and so we are driven to keep finding ways of feeding these Motivators. Once we get a taste of freedom, for example, we want more freedom. They explain why we behave the way we do, and what we prioritise. They are what makes work truly enjoyable.

Motivational Maps identify the order and intensity of nine motivators and helps you identify which of these needs and which are wants. It has become a tool of choice for organisations who are seeking to increase their levels of productivity and performance and improve the human experience of work. It puts in the hands of every team member the understanding of what it is driving them, what depletes them and what they can do to address this on a consistent basis.

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Free e-book: Harnessing motivation

Find out the practical actions you can take right now to impact the motivation, human experience and productivity – of your people