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 will have the energy to wholly commit at work, expressing themselves fully, doing what they love and contributing more to the work that they do.

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

Only by understanding motivation can people ensure that they get more energy from work than they expend doing it.

Only then can their efforts be sustainable and the human experience of work be improved.

What is motivation?

Put simply, it’s the reason for acting or behaving in a particular way. It is why we do what we do. Behind every action, positive or negative, is motivation. However, you can't see motivation. It is invisible. It is a feeling or an energy. We only see what it touches. Energy sparks action in the form of skill application or behaviour.

There is a distinction between motivation and behaviour - two aspects of performance which are often conflated.

We assert that to have self-awareness, it is not enough to look at your personality, preferred ways of working and traits (which we see so beautifully explored in psychometric profiling tools such as Insights Discovery® and Myers Briggs®), but also that we need to look through the lens of motivation. Motivational Maps does this.

What motivates people?

Ask a room full of people what motivates them, and you will get a wide range of answers from independence to security, from money to purpose. Ask a person what has motivated them in their life, and it is likely to have been different at different ages and stages. After all, motivation, like energy, is never static.

One key contributor to the discussion around motivation is Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs.

He asserted that there is a particular order in which our needs are to be met for us to be motivated. Let’s explore his theory and its relevance today.

At the base, we have physiological needs which include food and water. Once these needs are satisfied, we look to having our safety needs met - whether that's physical safety (the buildings in which we live and work) and/or psychological safety (which enables us to have employee voice). Once satisfied, we look to build relationships with colleagues and to feel a sense of belonging. We then go on to having our esteem needs met - through extra salary, promotion, expertise and positions of authority. Only then, according to Maslow, do we look to fulfilling our full potential through expanding into our independence, creativity and purpose.

Figure 1 Maslow

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.

Hygiene factors: the drivers when not met

In a Motivational Map, the order and intensity of nine Motivators are measured. Some of these Motivators (the highest ranked ones) are truly drivers; we want more and more of them! But some of the Motivators are really ‘satisfiers’ or, to borrow Herzberg’s term ‘hygiene factors’.

These are those Motivators which you only notice when they aren't being met.

They are different for different people and change throughout our lives. Money is often a ‘hygiene factor’ - once you have enough, having more of it doesn't drive you to enjoy your work more or contribute more. But if you were to find out someone else gets paid more than you but does the same job, suddenly this Motivator feels unmet and so you become driven to resolve it. Once resolved, it falls away as the unmet need is now met.

Learning, for some, may be a ‘hygiene factor’; once you know 'enough' you aren't driven to learn more, go on courses, explore new ways to master your subject.

Wants: enablers to help us thrive

Wants (our highest ranked Motivators) are those things which we desire and which enable us to thrive. In a way, we can never get enough of them and so we are driven to find more of these motivators. Once we get a taste of freedom, we want more freedom, for example.

It is our pathway through life, the changes we experience on the outside and on the inside, which impact on what our needs and wants are; it changes our Motivators. So rather than there being a set order to these wants and needs, each person has their own order.

Motivational Maps identify the order and intensity of nine Motivators and helps you identify which are ‘needs’ and which are ‘wants’. It has become a tool of choice for organisations who are seeking to increase 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 is driving them, what depletes them and what they can do to address this on a consistent basis.

3D cover

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