Recently, I was gifted a copy of Daniel Pink’s Drive, a New York Times Bestseller on motivation. While I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty motivated individual, I never really pinpointed the source of my “drive.”
Pink’s very methodical look at motivation is supported by some well-known studies from the positive psychology movement and ultimately breaks down what motivates us into two categories: extrinsic motivators, which include things like money, bonuses, incentives, rankings, fame, trophies, Rolexes, etc, and intrinsic motivators, which include learning, mastery, overcoming challenges, and connecting to a higher purpose.
Pink’s thesis is that most businesses get it wrong by focusing only on extrinsic motivators. Like my colleague, Jaime, Pink points out that once sufficient pay exists so that survival becomes less of a concern, extrinsic motivators can backfire and backfire pretty gloriously, at times actually even hindering performance!
By contrast, successful businesses appeal to employees’ intrinsic motivators. Our research into what makes a great workplace is a fitting complement to Pink’s theory.
Great workplaces offer employees autonomy, time and space to experiment and be creative, and connection to a mission or purpose greater than themselves. Great workplaces welcome fun, invite employees to help set company goals and business strategy, welcome employee suggestions, support employees’ pursuit of personal development goals, and connect employees with business goals outside of making a profit. These companies often have a mission that helps employees feel that their work has meaning. Perhaps this is why so many great workplaces performed so well financially during the economic downturn; thanks to intrinsic motivation, employees maintained morale, rallied, and increased their contribution, even when extrinsic rewards, such as bonuses, 401k matches, and other benefits were cut.
How does your company motivate employees? What strengths, goals, or mission can you build on to inspire employees? If motivation is low, more money may not be the answer, but focusing on the things that make a company a great place to work, may be.
Leslie Caccamese is an Interim Program Director and avid blogger for Great Place to Work® Institute.