What is Employee Motivation, Actually?

What is Employee Motivation, Actually? Painted happy face on tar

So what exactly is employee motivation? As the workforce transitions into the human era of employment, employee motivation is key to business success. But what exactly is it?

Employee motivation is an internal drive to put forth the necessary effort and action towards one work activity. It’s not easy to achieve, especially as business leaders are constantly bombarded with changes to the workforce and challenges in the business climate. 

Why is Employee Motivation so Important in the Workplace?

Research has shown that employee motivation is linked to employee engagement and employee engagement usually leads to higher productivity and higher staff retention.

The world of work has also fundamentality shifted, for the better, and organisations are realising that they need to put more conscious effort into becoming employers of choice so as to retain the people who keep the business going, and contribute to its success.

Therefore it should come as no surprise that more and more businesses are putting effort into answering the question: how can we motivate employees and keep them engaged?

While many businesses might think that money would be a key driving factor, recent research has shown that modern-day employees are focused on purpose-over-paycheck.

This means that some of your employees would be more than willing to trade in a portion of their paycheck (or even all of it!) for a healthier, happier and more flexible lifestyle as well as working towards a more meaningful purpose. 

It is totally normal for employees to face dips in motivation, but this becomes a problem if they are constantly disengaged. This has the potential to cost companies millions in annual revenue. 

Now that we have established that money is not the only driving factor in keeping your talent motivated, you may ask yourself ‘what is it?’

It’s important to remember that, like with most things, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to motivation.

We have found through our work that there are 23 different types of motivators, and that employees respond best when businesses fulfil their core drivers. I’ve included some of the more common motivators below, as a general guideline. 

Simple Ways To Keep Your Employees Motivated

1. Recognising Hard Work 

70% of employees say that recognition from their managers would improve their motivation. Ultimately people want to feel valued. They care about their work and want to know that their efforts are appreciated through acknowledgement.

This does not always have to be in the form of money (although a pay increase every now and then wouldn’t hurt!) but simple gestures like giving an employee who worked late time off, buying your team lunch for meeting their target or a simple thank you can go a long way.

2. Communication & Listening

Every relationship is built upon a solid foundation of good ol’ communication. This can be communication about the business goals, communicating business updates or general communication as part of the relationship between Leader and Employee.

This communication makes people feel like they are being kept in the loop, that they are an integral part of the business and that there is transparency and ultimately trust. An important component of communication is not only sharing information, but actively listening to what is shared with you – this two-way street allows people to feel heard and to feel like their insight matters.

Just be mindful to actually take their input into account – don’t just ask for the sake of it. 

3. Work-Life Balance 

Flexible, remote and hybrid working have become the new buzzwords. The pandemic opened the doors to an environment that allowed for better flexibility and work-life balance.

Now employees worldwide are hesitant to return to the typical 8-5 office model. The pillars of the traditional work environment have crumbled under the human era of employment. The faster organisations adapt to this, the better it will be for overall business success.

While not all work environments can function under a fully remote model, introducing hybrid working or flexible hours is a sure-fire way of encouraging work-life balance and keeping employees motivated and engaged. 

4. Social Impact

For employees motivated by wanting to make a difference in the world, being more purposeful about including social impact and CSI initiatives can foster a deep sense of meaning for employees.

This is especially the case if employees are included in the activity – along with donations, give your employees the option to spend a day giving back. Many companies are including 2-3 days of Volunteer Leave, over and above annual leave, as a benefit to employees.

Those motivated by giving back, will truly value this in organisations. 

Achieving Employee Motivation

Keeping your talent engaged and motivated has never been more important, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving overall motivation and engagement.

The key to finding out what works and does not work is simply communicating with your employees about their needs and thoughts about the organisation. This starts to open channels of communication and trust, creating a more symbiotic and balanced relationship.


Contact Pulse Motivation to see how we can assist you.

Also read In The Month Of Love, Here’s To Incentivise Your Staff

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