Motivation under the microscope
Working in a multinational environment, either in a shared service center or with an outsourcing provider, I have heard or I have been part of many discussions related to motivating employees.
Looking back, my concepts of engagement and motivation have changed a lot from when I first started working in such an environment, about 7 years ago. I tried to understand why. Is it because my own needs have changed? Is it because I have grown to be a manager since, and I see that people are motivated by different things?
I used to believe that the best motivation factor was money. Or rewards, generally speaking. Anyone would perform better if they received a higher salary, a bonus or a gift. However, I started noticing around me that in spite of all those things people were not as motivated as I believed they would be. Somebody would threaten to quit, they would get a salary increase and yet four months later they would still be gone. I honestly could not understand that – how many salary increases could they expect?
In a study and in a TED talk, Daniel Pink shows how a group of people are given a problem to solve. Half of the group is just told to get on with it, while the other half is told that if they finish faster they will get an incentive. As odd as it may seem, the group who was not promised any incentive solved the problem faster. This lead to the conclusion that money and rewards can sometimes hinder the work in itself.
At some point in time, psychologist Fredrick Herzberg wanted to really understand what motivates people and found out that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not opposites. The opposite of Satisfaction is No Satisfaction and the Opposite of Dissatisfaction is No Dissatisfaction. For example, even if you give somebody a promotion, but the working environment they are in is hostile, they will not be more motivated. Also, if you create a healthy work environment but do not provide members of your team with any of the satisfaction factors, the work they’re doing will still not be satisfying.
Recent studies have shown that , in fact, the key to ensuring employees are happy is the job itself. As long as the job is challenging enough and it provides them with opportunities to do what they really enjoy doing, while being sufficiently empowered to feel they have ownership over their work, people will be motivated. Of course, they need other things alongside this. They cannot perform with no salaries, as they still need to eat in order to live, they need an appropriate environment, so as to ensure that they perform at their best capacities and are comfortable to do so, and they need to be able to get support in those moments when they require it. However, if an employee does not like the job he’s doing, or if he has been doing it for too long and have gotten bored of it, then all the money in the world and al the rewards will not keep him in the long run. They will just postpone the inevitable.
So next time you identify an employee’s motivation level is not where you would expect them to be, it might be worth seeing what you can do from a job perspective, maybe adding or taking out some activities, while at the same time balancing the other motivational factors, such as ensuring they are paid fairly for the work that they do, or that they are recognized for their achievements, or that they are given sufficient empowerment based on their experience level in order to be fully able to deliver the best that they can. The most motivated of employees will be those who really deliver out of passion, and for a long period of time.
Article written by Ana Maria Petecila , Outsourcing Advisors contributor
Ana-Maria Petecila is a senior Manager with over 7 years management experience. She has worked in both HR and Finance outsourcing, and has a background in process reshape and redesign, change management, shared services transformation and people management.