Somewhere along the line employers started believing that their workforce was only motivated by money, and therefore the way to make them work harder would be to use monetary incentives.
By ‘somewhere along the line’ I’m referring to the Industrial Revolution and the beliefs of one of its founders, Adam Smith. Smith argued that people are only motivated by capital reward and the monotony of factory work, that was born out of the industrial revolution, meant job satisfaction could only be achieved through the weekly pay packet.
It turns out that this is not actually true. People find identity through their work; it’s often one of the first questions we ask when we meet new people. We also use it for social connections and to find a sense of belonging. In fact, people work for all sorts of reasons, and of course earning money is important, but the motivation to do a job well comes from a very different place.
Staff are not motivated by the revenue targets of their employer. The worst way a manager could motivate their team would be to tell them what monetary target the business is looking to meet. Employees need to work towards a goal that means something to them.
In other words, the big secret to staff motivation can be found in the IKEA effect. Assembling IKEA furniture takes time, it takes patience, it takes a rock-solid marriage! But the love you have for that piece of furniture when finished, simply because you made it, usually outshines your feelings towards other pieces of furniture you may own.
So employers can motivate their staff by making them feel like a role/project/task is theirs, meaning they feel more connected to it and ultimately care more about it. Giving them credit for it, will make their enthusiasm increase and them work harder.
I could never understand why ‘going to work’ is thought of as a seperate identity to the rest of our lives. Why can’t it slot in to a holistic life plan, which sees every piece accomplishing fulfilment and, importantly, enjoyment?
It seems like hobbies, interests and passion projects are seen as external to a paid job, which can be justifiably demoralising and stressful, simply because its ‘work’.
I loved this TED talk by Margaret Heffernan on this topic and work pecking order.
Are you an employer looking to motivate your staff? Or an employee looking to be motivated? Get in touch: