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What Leaders Need To Know About Keeping Employees Motivated

By Sep Barkhodaee
Published on September 5, 2014

One of the main jobs of management or HR professionals is to drive results and improve employee performance. To achieve this, two factors are required: employee knowledge and the desire to perform. In general, it may be tempting to think that management can really only affect the first. After, providing workers with necessary job training and required knowledge to convey facts, data and procedures is common practice.

But what can managers do about increasing employee motivation? Is it possible to devise training programs and corporate practices designed to motivate employees to be more engaged with and committed to their work? The answer is yes. Through the use of more modern and perhaps unconventional training methods and office culture shifts, strong leaders can inspire their staff to be more motivated and productive in the workplace.


Moving away from incentives
Traditionally, management and HR have had a fairly narrow view when it comes to motivating employees. For years, one of the more commonly used methods has been the use of incentive programs, whereby employees are offered more money or other tangible rewards for better performance. However, despite the popularity of such programs, research indicates that they may not be nearly as effective as originally perceived. reported on the research of famous psychologist Frederick Herzberg. According to the source, things such as competitive salary and good benefits aren’t proper incentives because they fall under what he labeled “hygiene factors” – things that, rather than motivating, are merely basic requirements for function. More importantly, while these factors are rarely associated with greater motivation, their absence is a frequent cause of demotivation. This presents something of a bind for employers – offering more money is rarely the route to greater motivation, but not providing enough money is a surefire way to disengage employees.


motivated employees


Where motivation comes from
If research has debunked classic notions that more money correlates with greater performance, the challenge facing managers is to determine what it is that employees do look to for motivation in the workplace. Human Resource People and Strategy revealed that motivation actually tends to be emotional rather than material. In other words, offering more and better material rewards isn’t nearly as effective a motivating factor as tapping into a worker’s own emotional hierarchy.

According to the source, our motivation and our likes and dislikes share the same neural pathways. This means that the more we like a certain thing, the greater motivation we’ll have to do it. More positive feelings directly lead to a greater desire to do things, and an increased resistance to demotivational factors such as frustration and exhaustion. These positive feelings can come from a variety of places. It can be a desire to improve the world around you, a passion for learning new skills or even a simple want to excel at one’s job.


Tapping into natural motivators
HR can take advantage of this brain science-inspired look into motivation  by tailoring training to inspire these sorts of self-directed motivations. Companies can create online courses that let workers take a more self-directed approach to learning, which can result in a greater sense of ownership and a higher engagement rate. Gamified learning solutions and online learning software can offer new ways of approaching training for conventional tasks.

In fact, as Forbes pointed out, new gamified learning efforts and learning management systems can be particularly effective at sparking employee motivation. Their use of consistent feedback and employee-directed advancement and development tap directly into the parts of the brain that encourage ownership and interest in a task, leading to autonomous and motivated learning.

One response to “What Leaders Need To Know About Keeping Employees Motivated”

  1. […] it comes to keeping employees motivated, incentives are key. Of course, there are a variety of different types of rewards to offer staff members, from raises […]

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