Recent research into what motivates people the most, have identified these three factors as being the strongest:
- Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives
- Mastery: the urge to get better
- Purpose: be a part of something meaningful
These three have been attributed to Gen Y thinking, but the truth is, given the opportunity and circumstance, we all ideally would like to live and work in environments where these are true for us.
If you are leader or manager of others at work, it is important to know how these three fundamental motivations can be translated into work that is engaging, energizing and satisfying for your people.
The sense of Autonomy comes when you can do what you want, when you want, with whom you want and how you want. For many entrepreneurs, this is the main motivation for them starting their own company.
If you don’t own the business, you can provide Autonomy in the workplace to your people by enabling them to determine which tasks they do, when they can do it, with whom they do it and how they do it. You can provide Flexi-time working to re-create part of this feeling, and by providing outcomes for them to achieve and not telling them how to get there. Letting them work it out for themselves will create the sense of autonomy that they seek. Delegate fully and give them end dates for delivery of work that you make them responsible for and do not micro-manage; whilst still making it clear that they can come to you for help should they need it.
Mastery denotes the mindset of a person engaged in personal growth, in which they are not put off by challenge or pain. They are happy to be engaged in moving towards mastery and settled to never arriving, as they see expanding horizons for improvement and growth.
This is most easy to see within the Arts. Most artists demonstrably improve through self-engendered practice. This is difficult to accomplish in mechanical, factory environments where the tasks to be accomplished are required to be the same again and again. Though even here, the urge for mastery can cause self-motivated staff to want to do the task faster, with less stress or with more ease. The principles of Lean operations are based on this – refining and improving every aspect of processes and systems to gain higher productivity or value. Lean principles play to people’s innate need for mastery. Where managers are engaged in providing tasks to employees in a less structured context, it is the manager’s role to offer tasks to employees that allow them to stretch their capability. The challenges that they offer should continuously grow and expand the abilities of the person. By expanding the person’s capabilities, the organization benefits through their improved performance.
Being a part of something meaningful – that connects us with a cause larger than ourselves – makes us feel that we have a purpose and can make a contribution that benefits others. It is this motivation that prompts people to start or participate in charities, to volunteer for social work or aid their families or neighbours.
In the work context, people seek to connect with the mission or ethics of a company that allows them to feel that their work ultimately benefits others and the world. They want to feel that they are part of something which has goals that are worthy, practices that are ethical, which does no harm, and if possible, does good. Leaders of organizations must therefore be very clear what purpose the organization exists to accomplish, what customers it serves, the principles and ethics it wishes to abide by and the contribution or benefit it seeks to give to its employees, customers, suppliers and its community. By doing some or all of these, it provides the emotional sustenance to its staff that enables them to feel connected to the bigger cause that the company represents.
The stated purpose, principles and ethics the organization and its leaders espouse must, of course, be true, or its employees will recognize the deception, the lack of integrity and will feel motivated to leave.
When all three motivations are satisfied, people will be motivated, engaged and committed to their work. They will be less likely to leave and much more likely to want to continue making positive contributions to your organization.
9 May 2016