10 reasons motivation matters - and what to do about it

The difference between inaction and action is motivation. Without motivation, nothing would ever get done - and that links motivation with performance.

Written by Mind Tools
Published 06 September 2018
10 reasons motivation matters - and what to do about it

The usual emphasis within L&D has been on finding positive "motivators" but, in reality, there's a spectrum of motivating factors that embraces negative as well as positive stimuli. There's a similar spectrum for performance, too.

Motivation basics

All of us need the security of a roof over our head and food on the table, as Maslow famously discussed. So, if we're honest, our most basic motivator at work is likely to be protecting our pay check. Beyond that, we might find the company of our colleagues key to our well-being - or perhaps we value space to reflect and create alone. Taking the initiative to make change happen, and leading others toward an exciting shared vision, will likely motivate us strongly in this sector.

But what of the diverse people across our organizations? How can we know what will motivate them to take action and to learn? Ian MacRae and Adrian Furnham's 2017 book, "Motivation and Performance," challenges the approach of tapping into age, gender and other stereotypes for such clues. The authors argue that group differences are often exaggerated and that the motivations of individuals are what matters. (This echoes the work of both Herzberg and, more recently Pink.) The book has two key messages.

First, people can get better. Individual and team performance can improve, and there are many ways to spark motivation to achieve this. And second, work can get better. Work can be made more effective, productive, profitable, and enjoyable. It advocates improving employee satisfaction, boosting organizational productivity, and reducing staff turnover by considering all motivators. These include such factors as job security and the need for personal growth.

10 reasons to bother with motivation

The advantages for our organizations and leaders of motivating, and thus engaging, our people include:

1. Higher productivity per person.
2. Reduced attrition costs, including lowered recruitment and onboarding outlay.
3. Reduced financial risk through reducing the chances of litigation from disgruntled staff.
4. Easier access to investment from potential investors.
5. Awards, because the free PR of being heralded as a great employer can do wonders for your brand and help to get your organization's name known for the right reasons.
6. Leadership, because it's easier to lead willing participants than people who don't want to be there, particularly in today's challenging economic climate.

People like to be motivated, engaged and performing well because, among other things, they want:

7. Work to be enjoyable, as it occupies so much of their time.
8. Fulfillment, which involves taking pride in work and the personal development that results from doing it.
9. To work, long-term, with people they like. Organizations with motivated and engaged staff experience lower turnover, enabling people to form longer-term working relationships.
10. To trust their organization's leaders to make sound decisions in the organization's interest. People who feel they can do this are more open to change and new opportunities.

The benefits of motivation for HR and L&D

People don't enjoy job hunting, as starting over can be daunting and an upheaval. It also demands valuable time and hard work on top of everyday commitments. But we must avoid taking any such inertia for granted, or assuming indulgent goodwill from our people in the face of poor management or a lack of opportunities for development. After all, a fully motivated, engaged and productive workforce reduces the pressure on the HR and L&D functions.

Motivated people are easier and more rewarding to manage than disengaged, disgruntled ones, and engaged staff can be brand ambassadors for your organization. Furthermore, with reduced labor turnover, you won't have to continually recruit for the same vacancies. Instead, you can focus on introducing impactful roles, and ensuring that existing team structures support the organization's goals.

Motivational mapping and resources

Kathryn Horton of Turning Factor says, "We believe that an individual should be in a role that allows their core motivations to be met. But many people find it difficult to understand what motivates them. So we use an inventory to map this, and also to discover how motivated an individual is." And consultant Roger Mayo emphasizes, "It's crucial that work is enjoyable and provides a sense of fulfillment. We only live our lives once - so it's paramount that we get enjoyment from where we spend the bulk of our time."

If you're looking for inspiration and support in motivating and engaging individuals or teams, and want to equip your managers to do the same, Mind Tools has a wide selection of motivational tools and resources to help. Finally - what are your top motivational approaches? Share your successes (and failures!) in the Comments section, below.

About the author

Mind Tools

Mind Tools

Mind Tools was started in 1996 to offer practical online learning to people in the workplace.

By the time they joined Emerald in March 2019, they had grown into the one of the world’s most comprehensive learning resources, with millions of individual learners in 50 countries worldwide.

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