Getting and keeping employees motivated is an essential part of a successful workplace.
Motivated employees are more likely to be engaged employees — those who “work with passion.” They’re also the most innovative and productive employees.
How do we motivate employees?
In this post, I’m going to talk about what scientific research has proven to be effective at motivating people, whether at work or other areas of our lives. I’m also going to explore some of the ways you can use the company intranet to increase motivation at work.
Money Changes Everything… Or Does It?
When it comes to motivating people at work, the first thing that usually comes to mind is money. We think, “Give people more money and they’ll work harder.”
But, in fact, science proves otherwise.
According to Daniel Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” money actually has a limited power to motivate.
Pink cites incentive research by the MIT, for example, showing that monetary reward improved performance only of mechanical work: mindless work requiring only the worker to follow a prescribed set of steps.
But when it came to cognitive work that required more thinking, creativity, and innovation, smaller rewards led to increases in performance, but “a larger [monetary] reward led to poorer performance.” These findings have been replicated in many studies, so this was not a fluke.
How do you explain this anomaly?
Pink explains that money IS a motivator in the sense that, if you don’t pay people enough, then they won’t be motivated.
But this doesn’t mean that paying people more will increase their motivation. Money is a motivator only up to a certain level: the level where it becomes a non-issue. That is, you need to pay people ENOUGH so they’re not worrying about how they’re going to pay for the mortgage, send their kids to college, or survive after retirement. People need to earn enough money so they can focus on getting their jobs done.
In other words, extrinsic or external rewards like money are motivating, but only to the extent that they ensure our survival. When our basic needs are met, we need other types of motivators.
3 Intrinsic Rewards That Really Motivate Us To Work
Intrinsic rewards — those that are part and parcel of the work we’re completing — are what truly motivate us. In fact, they can be more motivating than extrinsic rewards that are perceived to have little value.
In a study of lawyers, it was found that more lawyers were willing to provide their services for free, than to be paid very small fees. It’s possible they found accepting small fees insulting, whereas providing their services for free gave them a sense of altruism, which is more valuable than an insignificant monetary reward.
Pink identifies three intrinsic rewards that are effective in motivating people to work:
Autonomy or self-direction is one of the top intrinsic motivators. According to Harvard professor Shawn Achor in his book, The Happiness Advantage, “employees who feel they have high levels of control at the office are better at their jobs and report more job satisfaction.”
Achor cites a 2002 study of 3,000 employees, which found that greater feelings of control at work predicted increased satisfaction, not just at work, but other aspects of life, such as family and relationships.
In a study that compared the performance of two groups, one who was given a choice in the task, and one in which the choice was made for them, psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan of the University of Rochester concluded that “acting under duress is taxing, whereas pursuing a task you endorse is energizing.”
The next intrinsic motivator is mastery or competence. This refers to the satisfaction of being really good at something. This explains, Pink says, why people spend their spare time, energy, and money pursuing hobbies that don’t bring any economic rewards. Increasing our competency in these areas is reward enough for us.
For example, a study in Greece among 882 students found that those who considered themselves competent in sports were more likely to engage in athletic activities. And those who believed that practice and hard work would increase their competence, rather than inborn talent alone, were more motivated to stick to sports. Similar findings were found in the areas of music and academics.
Purposeful, meaningful, and value-laden work motivates us. We need to have a reason beyond ourselves to motivate us to work hard. Pink says when profit becomes paramount, then bad things happen: businesses create bad products, provide poor customer service, and become uninspiring places to work. This is why it’s important for companies to articulate their values and share them with employees.
Now we’ve identified the 3 intrinsic rewards that motivate us, how are we going to apply this to our intranet? You can use the company intranet to provide any of these intrinsic rewards. Here are a few examples.
How To Use The Intranet To Motivate Employees
1. Provide autonomy on the intranet.
Make the intranet a channel for employees to express themselves. Let them have self-directed intranet projects, such as creating group sites away from the prying eyes of management. Relinquish some control of intranet content creation and use.
2. Use the intranet to increase mastery.
You can do this on two levels. First, make sure all employees have the skills they need to use the intranet effectively. It helps to have an intranet platform that’s easy to use and intuitive to begin with (ahem, like Noodle). Secondly, use the intranet to increase staff members’ skills. Put up a training wiki or section where they can develop or improve skills, which are critical to their work, such as improving productivity and communication skills.
3. Communicate and reinforce corporate values on the intranet.
Post your company’s values all over the intranet. If you don’t have one yet, organize a slogan-making contest, via the intranet, to come up with a slogan or theme that embodies those values. Put up a blog where employees can share how they or their colleagues embodied the company’s values in their work or every day lives.
Motivating employees is an essential part of having a successful and engaged workplace. As soon as staff members receive enough compensation to focus on their jobs, three intrinsic rewards become effective motivators. These are: autonomy or self-direction; mastery or competence; and, purpose or meaning. The intranet can be used to provide these intrinsic rewards and help increase engagement, satisfaction, and productivity in your workplace.
Can you think of other ways the intranet can motivate your staff?