Motivating Employees to Drive High Performance

As a business leader, it can be frustrating when your people are not performing to their potential. When you know that people are not performing as well as they can, it can be tough to avoid questions such as, “I’m doing the best I can but my people just don’t seem interested. If they don’t push themselves, how can we succeed?”

Every company aspires to have a workforce that is engaged and motivated, but the number of companies that achieve it is shockingly low. Motivation and engagement are used interchangeably in many contexts. However, at CompTeam we know they are different.

To increase motivation, some companies and leaders promise high salaries, exceptional benefits, faster promotions, and a lot of other aspects. But without a clear strategy and an understanding of what motivation is, this is simply wasted money.

Also, short-term pushes to improve motivation may lead to quick gains, but at a significant long-term cost. Instead, it is important to understand motivation first.

What is motivation?

Motivation is the driving force that fuels people to get out of bed in the morning and do their jobs. It pushes them to act, achieve, and succeed. Motivated people are more productive, efficient, and committed to their work.

For your company to grow and succeed, motivated employees are essential because of their contribution to on-time, high-quality work.

As a leader, you can nurture a workforce experience (Wx) that helps people feel motivated to do better work. Motivating people involves a good understanding of their psychology and respect for their needs, beliefs, and desires that may affect their behavior and actions.

There are multiple components that support motivation, including fair pay and benefits and a supportive Wx. When people feel valued and appreciated, they are more motivated and hence more productive.

How does motivation differ from engagement?

Motivation and engagement are related, but they have slightly different meanings. Motivation refers to a person’s drive to start and sustain a particular activity or goal, while engagement refers to the level of attention, enthusiasm, and involvement a person has when participating in a specific activity or task.

Motivation drives people towards accomplishing a goal, whereas engagement leads to a feeling of joy and fulfillment while working towards it. For example, if your team memberis motivated to complete a particular project, they will feel a sense of purpose towards it and will be determined to work on it.

However, if they arenot engaged, they may find it boring and may struggle to focus adequately on it.It is possible for people to be motivated but disengaged, but rare for them to be disengaged but motivated.

What is the importance of motivated people?

Motivation brings results.

Motivated people translate efforts into success. They are more likely to be productive, engaged, and committed to work. This creates a positive cycle where there is higher job satisfaction, increased performance, and more profitability. On the other hand, if your people are unmotivated, they are likely to be less productive, low on morale, and more likely to leave.

People may have that internal drive to excel or be motivated by extrinsic factors. But, irrespective of whether motivation is extrinsic or intrinsic, it can help you inattaining exponentially better results.

What are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation comes from within –it is the internal drive to perform a task because someone finds it fulfilling or in alignment with one’s values. Some examples of how your people may display intrinsic motivation could be:

Learning a new skill because they find it meaningful and fulfilling

Offering to host a webinar for other colleagues to teach them a new concept, because they are motivated by the sense of peer recognition and respect

Extrinsic motivation is a result of external factors such as rewards or incentives that ‘nudge’ people to do something. Some examples of extrinsic motivation are:

Working hard to earn an extra bonus for making more sales than target

Being motivated by an award or recognition by the boss

A common mistake is to work only towards building one or the other, without integrating them into the Wx. Motivation is a spectrum and needs to include both –intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Focusing only on intrinsic motivation is not enough. People need to feel rewarded and recognized for their feeling of being valued and appreciated to be strengthened.

Similarly, focusing onlyonextrinsic motivation is a short-term strategy, but unsustainable in the long-term. Bonuses, promotions, and other financial rewards lose meaning quickly if people don’t feel fulfilled or connected to their work in an emotional manner.

This can be dangerous, because it may lead to ‘motivation-collapse’.

What is the motivation-collapse principle?

It is a phenomenonthat occurs when your people lose motivation for work that they earlier found meaningful. It may happen due to stress and burnout or factors like a lack of recognition or even a toxic Wx.

When motivation collapses, performance decreases and people feel less inclined to deliver excellence. This reduces organizational performance and negatively impacts everyone around.

As a leader, it is criticalfor you to be able to recognize when motivation is collapsing and address it with urgency. One of the best ways to do this is to strike the right balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

How can you use intrinsic motivation techniques to motivate people?

To tap into your people’s intrinsic motivation, consider these techniques:

1. Hire right: The easiest way to understand what motivates people and whether they align with your mission and vision is at the hiring stage. Use a tool such as The TMA Method to decode people’s superpowers and identify what keeps them motivated.

Not only at the hiring stage, but even later when assigning people to projects, factor in their competencies and skills. If they are aligned with the project requirements, motivation is likely to be higher.

2. Build positive mindsets: For the people who are already in your company, nurture the right mindsets that help people in improving their own Wx and contributing value.

Help them gain confidence through ongoing feedback and support. Create a sense of belonging and psychological safety among them for them to thrive and flourish.Fostering a growth mindset will help people learn through failures and be more outcome-oriented, without losing focus.

3. Communicate: Depending on the roles that people perform, align your communication strategy. For example, for roles that are more detail-oriented and structured, guide people on how negative behaviors could be destructive. Help them avoid negative behaviors and build motivation.

For roles that are more creative in nature, help people understand potential gains through the right behaviors, to motivate them.Explain through 1-to-1 coaching and other interventions, how progression results from displaying the right behaviors.

4. Build autonomyand flexibility: Create ‘choice architecture’ to help people navigate their day-to-day work as well as create careers of choice. When people have autonomy to shapetheir own careers,their motivation increases.

Avoid micromanaging them and allow them the authority to control their own schedules and work output. Act as their safety net to provide them comfort and guidance, but let them make day-to-day decisions independently.

5. Recognize behaviors: Reinforce desired behaviors by building a program that recognizes people for displaying the right behaviors. Enable multiple forms of recognition in the form of formal and informal recognition.

Remember, however, that without the necessary extrinsic forms of motivation to support people, these intrinsic techniques will not succeed over the long-term.

How can you make extrinsic motivation work for your people?
Intrinsic motivation, when supported by extrinsic motivation, becomes a powerful engagement and performance tool. The Wx of your people can significantly improve and lead them to excellent performance.
You can enable extrinsic motivation for your employees in a number of ways:

1. Offer competitive pay and benefits: The most basic component of extrinsic motivation comes from being paid fairly and being valued. Salary is an emotional topic for employees because they draw a sense of self-worth from it.

Hence, even if you are a nonprofit company, you need to ensure that people are paid fairly and their pay and benefits help them feel valued and respected.

2. Provide financial incentives: Build recognition and rewards programs to award high performance. Bonuses and merit pay can help people in deriving extra motivation to push themselves and perform better.

To make your bonus strategy successful, link it clearly to goals and objectives and help people understand what they need to do to earn their bonus. In addition, consider a mix of short-term and long-term incentives that motivate people.

3. Develop people: Invest in your people by providing them with training or access to industry eventsas a reward for great performance. To keep them motivated, consider giving further rewards for successful application of what they learn to their work.

Motivation is a multi-faceted process that is easy to get wrong because of your own biases. But it is also a powerful tool to create a Wx that engages, energizes, and elevates high performance among your people.
Using your knowledge of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, you can unlock the true potential of your team and help them create lasting success for your company. Motivation is a spectrum and it is critical to find out what works best for your people.

With the right balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, you can provide a sense of purpose, autonomy, career development, and being rewarded to your people. This results in a winning mindset where people feel encouraged to experiment, take risksand successfully reach new frontiers.

To discuss more ways of creating a Wx that makes your people thrive, reach out to us at [email protected].

About the Author

Sam Reeve
Sam Reeve, CompTeam founder and managing consultant, is a pay and talent performance expert and a certified global compensation professional. His extensive experience with pay programs and competitive compensation analysis, career architecture, and talent management allows him to help clients of rapidly growing firms see accurate, measurable results, including increased productivity and significant pay savings, year-over-year.
As an innovative thinker with practical application, Sam strongly believes that everyone needs to be healthy and happy in their own lives to strive as a high-performing contributor. He is driven to help organizations match their employees with the work they are passionate about and reward their people for outstanding work.
Sumit Single
Sumit has been working in HR & HR consulting roles for 16+ years across sectors and verticals and specializes in organizational design, well-being, storytelling & design thinking, and performance management. In his career with consulting firms such as Aon, Deloitte, and Accenture, he has successfully led programs aimed at total HR transformation for clients.
As Associate Director for India Consulting at Deloitte, he recently worked with clients on cultural transformation, HR processes, and policy design. He also organized and spoke at conferences and events about various topics relevant to HR today.
Now self-employed, he works with clients across the globe on various HR solution areas.
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