The number 1 tool that employers think they have to motivate their team is dollar compensation. A higher pay should equate to higher motivation to perform well at work, but actually this is only true up until a person’s basic needs are met, and to ensure they feel they are being paid fairly.
Dan Pink wrote a book called Drive in 2009 that argues that, past this point, motivation is most affected by these 3 factors:
Self determination is such a strong motivator that it has, in the past, caused civil wars. If you have engaged staff who are on board with your vision and are pulling in the same direction, they will think of things that you couldn’t and can surpass your expectations. If you micro-manage, the best you can ever expect is for them to do what you asked them to… this model of engagement over compliance is discussed further in my blog on Orders vs Enrolment.
People like to think that they are good at their job, and proficient in their careers. If each day at work deepens that self-confidence and belief, then every day is self-motivating. As a team leader or employer, it is therefore important to try to give people work that they feel aligns with how they want their career to progress. Of course every job has some dull or repetitive parts, so just make sure to keep the balance reasonable.
Purpose is the hardest of the 3 to be able to give employees, since most companies are for-profit and the main purpose is to make money and grow, but in some industries this is easy. If you work in any care industry, a charity, a not-for-profit, education, health, or the arts, then purpose is in-built, and all you have to do is keep it front and centre in peoples’ minds while they work. Make sure they can see the impact they make on the world on a regular basis.
In a less intrinsically purpose filled industry, it might be alignment with the company’s mission statement that gives the employees purpose. For instance, at SSW, a custom software company, employees either get lucky and work on a project for one of the above industries, or else they can find purpose in aligning with the mission statement “To identify and use best practices (in technology, DevOps, and Scrum) to navigate the dangers of software development and produce the best possible software solutions.”
If you can structure your team’s work so they are self-directed, improving skills needed to get the job done, and cognisant of the good that their work puts out into the world, they will move heaven and earth to perform well.