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Top 9 Factors That Impact Employee Motivation

Top 9 Factors That Impact Employee Motivation

"Motivation will almost always beat mere talent." - Norman Ralph Augustine

Motivation is the reason that drives all of our actions. An individual expects that if they behave a certain way or perform certain tasks, they will achieve their desired outcome.

In the workplace, this outcome, as long as it’s positive, is the driver that can impact if and how the tasks given to employees are performed. The key to reaching the best possible results lies in being able to identify the factors that drive each individual in a workforce. 

It’s crucial that apart from considering that the final outcome is worthwhile, employees also believe that they are capable of performing the task that’s expected of them. If the targets or goals seem unachievable from their perspective, it is unlikely they’ll feel motivated which in return will lead to lower performance.

This is why being able to identify the main factors that drive an employee is a first and most important step on the way to increasing performance.

There are 9 main components that contribute to employees motivation:

1. Salary

Receiving regular payment, especially in reference to permanent employees, is considered a basic need that is expected to be satisfied by an employer. However, salary on its own is a short term satisfier. In the longer term, salary isn’t a factor that increases performance and a promise of getting a pay rise frequently has only a temporary impact.  

However, if the salary is lower than an employee would expect, it could cause dissatisfaction and disengagement. While earning an ‘equitable’ salary might not motivate employees to perform better, it will reduce the risk of them feeling resentful or frustrated by the job.

2. Non-monetary incentives

Non-financial rewards are a way of satisfying employees’ egos and self-actualization needs. These are often used to:

  • Acknowledge extraordinary performance
  • Recognise achievement
  • Increase morale
  • Create a positive work environment
  • Motivate high performance

According to research conducted by the Industrial Relations Services, non-monetary rewards help to fulfil organisational objectives at a relatively low cost. What’s more, some non-financial incentives can be executed almost immediately as opposed to financial rewards, which can take weeks or months to take effect.  

There is a wide range of different non-financial incentives that can be used by managers:

  • Simple “thank you” - either said directly to an employee or, better still, sent in written form and preferably hand-written
  • Public appreciation and acknowledgement of a job or task well done
  • Rewarding an employee with a title of a 'star of the month' or 'employee of the month'
  • Vouchers or tangible goods
  • Flexible working arrangements/the opportunity to work from home
  • Free or subsidised meals, fruit or drinks

3. Relationship with colleagues

As employees spend one-third of their day at work, relationships and interactions they have with their colleagues can significantly impact their mood and outlook. Negative experiences or attitudes will eventually lead to isolation and loneliness, making it more difficult to find satisfaction from work, which in turn will decrease motivation.

Employees’ social needs linked to their desire to be accepted and to belong to a community can be used to build strong and loyal teams that will achieve higher results by cooperating on the basis of common understanding.

To stimulate the development of positive work relationships, it’s advised to focus on team building activities that will allow employees get to know each other better:

  • Brainstorming sessions in or outside of the office that allow anyone to speak freely, openly and honestly
  • Team lunches or dinners, and social events such as Christmas parties
  • Bowling, river cruises, comedy clubs, physically challenging activities or other activities that the team could attend together - care should be taken to select and plan events taking into account all team members’ abilities
  • Using an external facilitator for team building who might offer: ice breakers, discussion topics, games or similar techniques

4. Relationship with leadership 

Each employee has a hierarchy of needs that should be addressed and the responsibility of understanding those needs lays with their line manager.

The basis for effective communication between the two parties is two-sided trust. Relationships built on this foundation will help employees to honestly and openly talk about their needs, thoughts and feelings, which in turn will give the line managers clear direction on how to support and motivate their team members. 

5. Company’s culture

According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, the reasons behind why employees work determines how well they perform. Employees are conscious of their company’s culture and learn and align their professional goals with the organisation’s goals, which becomes their answer to the question: “why we do what we do”. The extent to which employees align with the goals set by their employer is directly impacted by the strength and clarity of their employer’s mission statement and values. 

Any lack of belief or understanding of the employer’s goals is one of the major causes of low job satisfaction, negative attitude and lower commitment. On the other hand, employees who are aligned with the culture are generally more happy in their roles, achieve better result and fulfilment.

A company’s culture comes down to 6 main elements: work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations and goals. In practice, the culture is just a set of rules or accepted behaviours that help employees make decisions everyday. While every company would have their own unique set of features, values and beliefs, culture is always about making sure that the employees have a productive and enjoyable working environment.

6. Learning and development opportunities

Self-actualisation is a natural by product of high performance. Most employees naturally want to do a good job to feel they are achieving their full potential. Learning & Development (L&D) is a way of educating and guiding your employees on the areas and aspects that will help them develop and progress.

The subject of personal and professional development is especially important to generation Y - the desire to learn, acquire new skills and continue personal development is one of the reasons millennials choose to leave their employer. A lack of professional and/or personal development is one of the main causes of job dissatisfaction among this group. 

On the other hand, L&D can stimulate higher performance and improve engagement as long as the company offers development opportunities at every level - from learning on the job, through mentorship, shadowing and specific internal or external training programmes.  

7. Processes within the company

While processes on their own aren’t a motivational tool, they are closely linked to the areas that impact desire, enthusiasm and willingness of the employees. The workload, division of responsibilities, access to resources and accountability all depends on the structure and efficiency of the processes on which the business runs. 

Efficient processes stimulate workers, allowing them to work effectively and efficiently and by reducing the amount of potential blockers. At each stage of the process an individual should be aware of what’s expected from them and what resources are available. Making sure that an employee feels responsible for the outcomes of their work is crucial in building work engagement and stimulating higher performance.

8. Personal life

According to a research by Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, 47% of employees state that problems in their personal lives affect their work performance. Personal challenges can cause issues with concentration, poor attention, lack of engagement and even absenteeism.  

As employees spend ⅓ of their days at work, there’s a lot that an employer and/or a manager can do to support members of their team who are  going through a tough time. Being patient and showing understanding towards them is the first step. 

Most organisations have clear policies, procedures or guidelines that specify how employees can be supported during difficult times. These often fall under the 'work-life balance' umbrella and are especially helpful in situations when bereavement or grief strikes, including flexible working, paid time off or Employee Assistance Programmes. 

By offering support and understanding, as well as guiding employees through the hard times, it is possible to build trust and loyalty within people who frequently will return stronger and more committed. Making their professional career another challenge to deal with and manage might create the opposite result and as an employer, you may never regain their trust and commitment. 

9. Performing meaningful work

As in the case of non-monetary incentives, motivation through meaning targets the need of self-actualisation. Finding meaning is an existential question and according to research, including  Deloitte’s Talent 2020 series, performing meaningful work is one of the top 3 motivational drivers.

Finding the meaning behind work turns out to be linked to being able to make a difference to humanity through the job. By creating a culture of ethics, morals and establishing a CSR strategy, companies can encourage and guide their employees in the search of meaning.

Another element to consider is educating employees on the values and the mission of the organisations they work for - the foundation of seeing the meaning is understanding why the company does what it does and how it makes a difference.

Another aspect is showing how the employees the role they play within the company links to the company’s vision, mission and values. By helping employees understand how they make an impact on the business and through that how they contribute to society is a clear and simple way of giving them a purpose. 

Final thoughts

Motivation is dynamic - it changes over time.

It’s the line manager’s responsibility to identify and react to these changes. Having a full understanding of what employees want to achieve as individuals, and showing them how to do it, is the main principle that if followed will help to build a strong, engaged and high performing team.

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