Thursday, September 24, 2020
Monday, 14 November 2016 09:48

Optimizing the 3 Top Work Motivators

Written by Benjamin D. Patient


Leaders are under a lot of pressure to perform from both above and below. Leaders are expected to provide development opportunities to employees, keeping them motivated and engaged. This can be the case even while the leaders themselves are struggling to stay motivated and engaged. Many of us already know that increased positive interactions between leaders and employees increases positive results for the bottom line.

I think it’s time to relieve leaders of some of this pressure and recognize the value of sharing the responsibility for motivation, development, and engagement with employees.

There are many theories and tools available, but for simplicity’s sake I have decided to use McClelland’s three factor theory. Since motivation is a mental process we can’t motivate an employee, but we can offer opportunities that will motivate someone. Employees can use this to gain a better understanding of themselves and ensure that they are choosing the right activities to help them stay motivated at work.

Start by asking “Do you…”


• Find it important to set and accomplish challenging goals?

• Prefer to work alone?

• Like to receive regular feedback on progress and achievements?


• Want to belong to the group?

• Favor teamwork over competition?

• Want to be liked?


• Want to win?

• Like to be in control, or influence others?

• Thrive in a competitive environment?

If the answers are a strong “yes” in any of the three listed areas, then try to find opportunities where these motivational needs can be met as long as it does not cause disruption for the rest of the team. Having a greater sense about these areas will provide a good starting point in making sure that the activities and rewards are in alignment with what motivates the employee.

By using motivation as a starting point, you can incorporate these to help an employee - or even yourself - have a bigger impact on the team.

After establishing a baseline on the motivational needs, the following 4 steps can be used to ensure that employees are REDI to make the desired impact, connecting personal goals with organizational goals. These steps require an active approach by the employee, which can be guided and supported by their leaders. Through their involvement in this process, employees will have a greater commitment and purpose in achieving the desired results.

motivation cycle

Reflecting – Reflect on recent actions and activity. What is it that helped you do the work well? Think about what did not work well and what might need to change to help make things better. A few minutes of reflection can help you to slow down enough to think about what you are doing and identify any changes or rebalancing that may be needed.

Evaluating – Create a 1 to 5 measurement scale for yourself related to the action(s)/activities you are involved in where a 1 is beginner performance and a 5 is all-star performance. What would it look like to you and others to have an all-star rating of 5? Where would you rate yourself now in this action/ activity? The key to making your self-evaluation effective is to base it on objective company standards or on your own performance. Comparing yourself to others in the workplace is counterproductive and will likely be discouraging.

Developing – What are two to three things that you need to get to that all-star rating of 5? Do you need more feedback from others? Maybe there is some additional training or strategies that would be helpful to you. When you know what the all-star looks like, you can always work backward to find the difference between where you are now and all-star performance. Think about new things that you could learn and how you would implement them. Some changes will impact others on the team so it’s important to think about the potential implications ahead of time.

Implementing – The hardest part can be putting your plan into practice. It can be challenging and uncomfortable. When making changes, it is helpful to keep in mind that changes are likely to slow things down at first -- at least until they become more familiar and a part of the routine. It can sometimes take 2 to 3 months or longer to integrate changes into your routine. By referring back to your self-evaluation scale, you can make adjustments as necessary.

To maximize your impact, I suggest revisiting areas that you started with and repeating the REDI process on a regular basis. Keeping a journal can be an excellent tool to show progress and growth. It can also provide a little extra encouragement or an extra push when needed.

By being involved their own development and by being supported to achieve personal goals, employees are likely to feel more fulfilled by their work and become more connected to the organization.

Benjamin D. Patient, MHR, SHRM-CP, PHR, has experience in training, performance management, and hiring at all levels. Ben pairs his personal experience with his research to offer workshops on job search strategies, achievement, and professional development. REDI is a trademark of Reflection Resource Group, LLC.

Benjamin Patient