What Is the Most Important Factor in Employee Motivation?

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Motivated employees work harder and are happier.
Motivated employees work harder and are happier. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Just as types of businesses differ, employees also differ greatly. What motivates one may not motivate another. Therefore, one of the most important steps in employee motivation is figuring out what is important to each employee and build his compensation structure and motivation plan around that. This may need to be adjusted over time but it is good to have a starting point.

All Employees are Different

Money may be a motivating factor for many people; however, this is not true across the board. Many other employees may feel that motivation comes from doing good in the world and making a difference. It is important to remember that one person's motivation may differ greatly from another and finding these differences is an important first step in motivating employees. Figuring out an employee's motivating factors can begin in the interviewing stage and is an ongoing process throughout her tenure.

Figuring Out Motivating Factors

The easiest way to find out what motivates an employee is simply asking him. Ensuring that this information will be used to benefit him as well as the company helps to get more honest and accurate answers. If an employee is afraid to say that money motivates him, then it will be more difficult to create a compensation plan and evaluation process for that employee. The next step is to continually observe and talk to the employee about what his motivation factors are, because these can change with life events and workplace changes.

Putting Work Into Perspective

Although there isn't a single factor that motivates all employees, it is usually helpful for employees to know what they are working towards. Instead of asking employees to complete a list of tasks, it is often helpful to put the tasks into perspective. Informing an employee of the bigger picture will help her feel as though she is an integral part of the entire process. Making employees feel that their individual contributions to the greater good is often helpful in the motivation process.

Rewarding Employees

Once you have figured out what type of motivation is important to each employee it is important to implement a rewards system immediately. Having this in place allows each person to have set goals and rewards when they achieve these goals. Having frequent meetings with each employee to discuss these goals and her motivating factors is also necessary. Discussing where employees are at with their goals and where they want to be allows them to be a part of the process. Remember to observe, because motivations can change over time and it is important to be flexible.

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