One thing every manager wants to learn is what motivates their employees to be successful, to reach for higher goals, and value a hard days work. This is the first of a two-part series “The Secrets to Motivating Employees” that will help you understand what motivates people and as a manager what you can do.
This first part deals with the psychology of motivation because to motivate your employees you must understand the basic psychology of motivation. In “The Secrets to Motivating Employees Part 2 – The Managers Role” I will show you how to use the psychology of motivation to evaluate and in turn help motivate your employees.
Most people think the primary motivation for employees is money. Give them more money and they will be more motivated. It is not as simple as that. Motivation is an emotion that you can not teach, train, beg for or force into an employee.
I’m slowly becoming a convert to the principle that you can’t motivate people to do things, you can only de-motivate them. The primary job of the manager is not to empower but to remove obstacles. — Scott Adams
The Psychology of Motivation
There are two basic types of motivators and each one plays an important role in employee motivation.
Internal motivation deals with personal pride, a passion for the work itself, a strong work ethic, or a particular value system that drives them to always do the best that they can. For these people their motivation comes from within themselves. See “Be The Best at What You Do” for more insight.
External motivation deals with external rewards such as raises in pay, praise, promotions, bonuses, vacation time, or the nice corner office. For these people they need something in return for their motivation.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Abraham Maslow wrote an article “”A Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943 that formulated a pyramid he called the Hierarchy of Needs to represent the five needs humans have. Though not intended to be a theory of motivation for managers, when you look at these needs you can easily translate them into the needs of an employee.
The Basic Needs
The basic needs of every human have to do with survival. Food, water, and shelter are examples of the basic needs of life. This is why a person who does not have all of these basic needs met is only motivated with the desire to obtain them.
For an employee this means they make enough money to be able to meet these basic needs. This is why underpaid employees are hardly motivated as they feel trapped in a fight for basic survival.
This need is about safety and security. One wants to be free from the threat of physical and emotional harm. For an employee this means two things. Job security and feeling safe in the work place or a work environment they feel comfortable in.
Belonging and Love Needs
This is the need for friends, relationships, acceptance as a member of society and interaction with people. Every employee wants a sense of belonging that comes from knowing their job has a greater purpose and that they are part of a company or a department that cares about their needs. They want to be accepted as an employee who does a good job, have co-workers they can get along with, and to have good interactions with others in the work place.
This is a need that is both internal and external. Internally this is self-esteem, the sense of accomplishment and respect of ones self. Externally these needs are for a good reputation and for recognition.
An employee measures their worth as a member of the company or department by how well they are thought of. Employees desire recognition for their work to affirm that it has meaning and that their work is appreciated. They want the skills and knowledge so they can do a good job an obtain self-fulfillment in their job.
Need for Self-Actualization
This level is about reaching one’s full potential as a person. In the work place an employee seeking to be the best that they can be is trying to achieve this level. According to Maslow nobody every actually reaches this level. To do so we would have no room to grow emotionally, intellectually or spiritually. Yet we continue to strive for the top of the pyramid because it is our human nature.
Motivation is an emotion, not a skill and must be treated as such. Employees need both internal and external motivations. Employees are human beings with needs. Basic needs are the essentials of life. Safety needs are met when an employee feels secure in their job and safe in the work place. Belonging needs are satisfied by a sense of belonging to a group that cares about their needs and acceptance as an employee and by their co-workers.
Esteem needs are both internal and external. Internal esteem needs include self-esteem and self-worth. External esteem needs are about recognition, appreciation and the ability to obtain self-fulfillment in their job.
Self-actualization is the highest need a human has. It is the desire to reach one’s full potential. This need is never fully met in life, but we constantly strive for it.
As a manager your ultimate goal in motivating employees is to meet the first four needs so they can pursue self-actualization. In the second part of this series I will show you how to take what you learned about the psychology of motivation, evaluate your employees to determine their needs and what you as a manager can do to meet these needs.