5 Big Myths About Employee Motivation

5 Big Myths About Employee Motivation

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In a workforce where only 29 percent of employees are actively engaged with their work and their company, according to Gallup Management Journal’s Employee Engagement Index, the question of employee motivation is understandably a hot topic amongst HR and management professionals. Unfortunately, it’s also a subject that suffers from more than its fair share of myths and misconceptions.

Read on for a list of the top five myths about employee motivation, and strategies HR professionals can use to address them and humanize the process of motivation in the workplace.

1. Money is the most effective source of motivation.

moneyThis is very likely the most persistent myth in business culture, and it’s not difficult to see why. The idea that any motivational problems can be solved simply by offering higher salaries or bigger bonuses is hugely appealing to company management because it promises a quick and easy fix. The problem, however, is that this myth is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how complex the issue of motivation really is.

Money is one motivating factor, of course, but studies have repeatedly shown that, for the majority of employees, it’s not the most important consideration. In fact, according to a 2010 Monster.com survey, financial compensation was ranked fifth on wish-lists for job criteria. Instead, money was ranked after such factors as an employer who genuinely cares about employees’ well-being, and a challenging and fulfilling job.

What HR can do:

Work with company decision-makers to develop non-monetary methods for rewarding employees, and devise unique approaches for providing employee recognition. Focus on being methodical, offering accolades at regular intervals.

2. Employees are consciously aware of what motivates them.

This may be surprising, but not every employee innately understands what drives their performance at work. A great many employees, both engaged and disengaged, feel as they do without understanding why. This is why appropriate encouragement and guidance from experienced mentors is essential — it can help employees develop their passions and aptitudes, discover what’s important to them, and get them concentrating on the highest priorities at work.

What HR can do:

It’s essential to keep in constant, individual communication with members of your workforce about challenges they are having and accomplishments they are proud of. The better you know your team, the better you’ll be able to ensure that they are playing to their strengths in their work. It’s also helpful to encourage leaders to devote time during performance reviews to asking questions about what each person finds meaningful.

3. Happiness and engagement are the same thing.

Much of the discussion around employee motivation centers on the question of “happiness.” Many leaders and managers strive to keep their employees happy by offering plenty of perks and benefits, usually physical or tangible ones like flexible work hours or onsite workout facilities.

However, it’s important to remember that true job satisfaction has as much to do with the work itself as with the work environment. Focusing on boosting an employee’s engagement with his or her actual work — ensuring that they have the opportunity to learn, tackle challenges, and grow in their positions — can often lead to both happiness and motivation.

What HR can do:

Work with leaders to create strategies for helping employees find meaning in their work. The opportunity to improve skills and take on new challenges is an important element of this, so work to establish employee training programs or other leadership initiatives.

4. Employees are only motivated by good news.

statisticsManagement often assumes that hiding bad news from employees is better for morale and will help to increase employee motivation (or, at least, avoid decreasing it). In fact, the opposite is usually true.

Employees consider themselves integral members of the company. They don’t want bad news to be kept from them; rather, they want to have the chance to weigh in on a remedy. Being forthcoming about problems the company is facing, therefore, has the potential to be inspiring rather than demotivating.

What HR can do:

Urge leaders to create formal channels through which employees can suggest strategies for overcoming difficult times and propose ideas for effective ways to move forward. A dynamic means of exchanging information, both digitally and in-person, is an essential tool here.

5. Some employees are impossible to motivate.

Why start down the path of boosting employee engagement by assuming you’re doomed to fail? Instead, assume the opposite: that everyone can be motivated, and that it’s all about finding out how. Developing individual connections is extremely important here because, although it is possible to motivate everyone, it’s certainly not possible to motivate all employees with the same incentives.

What HR can do:

Have employees identify how important various aspects of work are to them as well as share how satisfied they currently are in each area. This can help employees and management alike tailor effective motivational strategies for each individual or team.

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