Do you think more money would increase your happiness? Most people would say yes.

The 45 million people that buy lottery tickets each week in the UK alone attest to that.  But believe it or not, when it comes to employee motivation, money isn’t as important as you might think. This is one of the great myths of employee motivation and whilst it’s true that pay grading, employee benefits and rewards should all align with the obvious aim to remunerate employees fairly and competitively, it’s not really wages that keep your employees going above and beyond every day. We’ve all heard about those lottery winners that stay in their jobs, even with millions in the bank. This leaves us with an interesting question: As an employer how can you harness this passion, when you can’t buy it?

What leads to dissatisfaction?

The key principle here is that lack of money is demotivating, but money on its own, cannot motivate people. You may have heard of the study completed by Frederick Herzberg in 1968, which revealed that the factors that produce job satisfaction are separate and distinct from those that led to job dissatisfaction. In other words, job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not direct opposites of each other.

He called the factors that led to job satisfaction intrinsic factors (or motivators) and those that led to unhappiness on the job extrinsic factors (or de-motivators). Salary is an extrinsic factor, so poor wages will result in job dissatisfaction, but reasonable wages can only achieve the somewhat neutral position of no job dissatisfaction.

This could be great news for you. Any salary payments above the average are all very well, but to get employees to show passion that would have them staying with you even with their lottery win – you need to focus on intrinsic factors.

Herzberg identified some of these as Achievement, Recognition for Achievement, Interest in the Work, Responsibility, Growth, and Advancement.

The prize itself isn’t the prize

Brian Gossett was a Regional and District Sales Manager for over 10 years. During that time, he experimented with many different incentives.

“I ran incentives big and small. Some of my bigger sales incentives were things like 1K in cash or high priced sporting event tickets. My smaller incentives were things like lunch gift cards or paper certificates of achievement. It wasn’t the reward that drove results, the incentive was the recognition. No matter what the reward was, I found that I gained the largest results when I had a consistent follow-up and timely updates, tracking everyone’s individual performance. For those who were doing well, they received a great deal of praise and recognition for their efforts. It was the added recognition that the employees found to be the true incentive.”

As you can see, intrinsic rewards have little to do with things you as an employer can give. However, your working environment can become a place where you encourage self-persuasion and boost intrinsic motivation.


How do I inspire intrinsic motivation?

Provide challenging work

Employees who are challenged in a positive way become intrinsically motivated to push themselves to be their best. Give employees a sense of control over their work and watch them shine.

Freedom over tasks

Giving employees the opportunity to choose assignments best matched with their personal preferences and areas of strength is an internal motivator. Employees who are engaged in the corporate decision-making process are intrinsically motivated because they have a sense of camaraderie as well as a stake in the success of the company.

Opportunity for advancement

Employees who feel they have a bright professional future ahead of them are more intrinsically motivated than employees who feel they are stuck in a job that will never change or inspire them. Try and show how they fit into the bigger picture and encourage them to take ownership of their performance measurements.

Mentoring and Education

Employees who are mentored and given the opportunity to expand their knowledge through participation in professional development seminars and training sessions feel an increased sense of worth.

What ideas do you have? Join the chat and leave a comment.