Motivating Employees

from Marsha Petrie Sue


Motivation: get past the carrot and stick

A recent study conducted by MIT, funded by the Federal Reserve Bank, found that there are three factors that motivate (or doesn’t motivate) employees.  They found that higher financial incentives led to worse performance. So apparently the carrot and stick theory is passé and is no longer working. Then why do companies think that if they pay more money people will be more motivated?

I’m thinking about what Babe Ruth said, “If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got.” This is a good definition of insanity and I believe this can be applied to the carrot and stick syndrome.

The three factors to better performance are: autonomy, master and purpose.

  1. Autonomy – the desire to be self-directed. Typically according to the study, management doesn’t do this well.  But if you do want employee engagement, self-directed is better. Solution? Stop micromanaging if you are.
  2. Mastery – the urge to get better at ‘stuff’ that is not work oriented. This is why people have hobbies, are involved in music and basically want to have fun outside of work. Solution? Provide training so people can become masters at what they are interested in – not necessarily of what you want them to do.
  3. Purpose – Organizations want to transcend purpose because they know it makes coming to work better and they will attract better talent. Solution? Make goals more than a profit motive.

If the profit motive gets unhitched from the purpose motive, bad things happen including bad products, poor customer service and an uninspiring place to work. The MIT study found that companies that are flourishing are motivated by purpose.  For an example, Skype.  Their goal is to be destructive but in the cause of making the world a better place. Or Steve Jobs at Apple: I want to put a ding in the universe. There are other great studies that should be considered too.

Their science also shows that

1.) We care about mastering very deeply and

2.) We want to be self-directed.

Be sure to watch Daniel Pinks YouTube deep location of this study and share it with your peers and leaders. It will be the best eleven minutes you have spent to further the motivation strategy. Need a slide show to share?  This was a great link I found so share away!

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