What is employee motivation and why is it so important?
There are different types of motivation and many related theories, so there is no one correct definition that will work for every employee or be applicable in every company. In the most general way, we can define it as an emotional commitment to the organization.
Motivation in this context means the enthusiasm, energy, dedication, and creativity that an employee brings to the company every day. However, it should not be confused with a sense of happiness at work or understood as job satisfaction – these concepts are related, but not synonymous. When it comes to employee motivation, the most important thing is a sense of willingness to contribute to the success of the organization and achieve its goals.
Motivating the team is one of the key responsibilities for supervisors, managers, or team leaders. It should be a deliberate and purposeful process that not only guides employees, but also inspires them to act and gives them a sense of purpose. An effective motivation system cannot rely solely on shaping the behaviors and attitudes of employees according to the expectations of leaders – it must also identify and take into account their predispositions and needs. The employer can influence their employees also by strengthening the already existing personal motivations or goals.
Although it is difficult to measure or control the motivation of employees, it translates into real benefits for the company.
Types of motivation
We can talk about two types of motivation depending on its direction:
- extrinsic motivation – motivation to work coming from the outside, including:
- positive motivation, such as a promotion or salary increase, but also flexible working hours, a luxurious workplace, or access to additional employee benefits. In the case of bonuses, it is important that the criteria for awarding them are transparent to employees and that employees themselves can influence the possibility of receiving them. It is also important to remember that bonuses should not exceed 1/3 of the salary, as this creates internal tension and does not increase motivation. SAP SuccessFactors Compensation can help you establish an effective remuneration system that satisfies your employees and allows you to meet their financial needs within the available budget. It is not only focused on automating the entire process, but emphasizes creating a reward system that is appropriate, fair, and paid regularly.
- negative motivation in the form of a reprimand, lack of bonus, or admonition.
- intrinsic motivation – comes from within (self-actualization), it is a sense of willingness to complete a task, resulting, for example, from the conviction that it makes sense. Intrinsic motivation is not associated with any reward and may result from the feelings or predispositions of a person who likes to perform a certain activity or sees it as an interesting challenge. In an employee, it may also result from the need to pursue their system of values or beliefs that are consistent with the culture and goals of the organization. It should also be supported by the actions of the employer – offering interesting projects, working with new technologies, or providing access to trainings, which are often perceived as benefits and build loyalty towards the organization.
Is intrinsic motivation better?
Both types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic, are important.
It may seem that a highly intrinsically motivated employee who independently strives to fulfill their duties is the most valuable for the company. However, it is important to remember that they also need external motivation to a greater or lesser degree. Research conducted at Yale University and Swarthmore College shows that doing a job that is satisfying and in line with one’s interests for a specified salary does not guarantee sustained motivation. So the simple assumption that it is enough to do what you like and get paid for it is not true. Amy Wrzesniewski points to the so-called “undermining effect”, which manifests itself in less commitment to activities we normally enjoy when we are paid to do them.
Let us remember, however, that according to the “Trends Report 2023: Salaries and the Labor Market” report by Manpower, as many as 41% of respondents cited a more attractive salary as the main reason for changing jobs. It is therefore necessary to strike a balance by appropriately selecting the means and intensity of motivating the team. However, this effort pays off, as strong motivation among employees leads to better achievement of their goals.
Tools to guide employee goals
There are simple ways to motivate employees, such as rewarding them with financial gratuities or celebrating birthdays together at the office. However, the key to success can often be the use of tools and systems to keep track of employee progress, provide feedback, or set specific goals. Not only do they support various methods of motivation, but also allow you to monitor employee behavior and identify challenges.
The use of IT systems such as SAP SuccessFactors leads to the use of transparent and clear evaluation systems. It allows both parties, managers and team members alike, to set criteria and track progress on an ongoing basis, avoiding situations where employees feel undervalued or overvalued by their supervisors.
Factors affecting motivation
Motivation is an individual process that depends on many factors, including:
- goals and expectations
- competences of subordinates
- value system
- character traits
- professional experience
- position held
- social environment
- cultural models
When designing and managing an organization-wide motivation system, it is important to consider as many of these elements as possible and listen to the voice of employees. Creating conditions for effective work and encouraging the development of each employee has the benefit of increasing their integrity and loyalty to the company. It is a relationship that resembles an exchange of benefits for both parties.
Effective methods for managing employee motivation – 5 ways to motivate employees in a healthy way
Defining a specific goal to be achieved
The requirements we set for the team must be fully understood and achievable. Leaders should also recognize the potential and delegate some decision-making power to employees. The idea of empowerment is to stimulate initiative on the part of employees and encourage them to make decisions and take responsibility for the outcome. According to research, inappropriate management style is the second most demotivating factor (35% of respondents), closely followed by a sense of untapped potential, which is why direct supervisors play such an important role in motivating people in organizations.
To achieve this goal, managers who work with SAP can use SAP SuccessFactors Performance and Goals Management (PMGM). With its help, you can set, classify, and evaluate the achievement of company goals for individual team members, as well as combine the development of a given employee with the business plans of the entire organization. This functionality is equally important from the perspective of the employees themselves, who can keep track of their progress and see how important they are to the organization.
A team leader should communicate their vision in a clear, compelling, and effective way, setting a specific direction for the collective actions of their subordinates, and ensuring that it is understandable and justified for everyone. Building a healthy and appropriate supervisor-employee relationship, including equal treatment of all team members, increases their willingness to take on challenges.
The contact between the employees themselves is no less important. In the case of SAP, the Work Zone module is a company social network, similar to LinkedIn or Facebook, which provides information about company operations, enables group discussions, and serves as a platform for sharing feedback.
The way to motivate employees is to have well-organized time, space, and working conditions that increase productivity. Providing the right tools improves comfort and saves time, while competent development of skills in employees, enabling them to perform their duties autonomously, improves the quality of work and gives them a sense of independence and confidence that the company respects its people’s time.
Listening to the voice of employees
In order to motivate an employee well, attention should be paid to what they themselves are communicating. Listening carefully to employees will allow you to reward them appropriately, satisfy their ambitions, and precisely identify effective motivators. People are more attentive and willing to perform tasks they feel a part of. Sharing power and responsibility builds a sense of belonging and agency.
One of the underestimated ways of motivating an employee is their emotional attachment to the company and a sense of alignment between their own goals and the goals of the employer, including the prospect of growth within the organization.
Sense of openness at work
Building in people the belief that they are not just performers of assigned tasks, but also participants. The work environment is an important non-wage factor that affects employee engagement. It is important to remember that financial issues are only one of the motivators. Contact with other people or work-life balance is no less important. In the context of maintaining a friendly atmosphere, it is important to provide feedback, both positive and negative, but it is crucial that it takes place quickly and in a thoughtful manner.
In the SAP SuccessFactors Performance Management module, we have access to two functionalities that can be used to provide feedback to employees: “get feedback” and “ask feedback”. These tools have different options, they are used depending on the situation, but allow you to receive feedback from up to thirty people at once or to request it from someone outside the team. It is important to encourage employees to share their opinions on an ongoing and personal basis, but also in a structured, regular, and fully transparent manner.