Employee Motivations – Why They Matter

3 Things You Must Start Doing When You Become a Team Leader

Employee Motivations and Why They Matter

Reports show that only  35% of the US workforce feel engaged in their work. It is time to give some much-needed attention to employees' motivations. Unfortunately, this does not usually get the attention it requires until it is too late. Gallop has estimated the productivity lost from disengaged employees costs companies between $960 billion to $1.2 trillion per year. Unmotivated employees can have a debilitating effect on your bottom line.


Conversely, highly motivated teams increase business profitability by 23%. As such, it seems clear which type of team you would want to foster. Easier said than done. What motivates one person will not interest another, and vice versa. There is no universal answer to an employee's motivations; in fact, quite the opposite.

What Employee Motivation Looks Like

Motivated employees are incredibly involved, always up for a challenge, and take on projects. Their enthusiasm is infectious. They are excited about their work and offer ideas to improve processes and innovate. These employees drive the company forward, and are the lifeblood of a growing company.

Most people start out this way, with a new company or in a new position. They are excited for the possibilities the role offers and looking forward to the challenges, as well as, the for the future successes. This is especially true when they're part of a dedicated team that provides autonomy and support. In this environment, vested employees are encouraged to grow into new roles. And they are given the support and tools needed to develop professionally.

This is ideal. If these feelings of connection and purpose aren't fostered, and even more detrimentally, if the position lacks the autonomy needed or they see no path forward, their enthusiasm will begin to lessen - losing their motivation.

What It Doesn't

You should recognize if an employee's motivation has been lost. Unmotivated employees are psychologically unattached to the company and their work. They show up and do the work asked of them, but lack the energy and interest they once displayed. These employees will only perform the tasks that are requested, innovations or extra efforts are discarded as the job has become merely a means to an end. They have stopped offering suggestions, and seem to prefer being being told exactly what to do.

Although it may feel challenging to determine how to rectify this situation, in most cases approaching your unmotivated employee with sincere interest and compassion is enough to turn things around. If you miss the unmotivated stage, and things continue, you may find yourself with an actively disengaged employee. The actively disengaged employee has surpassed unhappiness and has turn resentful because they feel their needs are not met.

They are usually very vocal, not missing an opportunity to point out problems, or issues, but offer no solution. Their despair is obvious and can deeply affect other cohorts. Once this stage of unhappiness is reached, it would prove very challenging for management to correct this without a systemic and holistic approach.

People Crave Purpose

There have been some pretty significant changes in the workforce this year. 1 in 4 people have left their jobs, and there seems to be no sign of slowing. People are redefining their priorities regarding where they are spending most of their time and with whom. We've discussed in the past what matters most to employees in 2021, with autonomy, engagement with social issues, and an emphasis on wellbeing as the most important aspects of interest.

Ultimately, employees want to feel that their work is purposeful and that it has meaning. It must mean something to someone. This is what drives employee engagement, and when coupled with a manager who can coach an employee to their next step, the result is an invested employee.

Keep in mind that the manager alone accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement. The one bad apple theory can absolutely be applied here. A manager incapable of fostering purpose or being unable to connect with the employees in a meaningful way can have a detrimental effect on the team.

It is a recipe for disaster when leadership fails to convey vision and inspiration to their team and instead leads with command and control. For the majority of employees (93%), it's essential to have trust in their direct boss to feel satisfied at work. So much so that more than half would decline a 10% raise to remain with a great boss because it is worth it – personally and professionally.

The Benefits of Motivated Employees

The benefits that result from having motivated employees are endless. But the most important ones to note are that motivated employees show up, are happy to be there, and stay. Absenteeism is decreased by 41% when employees are motivated, and 87% are less likely to resign.

Considering the cost of replacing an employee, which can equate to one-half to two-times the employee's salary, and the knowledge-base that is lost to the company, it could be argued the cost is immeasurable. Companies with motivated employees experience an increase of 38%  in productivity, generating up to 27% higher revenues. The numbers speak for themselves. It will only benefit a company to invest in and foster their employee's motivations – leaving it to chance can have devastating results.

What Can You Do?

This can feel overwhelming, the responsibility for the contentment of others will always feel like an impossible task, but it doesn't have to be. The easiest way to determine an employee's actual motivational status is through watching and listening. Do you have a stellar employee who isn't quite as enthusiastic as they once were or has gone quiet? It would behoove you to check in to determine the cause and develop a plan to mitigate any damage.

If damage has been done, don't worry – it is not too late, 52% of employees giving their notice express their manager or company could have extended efforts which could have prevented them from leaving. You may not believe that just paying attention could have a significant effect, but consider that employees who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to perform at their best.

Employees feel empowered when they can speak freely about their successes and struggles. It also helps to build the trust that was discussed earlier and proves infinitely essential. As within any other aspect of life, people crave to be seen and heard – the work sphere is no different. Empowering your employees with your trust will give them the confidence to do their jobs amazingly – and you will win their trust and respect in return.

Employee Motivations: Why They Matter - Infographic

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