Following are three of the most common myths about motivation:
1. Money is the best motivator It seems business leaders in North America have never met a problem they didn’t think could be solved by throwing money at it. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, psychologists Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan argued “the more people are driven by a desire to be wealthy, the poorer their psychological health on a range of measures.” That same sentiment was echoed in a 2010 Monster.com survey, in which the top-rated item on would-be employees wish list (87%) was an employer “that truly cares about the well-being of its employees.” A challenging and fulfilling job was rated second, job security third, and an attractive benefits package was fourth followed by financial compensation.
2. The “carrot and stick” policy is the best motivation system The traditional framework and argument for this myth is essentially telling employees one of two things: “Do this and you’ll get paid well and maybe a bonus,” or “don’t do this, and you’ll get an unsatisfactory appraisal, demoted or fired.” Stephen P. Robbins, author of The Truth about Managing People, argues the system ignores the problem of how rewards will flow from performance appraisals; the assumption that good individual performance will lead to good organizational performance; and that not all employees want the same kind of rewards.
3. Happy workers are productive workers This theory often plays out as offering flexible work hours, onsite childcare and workout facilities, and generous benefits packages. While these are all excellent benefits, they aren’t incentives for high performance. The evidence suggests that productive workers who take great pride in and feel a strong sense of purpose in their work are more likely to be happy, rather than the reverse.
Despite the substantial amount of research that points to intrinsic factors having the most positive impact on employee motivation, managers continue to favour extrinsic motivation, particularly financial incentives as the preferable method of improving employee motivation, productivity and job satisfaction. It’s time that practice caught up with behavioural science.
Consider this: One McKinsey study noted that participants viewed three non-financial motivators – praise from immediate managers, leadership attention (for example, one-on-one conversations), and a chance to lead projects or task forces – as equal or more effective motivators than the three highest-rated financial incentives: cash bonuses, increased base pay, and stock or stock options. Those top three non-financial motivators play critical roles in whether employees believe their companies value them, take their well-being seriously and strive to create opportunities for career growth.
Author: Ray Williams is President of Ray Williams Associates, a company based in Vancouver, providing leadership and executive coaching services. He is also the author of Breaking Bad Habits and contributing author of the best seller, Ready, Aim, Influence. Posted with permission from Financial Post.