The motivation of kind words

'Motivation' is a tricky topic, mostly because we are all motivated differently. For example, we know that money isn't the only way to improve employee engagement and that giving people extra money can actually harm morale. The reason for this is that by giving someone money in direct response for work done suggests that there is a clear monetary value to be placed on their efforts and that you have rewarded them accurately. Obviously, this leaves more than a little room for disagreement, especially in terms of bonuses. 

On top of that, the next time you aim to financially reimburse someone for their hard work, they will ask themselves, 'how much do I get this time?'. Or maybe even worse 'is this extra work really worth the money?'. 

The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.
— Dan Pink, Drive

So if money isn't the only thing people are looking for, what else is there? 

'Autonomy' is crucial - people love to have influence and control over their work and to make decisions about its progress. Taking this away essentially means that they become worker ants, with no input into their labour. I know. I know. I know. If you're a manager and reading this, you're worried that they will make mistakes. But don't worry, they will make mistakes, and that's how they'll learn. Other ways to boost engagement using autonomy is to let employees design their workspace and even create their own KPIs. This will also help to foster trust amongst the team. 

'Significance' is paramount - employees need to feel like they are important and that their work matters, even if this can be difficult to administer depending on the type of work. Other ways to bestow the feeling of importance include: allowing staff members to present their work to their teammates, verbally recognising good work, and writing personal 'thank you' notes. Please don't be a manager who only criticises mistakes made, but never recognises successes and progress.

'Support' comes up again and again in my individual sessions with many clients telling me they don't feel supported by managers or the company. This can come in the form of regular meetings, mentorship and accountability. Remember that support and accountability are different sides to the same coin, so they shouldn't be seen as separate entities. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you picked up some nuggets of information. Check out Dan Pink and Tony Robbins on TED for more on motivation.