Merge's Blog

Employee motivation starts with meeting their needs

My professional colleague and friend Steve Foran is on a mission to help one billion people become happier.  And he’s well on his way!  He does this through a variety of avenues, but primarily through his research and teaching on gratitude and the habits of gratefulness.  Earlier this year, in May, he invited me to articulate once a day for five days, three reasons I was grateful (so a total of fifteen).  It was a rewarding exercise, one that forced me to be thoughtful and deliberate.  Since gratitude is an essential component of leadership and employee motivation, I asked him if he would be a guest contributor on our blog.  He said yes!  So in today’s post, Steve talks specifically about two needs you must meet for your employees in order for them to be highly-motivated.

There are two foundational needs that must be met in order that an employee be fully engaged in their work. It is not simply enough that leaders know these needs, but they must actively ensure these basic human needs are fulfilled.

The motivation for people to contribute their best-selves happens when the following two needs are met:

  1. One feels capable and competent
  2. One feels socially valued

While some might argue that each person has 100% control to meet these needs on their own, unfortunately this is not commonplace. Therefore, as a leader, you want to be on the constant lookout for ways to help your people have their needs met.

Employee motivation comes from feeling capable and competent

This principle was taught when I was in business school. People need to feel confident that they have the skills and ability to do a job or task. If they doubt this, they are unlikely to perform. For you, this means that your conversations with people should highlight their skills and talents. Some examples include:

  • How did you develop such a fine attention to detail? The way you resolved the customer complaint was impressive.
  • I watched you bring on that new customer and you are masterful in the way you negotiate the many relationships in a complex account.
  • Last week was clear evidence that you work well under pressure. I know it can be stressful but hope you don’t mind if I rely on you when we find ourselves in a similar situation again.
Employee motivation comes from feeling socially valued

This principle was not taught when I studied business. People need to know that other people care about them as a human being irrespective of any value they contribute to the organization (and at work, the most important person they feel this from is their supervisor). A few examples of ways you can express this in your communication are:

  • I trust you.
  • I like how I always feel better after we talk – and other people say the same about you.
  • Your laugh is contagious.

The implications

High-performers and low-performers alike have the need to feel socially valued so:

  1. While managing someone with low-performance make sure you appreciate them as a human
  2. Make sure you appreciate your high-performers as a human being and not just for the value they bring to the organization

Steve Foran is a believer in Grateful Leadership and can be found at www.gratitudeatwork.caPlease, tell us what you think about what Steve has to say.  What have been your experiences when it comes to foundations of employee motivation?  Please share your perspectives by adding a Comment below.

If you’re looking for more specific ideas on employee motivation, we have an entire series (33 in fact!) of short video tips on how to motivate employees.  Each tip is one single practical idea that you can use to inspire your people to higher performance.

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