Want to Motivate Employees? Change Your Culture

Want to Motivate Employees? Change Your Culture

Motivation is an extraordinarily complex topic; it encompasses everything that makes us do anything. In our last discussion of motivation, we touched on how it comes in two forms: internal (from self-satisfaction) and instrumental (as a means to an end). Behavioural psychologists have studied the mystery of motivation at length; their discussions have lead to a wide variety of conclusions you can implement into your organization’s culture.

Instrumental motivation is not as powerful as you might think; in fact, when people’s motivation is instrumental, it can actually hinder their performance, even if they have internal reasons for behaving in a particular way. That means cash incentives for performing a particular task might actually lower productivity – a confusing thought for those in commission based work.

In another sense, though, it makes a lot of sense: do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, or so the saying goes. When we look at what we do as a means to an end, instead of an end in and of itself, it can be easy to feel like we’re labouring, always working towards some unattainable goal. Will we ever have enough money, enough resources to be satisfied? Will working towards that year-end bonus really drive us to enjoy our work? These things might help motivate some people, but the change has to come from inside; you need to enjoy what you do, and work becomes an end unto itself.

How do you create this shift in your workplace culture? The task seems daunting sometimes, but there are a variety of activities that can help. Team-building activities are often flaunted as a way of bringing up spirits, and that’s true; try to encourage positive dialogue among members of your organization. You might start every week with a discussion about what’s been positive in every person’s life, or what in particular they found enjoyable about their work in the last week. You might ask organization members to compliment each other, or to speak with pride about their accomplishments within the organization. What you’re aiming to create is a cultural shift, where individuals talk about why they enjoy their work. The more other people are talking about how work fulfills them, the more it becomes reality, even for those who don’t feel the same way at first. When your culture talks about how much they love food and money, those will be the expected norms; when they talk about how much they love work, you have a totally new paradigm on your hands.

A great way of creating this shift is hiring motivational speakers. While each one is wildly different, you’ll find one commonality among almost all motivational speakers – that they got to where they are by following their hearts and doing what made them feel fulfilled; in other words, their accomplishments came from intrinsic motivations. When members of your organization begin to think along the same lines, they’ll encourage each other to follow their hearts and their dreams; if you’ve hired the right team, those dreams can be found through the work they do in your organization.