Fueling Employee Motivation Might Come from An Unlikely Source

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Employee motivation is a vital component of any organization. It is the drive that pushes people to give their best, building a culture of high performance and productivity. Often, we turn to conventional sources for fueling this drive, such as financial incentives or promotion opportunities. But what if the real power to motivate lies somewhere less obvious, somewhere we least expect?

In this guide, you will find how true motivation comes from unlikely sources beyond traditional incentives. These novel approaches may offer fresh ways to inspire your workforce and reinvent your company’s dynamics.

What Is Employee Motivation?

Employee motivation is the energy, commitment and creativity employees apply to their work. It is their inner drive to achieve their goals and perform at their best. It’s more than just working hard — it is about finding purpose and fulfillment in what they do. 

Traditionally, companies rely on extrinsic motivators to encourage employees. These often include monetary benefits such as pay raises, bonuses and profit sharing. On the other hand, non-monetary incentives like promotions, recognition and job security play a vital role. The basics of these strategies are to provide a direct reward for the employee’s efforts or achievements. 

Although traditional methods have some effectiveness, they also have limitations. Firstly, extrinsic rewards can create a culture of competition rather than collaboration as employees vie for limited prizes. Secondly, they may foster a short-term focus on bonuses instead of long-term engagement and satisfaction.

Lastly, these motivators often avoid addressing the deep-rooted desire for purpose and meaning at work. Overemphasis on rewards may even diminish intrinsic motivation — the self-driven willingness to perform well.

In this context, it becomes essential to think beyond the conventional. Here is an exploration of how you can tap into unconventional sources to fuel sustainable motivation. 

Unconventional Employee Motivation Methods to Use

The potential for motivating employees extends far beyond the traditional reward-based systems. Unconventional motivational methods focus on tapping into the inherent motivation of employees, including the ones below.

The Power of Autonomy

Providing employees with a sense of control over their work is one effective method. Autonomy is less about a lack of structure or guidance but rather about empowering employees to make decisions and own their responsibilities. This can boost confidence, increase satisfaction and lead to greater investment in their work. 

The Pursuit of Mastery

Mastery, another key element, revolves around the opportunity for continuous learning and skill development. Encouraging a growth mindset where challenges are viewed as opportunities for learning can foster a culture of innovation and resilience.

The Call for Purpose

Next is the idea of purpose. Helping employees connect their work to a larger organizational mission or societal impact can provide a deeper meaning. This can lead to heightened commitment and passion in their work. 

The Need for Connection

Lastly, fostering genuine connections among employees can also be an impactful motivational strategy. This can be achievable through team-building activities, cross-departmental collaborations or mentorship programs. When employees feel part of a supportive community, their engagement and loyalty often increase. 

Why Unconventional Methods Work

Unconventional methods work because they address basic human needs and desires. When employees feel empowered, challenged, connected and purposeful, they are more likely to be engaged, productive and satisfied. Unlike extrinsic rewards, these innate motivators can fuel long-term motivation and foster fulfillment — transcending the immediate reward-achievement cycle.

It is important to remember that the effectiveness of these methods can vary depending on the individual and the work culture. Hence, organizations need to be open, adaptable and responsive in implementing these strategies. 

Applying Unconventional Employee Motivation Methods

Unconventional methods for employee motivation offer numerous possibilities for organizations. Dr. Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls Who Code, exemplifies these methods in action.

As a leader in closing the gender gap in technology, Barrett demonstrates the power of purpose in creating representative, inclusive and supportive environments. Despite assuming her role at the height of the pandemic, Barrett successfully united and engaged her team, offering insights into how leaders can effectively motivate their teams even in challenging periods.

Building upon Barrett’s example, here are some practical ways to implement motivation methods:

  • Foster flexibility and trust: Promote a flexible work environment that accommodates individual work styles. Implement trust-based management, where supervision is minimal, and you can trust employees to manage their tasks and time efficiently.
  • Encourage continuous learning: Establish continuous learning programs to encourage employees to develop new skills and competencies. These could include workshops, online courses and an organizational library.
  • Communicate the big picture: Ensure every employee understands the mission and vision of your organization. Regularly communicate how their roles contribute to the broader company goals and societal impact.
  • Build mentorship and team-building activities: Create mentorship programs, facilitate team-building exercises and encourage cross-departmental projects to build strong connections among employees.

Balancing Traditional and Unconventional Methods

While unconventional methods hold great potential, you should avoid completely replacing traditional methods. A balanced approach works best. Financial incentives and career advancement opportunities remain crucial in retaining and motivating employees. The key is to supplement these with unconventional tactics to tap into the intrinsic motivation of employees. 

Customizing to Suit Your Needs

Every company is unique and what works for one may not work for another. Consider factors like company size, industry and culture when deciding which methods to adopt. For instance, a tech startup might benefit more from flexible work hours and continuous learning programs. On the other hand, a large corporation might focus more on team-building and cross-departmental collaborations.

Lastly, always be open to feedback and adjustments. Unconventional methods may require trial and error to find what resonates best with your employees. Remember, the goal is to foster a motivated and engaged workforce that thrives individually and collectively.

Charting New Horizons in Employee Motivation

Clearly, venturing beyond traditional employee motivational strategies offers a wealth of untapped potential. Exploring unconventional methods can lead to a more engaged and fulfilled workforce. However, companies should innovate and tailor their approaches to meet their unique needs.

Remember, the journey to enhanced employee motivation may lie in the unexpected. Have confidence in experimentation and explore which strategies truly work for your business.

Eleanor Hecks is the founder and managing editor of Designerly Magazine. She’s also a web design consultant with a focus on customer experience and user interface. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dogs, Bear and Lucy. Connect with her about marketing, design and/or tea on LinkedIn.