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'Money Doesn't Fuel Employee Engagement. Motivators Do.' from Your Talent@Work with Shawn Kent Hayashi

Money Doesn't Fuel Employee Engagement. Motivators Do.

Posted: Oct 2, 2014

Do you know what drives you? Do you know what drives your employees? Many people don’t understand the impact that motivators can have on work performance. Yet it’s one of the main themes we emphasize in Lehigh’s MBA program orientation.

You can be smart and talented, possess valued skills, and have years of experience, but if your motivators are not aligned with the role you're in or the kind of work you're doing, you won’t excel. It is hard to be a star performer when your core motivators are not engaged in the work.

Let me give you an example.

When her husband took a new position that required relocating to a different city, Jenny had to give up her teaching job. She worked in an urban high school with urban problems--a difficult challenge-- but was recognized by staff and students as one of the best teachers on the faculty. This did not surprise me because I knew Jenny’s top 2 motivators were social and theoretical, which basically means that she loved helping people and was passionate about learning.

Jenny wasn’t able to find a teaching job in the city where she moved, so she decided to try something new. She took a position as an administrative assistant at an advertising agency. Now Jenny found herself in a work environment where people focused on making money and cultivating status. While these can be important motivators for some people, they were not things that Jenny valued.  In addition, Jenny’s new role did not include opportunities to learn; nor did it involve making an impact on other people’s lives.

Needless to say, Jenny was miserable and, not surprisingly, she was not that effective in her role. A star performing teacher turned into a lackluster administrative assistant. Why? Jenny’s top two motivators weren’t engaged.

There are 2 important lessons in this story:

If Jenny had understood her own motivators, she would have known to look for work that connected with her passions--with the values that drive her.

If Jenny’s boss had understood Jenny’s motivators, he could have assigned research-based projects or shared information about the agency’s work on social awareness campaigns.  Leaders who understand motivators can fuel engagement by matching employees with tasks they are hard-wired to love.

Do you know what drives you?

Maybe you do, which explains why you absolutely love the work you do. In fact, it doesn’t feel like work at all. You’re excited for Monday morning, lose track of the time during the day, and often hear people telling you to go home at 6 pm. Sure, there may be some things about your job that you don’t like, but for the most part you feel energized, engaged and deeply fulfilled by what you’re doing.

If this doesn’t describe you, resolve to learn more about your own motivators and those that drive others. The sooner you grasp the importance of aligning the 6 different motivators with the right kind of work, the sooner you will find your own path to star performance and the more likely you are to create a high performing team.

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