The pursuit of motivating staff forms a large part of the employer’s role, yet the nature of what exactly is involved in motivation is often misinterpreted by both employers and employees. Most of us have come across people who perform their jobs by doing as little as possible.

They are the latecomers and early leavers. They fail to keep deadlines and when it comes to completing a task, they do the minimum of what is expected of them. They are the kind that you will find in the tearoom most of the time and who will often make negative comments about their job.
We are also familiar with individuals who give 110 percent when undertaking any project. They are punctual and hardworking and they approach new projects with a positive attitude rather than complaints. Why is it that these two types of employee differ so much? The answer is motivation.
What is motivation?
Motivation is the psychological activity that causes somebody to act in the direction of a desired goal and it elicits, manages, and maintains distinct purposeful behaviour. It can be regarded as a psychological driving force which compels or strengthens an action towards a desired goal.
Why do people work?
There are several reasons why people work. People do not work just for the obvious reason which is to earn an income, but also because work plays an important role in the development of self-esteem and identity. In modern society the work that people do largely determines who and what they are; it determines their status in the community, where they live, with whom they associate, and who is associated with them. It is also an important factor that people use to judge each other and themselves. A wide range of human needs are met through work. The most important is the need for affiliation and a sense of competence, success, power, control, pride and status. A major challenge for business owners and managers is to know and understand the needs of their employees.
What motivates employees?
Motivation is certainly a commonly used concept, yet there are many different theories about it. For the purpose of this article we focus on the intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) methods of motivation for professionals in the workplace. There is a universal desire among top management to encourage and promote performance. Good performance comes from strong employee motivation. Managers cannot motivate employees, as motivation is an internal state, just like emotions and attitudes, and it can only be controlled and managed by the individual. But managers can create a work environment that will inspire and support strong motivation among employees.

  • Extrinsic methods are external to the task and are administered by someone other than the employee. An example is a manager who accords recognition to employees and can recommends an increase. Extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity in order to create outcomes; the activity can be intrinsically motivated.  Extrinsic motivation originates outside the individual. General extrinsic motivation usually comes in the form of rewards.
  • Intrinsic methods are directly related to the task and are controlled by the employee. An example is to feel pleased about the achievement of a deadline or to exceed set standards or goals. Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment derived from the task itself. It exists within the individual rather than as a response to external pressure or a desire to reap a reward. Individuals who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to voluntarily engage in a task. They will invest time to develop their skills in order to build and increase their abilities.

Motivated employees have a drive to succeed no matter what the project entails. Managers cannot motivate employees but they can create an inspiring environment that supports strong employee motivation. By taking these and other factors into consideration, management will be able to create an environment that encourages employees desire to succeed. Employees should also make a contribution by being open-minded and working with management to improve the work environment as well as their own performance.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.

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