Factors of Motivation: Understanding What Motivates Employees

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 1, 2022 | Published January 13, 2021

Updated June 1, 2022

Published January 13, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Related: Employee Motivational Speech: The Failproof Formula

In this video, Jenn, a certified career coach, will share a winning, 5-step strategy for connecting with your audience and motivating them to achieve the task at hand.

Factors of motivation are an important component of every business or organization. Knowing how to motivate employees ensures that the organization functions effectively and efficiently and that projects and deadlines are completed on time and accurately.

Motivation factors determine both negative and positive staff experiences, and knowing the proper motivation factors to use for yourself or your team can help increase overall employee productivity and satisfaction.

In this article, we explore what factors of motivation mean, 13 factors of motivation and three theories of motivation to consider implementing within your team.

What are factors of motivation?

Factors of motivation are strategies, incentives, recognitions and any other elements that increase an employee's overall motivation to perform their duties at work. You can implement several different factors of motivation within your team or for yourself to increase productivity and satisfaction.

However, because each person is different, it's important to first take time to better understand what motivates specific groups of employees. For example, some employees may be motivated by bonus incentives, while others may find motivation in the opportunity to gain more paid-time-off (PTO) days.

Motivation refers to the process that guides and maintains behaviors that help employees work towards a particular goal or effectively perform tasks. The most common types of motivation include:

  • Extrinsic motivation: This type of motivation refers to factors that are outside of the person, such as bonuses, social recognition and praise.

  • Intrinsic motivation: Intrinsic motivation is a type of motivation that occurs within the individual. For example, personal gratification and a feeling of accomplishment are two types of intrinsic motivations.

Related: The Best Ways To Motivate Your Team

13 factors of motivation

The following are several factors to consider to keep both you and your team motivated:

1. Leadership style

Supervisors, managers and other leaders within a company play a significant role in their employees' motivation. The appropriate leadership styles encourage employees to develop objectives and goals in their positions, work towards those goals and help employees maintain that motivation throughout the course of their time at the organization.

To be effective, leaders must determine the best leadership styles for each type of employee, as not all employees respond well to all leadership styles.

The most common leadership styles include:

  • Autocratic

  • Democratic

  • Coaching

  • Authoritative

  • Affiliative

  • Laissez-faire

  • Transformational

  • Servant

Understanding these styles and catering your leadership style to your team's needs ensures you effectively motivate them in the workplace. You can also let your manager know the type of leadership style that best motivates you to help them be a better leader and keep you motivated.

2. Recognition and appreciation

Appreciation and recognition are two important components of motivation within an organization. Offering recognition and praise not only makes employees feel accomplished and appreciated, but it also reinforces good performance and encourages employees to continue repeating the actions that led to the performance. The more employee behavior is positively recognized, the more likely they are to repeat these behaviors and remain motivated in the workplace.

3. Meaning and purpose

Employees who find a sense of meaning and purpose in their work often have higher levels of motivation than those who don't. Employees want to know that what they do is actually contributing to the organization's success and that their duties and accomplishments support the company's overall growth.

It's helpful to ensure you understand how your role plays an integral part in your company's processes and success and that your work has meaning beyond simply completing tasks on time to earn a paycheck.

4. Positive company culture

A company's culture can greatly impact employee motivation in the workplace. Many employees feel more valued and enjoy their work more when there is a strong company culture that supports employees and brings them together on a regular basis.

Areas to focus on when increasing the positivity of company or team culture include the wellbeing of employees, inclusion and equality among employees and compassion towards employees. You can also contribute positively as an employee and get more involved with your company's culture to keep yourself motivated.

5. Professional development opportunities

Employees often feel more motivated at work when there are ample opportunities for growth and professional development. Giving employees opportunities to increase their skills and become more efficient in their positions instills a sense of accomplishment and pride that acts as a strong motivator for employees. Plus, offering employees the chance to hone their skills can ultimately impact an organization's overall success, making it a win-win situation for all involved.

6. Job advancement opportunities

Another way in which employees become more motivated in the workplace is when a clear path of job advancement is emphasized. Employees who feel that they are stuck in one position and have no opportunity to grow within a company are more likely to become burnt out and look for other job opportunities.

Ensuring employees understand a clear plan of progression within their position in the workplace can instill motivation to work towards a promotion, which can ultimately increase employee productivity. If you're unsure whether you have opportunities to advance, speak with your manager and inquire about what's available to you.

Related: 11 Ways To Achieve Career Advancement

7. Financial benefits

While financial benefits aren't a motivator for all employees, they can enhance many employees' overall motivation in the workplace. Putting in place different opportunities for employees to enjoy financial benefits for hard work is a great way to boost motivation and give employees a sense of accomplishment and appreciation. Examples of financial motivators include bonuses, raises, promotions, competitive benefits packages and additional paid time off.

8. Flexible work schedules

Offering employees the opportunity to create their own schedules or work flexible hours is another great way to instill motivation in your team. Flexible schedules allow employees to better accommodate family needs, holidays and other personal daily responsibilities that more rigid schedules often don't.

For example, some employees work better in the mornings, while others do their best work in the afternoons or evenings. Giving them the option to choose their schedules allows employees to set up their workday in a way that is conducive to their preferences and needs and can keep employees motivated to accomplish their daily work goals.

9. Pride

Most employees want to feel proud of the work they complete and themselves as members of an organization. Team leaders can create a work environment that offers employees opportunities to feel proud of their work on a regular basis, which can ultimately promote increased motivation and productivity.

10. Open communication

When employees feel that they can openly communicate with other employees and management, they are often more motivated in the workplace. Feeling closed off from others can lead to feelings of isolation and leave employees questioning if management cares about their success.

Ensuring there is an open line of communication among employees of all levels can help alleviate issues quickly, encourage employees to communicate when they're experiencing challenges and keep employees motivated by fostering a sense of connection.

11. Staying up-to-date on company matters

Keeping employees up-to-date on the latest company matters ensures that they feel part of something larger than just their day-to-day job. Rather than simply going to work to receive a paycheck, employees who feel connected to their organization are more likely to enjoy their work and feel a sense of motivation in supporting the organization's success.

Taking time each week or month to inform team members of the organization's latest information is a great way to keep everyone up-to-date and ensure employees are engaged within the workplace.

12. Job security

Employees are often more motivated when they know they have job security with a company. It's important to regularly inform team members of their job security and to know that they are a valuable asset to the company.

13. A positive work environment

Similar to a positive work culture, a positive work environment can also increase employee motivation. Work environment refers to both physical and non-physical factors that directly impact the environment of the workplace.

Creating open spaces that entice the senses, implementing specific areas of the workplace that are committed to the wellbeing of employees and allowing employees to communicate with each other throughout the day can all work to increase motivation in a team.

Related: 35 Examples of Motivation in the Workplace

Three theories of motivation

The following are a few of the most well-known theories of motivation that can be implemented in the workplace:

1. Hertzberg's two-factor theory

Frederick Hertzberg designed a theory regarding employee satisfaction that focuses on two primary factors: motivation and hygiene. Hygiene factors are considered to decrease employee motivation and include issues such as working conditions, administrative and company policies, status, security, salary, interpersonal relationships and supervision. When employees feel dissatisfied in any of these areas, employee motivation typically decreases.

Motivation factors included in Hertzberg's theory include the work itself, growth, recognition, advancement, achievement and responsibility. When employees feel a sense of satisfaction and inclusion in all or most of these areas, their motivation is likely to increase.

2. McClelland's theory of needs

Another well-known theory that centers on employee motivation is McClelland's theory of needs. According to David McClelland, every individual experiences one of three primary driving motivators. These motivators include the need for achievement, the need for power or the need for affiliation. Understanding which team members respond to which motivators is key when implementing this theory.

Common characteristics of individuals in each motivator category include:

  • Affiliation: Individuals who want to be part of a group and liked by others, prefer collaboration over competition or independent work and don't enjoy uncertainty or high risk are often motivated by affiliation factors.

  • Achievement: Individuals who have a strong drive to set and accomplish goals, enjoy working alone, are willing to take calculated risks and want to receive regular feedback on their accomplishments and progress are often motivated by achievement in the workplace.

  • Power: Individuals who prefer to influence and oversee others, enjoy competition, status and recognition and like to win arguments are often motivated by power in the workplace.

3. Vroom's theory of expectancy

Vroom's theory of expectancy, sometimes referred to as expectancy theory, is based on the separation of performance, effort and outcomes. This theory assumes that employee behavior comes from conscious choices made in the pursuit of minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure. Vroom emphasized the importance of individual factors that influence motivation, such as skills, personality, experience and abilities. He used three variables to account for an individual's motivation, which include:

Expectancy

This refers to the concept that increasing the effort put forth during a task will increase the overall performance. Expectancy is influenced by an employee's access to resources, skill set and support to complete the job. For example, a person believes that the more effort they put into their work, the more support they receive from others to continue excelling in their work.

Instrumentality

This variable refers to the idea that the intended outcome will be achieved if a person performs better. Instrumentality is affected by whether the individual has a good understanding of how performance impacts outcome, trust in management and transparency when it comes to management deciding who achieves a certain outcome. For example, a person believes that recycling more often at work leads to fewer overall resources being used by the organization.

Valence

This variable is the perceived value the employee places on the outcome of their work. For valence to be effective, the employee should be motivated to achieve an outcome and be able to understand its importance. For example, a writer might not be motivated to write an article that won't be read by many people but may prioritize an article that millions of people would read.

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