Identify your staff’s motivating factors

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"What’s in it for me?" This common phrase exemplifies the reality of how people are primarily focused on the things that matter most to them. This is well depicted in the story of a young car salesman who enthusiastically shared with his 75-year-old female prospect the feature of how the new model SUV’s spare tire bin was designed to double as a beer cooler; perfect for tailgating!

It is human nature to try to motivate another person from the same basis as one’s own perspective. However, being motivated is an internal effort and therefore arguably cannot be instilled in someone else; rather, it must be self-induced. A well-known athletic apparel company’s logo simplifies the act of “just doing it” and this would be a whole different world if everyone just did. Unfortunately, when it comes to managing employees, motivation is not a one-size-fits-all concept.

Different people are motivated for different reasons both personally and professionally. Particularly where employer/employee interactions are concerned, understanding an associate’s individual motivating factor can enhance coaching opportunities and improve productivity while reducing turnover. Five common motivation factors are:

1. Compensation. “Show me the money!” This phrase is often heard at casinos around the world, but is also often the mindset of an employee that has a purely financial perspective on employment opportunities. This is especially common amongst people in commission-based positions. A professional that is motivated by money is less concerned about title, perks or even recognition. Instead, they operate from a ‘put it in my paycheck’ mentality. Their philosophy is that if they can’t cash it, it has no real value. This employee is usually self-motivated and as a result, often does not need a lot of coaxing to perform. They respond best to cash reward-based spiffs and bonuses which can be offered as additional incentives.  

2. Advancement. A 26-year-old college graduate was convinced that he was making the right decision to turn down a position with a well-established corporation offering him a salary $15,000/year more than the start-up venture group that was also interested in him. His decision was based on his theory that it’s not just about the money. His desire to learn and grow in his new position with the start-up outweighed the income potential of the corporation. An employee that is motivated in this way genuinely thrives on the concept of moving up the corporate ladder. Offering constant reinforcement of advancement opportunities and highlighting examples of internal promotions are excellent ways to maintain a high level of motivation for this associate.

3. Recognition. From The Grammy’s to The Emmy’s and from horseracing to reality TV shows, our culture has trained us to focus on first place. Is it the sense of accomplishment or the bragging rights? Perhaps a little of both!  Most contenders just aren’t as excited about the silver medal or being the runner-up. Sadly in fact, second place has been referred to as “the first loser.” Despite society’s perspective, for some people, simply receiving accolades for the effort of a job well done at any level is their motivating factor. Recognition builds self-esteem and confidence while setting a positive example for others. In the workplace, a photo on a wall, a designated parking spot or a shout out at the department meeting can mean more than a bonus to the employee motivated by recognition and usually doesn’t impact the company budget. 

4. Security. The well-known definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. On the other hand, doing the same responsibilities over and over with a consistent result is considered job security. There’s an old joke about a 40-year-veteran accountant who would start every day by looking in his top right-hand desk drawer. After his retirement, his associates were anxious to see just what it was that he peaked at daily. Upon looking, they found an old index card that read: “credits on the left...debits on the right.” In the case of the security seeking employee, minimal change implies safety and increases motivation. When assured often that their position is valuable and necessary for the long term vision of the company; it reinforces a comfort level and encourages maximum effort.      

5. Personal Satisfaction. If the dream is big enough the facts don’t count. An aspiration, a personal objective or a self-established goal is the greatest encouragement to the employee that is more motivated by personal satisfaction than money, advancement, recognition or security. It is common for this employee to be willing to commit to activities that are beyond the call of duty in an effort to move closer to fruition of their own desire and not for any “at-a-boys” from the boss. In coaching this team member, gain a respectful understanding of their personal agenda and offer support to focus on what is necessary to accomplish those individual objectives which will simultaneously attain professional goals.

Identifying one’s own motivating factor can be the trigger to hitting a goal. Recognizing what motivates others will have a positive impact on the process of building good relationships both at the office and at home.

Diane Ciotta is the founder of The Keynote Effect, where she presents a passionate message of accountability and encourages activities to conquer complacency. As a professional speaker with more than 20 years of sales training experience, she is also co-author of the book, “Pushing to the Front,” with Brian Tracy. For more information, visit, e-mail or call (732) 672-7942.

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