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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

More than money needed to keep employees engaged

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My favorite motivational quote is by Rob Siltanen: “People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

I have always considered myself a change agent trying to change my corner of the world. My grandparents were the best, and none of the five (one of my grandmothers was married twice) ever finished high school. This has motivated me from an early age to always strive to do my best — in school and in life — to make a difference in the world. I feel if each one of us is motivated to change our own corners of the world, the world will be a better place for everyone.

Similarly, organizations seek to motivate their employees. When you think about it, motivation involves a number of forces: energy, desire, intensity and effort — all leading someone to do something. You may have the misconception that people in the workplace are motivated only by rewards or money. Actually, most of us are motivated by a number of things. 

According to the value-percept theory of job satisfaction, we are motivated by the work we do, whether or not we are satisfied with the people we work with, the supervisor we report to, opportunities for promotion, and the pay we receive. Further self-motivation comes from developing our own skills and knowledge and being able to apply them to better enhance the work we do.

As a college professor in the Kelley School of Business on the IUPUI campus, I teach a class about organizational behavior, a field of study devoted to understanding, explaining and improving attitudes and behaviors within organizations. This field of study definitely includes motivation in the workplace.

Motivation can be divided into two categories: intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic (inherent or from within one’s self) motivation is felt when we perform a task and do it well. We create our own reward through personal satisfaction. Extrinsic (comes from an outside source) motivation is prompted by external rewards, such as money and praise.

Motivation in the workplace can help employees become more engaged (not only within the organization, but also in their communities), because motivated employees become more responsible and are more accountable for their actions.

According to Globoforce, a leading employee recognition provider, here are five ways to motivate your employees:

• Have a set of company values that permeate the company. People want to feel connected to their companies, and feeling a bond with the values of the company is one of the essential ways of creating that connection.

• Have some kind of company culture. Company culture can be a primary driver of engagement. While culture can’t be built by edict from on high, smart companies are deliberate about cultivating it.

• Employees want to feel that managers care about them as professionals and as people. They want to have the belief that their managers want them to succeed. That’s why insisting that managers show employees they care about them is essential.

• The holy grail of engagement is when the entire organization is empowered and encouraged to recognize one another’s achievements.  This kind of environment blankets the organization in positivity, it broadcasts the daily achievements of the company and it creates a pattern of something organization psychologists refer to as “pro-social” behavior, which essentially means colleagues are actively looking for ways to help one another.

• It’s no secret that many companies lure the best talent by giving them equity in their companies. That kind of skin in the game gives these employees extra motivation to do what is necessary for the company to achieve financial success. It reinforces the company’s core values and allows and encourages everyone to be the keepers of company culture.

In everyday life, motivation is a source for inspiration that moves you to accomplish something. (Think of those New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier and exercise more.) I am motivated by my family, my friends and my faith. They motivate me every day to achieve my goals and to always help others do the same.

As you go forward this week, I leave you with this motivational quote by Brian Jett: “Once you realize how valuable you are, you will find it hard to keep the company of those who do not.”


Darrell Brown, Ph.D., is a clinical associate professor of management and director of diversity at Indiana University Kelley School of Business Indianapolis.

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