Motivation Formula

Every single one of us wants motivation for their own benefit. Some for the company’s benefit.

Beyond the responsibilities listed in job descriptions and ominous KPIs which are great predictors of standard performance employees and managers alike would relish the bliss of motivation.  Some wanting to expand their career limits and personal satisfaction; others knowing that motivation will bring more profit in so many ways.

As there is no more doubt about the correlation between motivation and financial results more and more companies envisage and implement motivation systems.  With compensation linked to performance or seniority-based advancement, with training opportunities and promises for career development, with team building drills and awards for best performers.  Every company states its motivation to get people motivated – as testified by posters depicting corporate values.

When classical systems began to fail in satisfying the wants of shareholders, some companies went for even more sophisticated formulas to calculate individual performance and subsequent bonus.  New variables came into the play: multi-annual and peer reviews, optional (but expected) involvement in additional tasks, project-based success bonus, and incremental access to more expensive and elitist courses.  Human resources departments came under cross-fire to come up with alluring incentives without breaking the wallet.  Calculating the financial incentives became such a complex exercise it needed to be managed by specialized software.  Training more and more people on ever more sophisticated and attractive topics became a huge task to balance top-down requirements with budget restraints.

But then a new idea became popular: the employee satisfaction survey which proved to be a cold statistics shower for overheated efforts to ensure everybody is always motivated.  In most cases the results proved to be disappointing if not downright catastrophic.  The matter became so serious (there was no adequate return on this massive investment) that sociologists and psychologists were asked for research-based guidance.

Theories on motivation started to emerge trying their very best to crack this enigma about ‘what makes the people tick’.  The researchers began by defining motivation factors in correlation with employee variables such as age, gender, economic status, education level, and so forth.  The conclusions have not been easily digested by companies who dedicate a vast majority of their focus on hard business facts and not so much on designing and implementing complex ‘soft’ systems.

The reason?  Research has confirmed what common sense would have shouted if not muffled by complex incentive schemes.  Each person has specific and variable aspirations, level of comfort, objectives, and behaviors.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” formula.  Instead of investing in mathematical motivation formulas, companies would better spend time talking with people, ascertaining what drives them and then designing a personalized, balanced, and reasonable manner to provide employees with their own set of motivators.
motivation drug

The good news is that this presumably time-intensive approach is already a motivator in itself as it will prove the genuine interest of the company in the customized well being of its employees – instead of offering them generic drugs for motivation.  The bad news is that motivators are not always within the company’s reach (for instance flat organizations cannot provide ambitious promotions) thus leaving each individual to decide how and where his/her own motivation may be rekindled.