Building a Culture that Drives Employee Motivation

There are two fundamental ways to encourage high employee motivation. One is creating rewards-based programs, which introduce incentives for hard work. The other is fostering a strong organizational culture that intrinsically motivates employees. From a management perspective, the best results arise from a combination of the two.

Boosting motivation through rewards.

In his paper “The Motivational Benefits of Goal-Setting,” Dr. Gary Latham of the University of Toronto describes the positive effects of enacting challenging, yet attainable organizational objectives.

He analyzed research conducted by the American Pulpwood Association, which searched for ways to motivate independent loggers. In one experiment, managers set a “specific high goal, gave out tally meters to enable people to keep count of the number of trees that they cut down, and then stood back and watched.” Productivity immediately increased, employees began bragging about their logging skills to one another, and employee attendance soared. Setting high goals created a psychological reward system, which allowed employees to derive greater meaning from their work.

Likewise, performance bonuses can increase employee motivation by adding a highly tangible rewards-based incentive.

However, rewards-based motivation has many pitfalls. For one, employers can become abusive with setting quotas. Amazon, for instance, is infamous for setting expectations such that warehouse employees cannot take bathroom breaks for fear of missing their quotas. Additionally, Wells Fargo’s recent scandal largely resulted from a poorly-construed bonus incentive program. Employees earned bonuses based on opening new accounts—which, of course, resulted in employees creating countless fake accounts.

Ultimately, tying rewards-based programs to a strong organizational culture prevents fraud and maximizes employee motivation.

Intrinsic motivation through culture.

A strong organizational culture—marked by positive underlying values and norms—is critical for employee motivation and overall success. In a survey of business owners by The Alternative Board (TAB), 86% of respondents say that they “believe company culture directly impacts productivity.”

A potent organizational culture is marked by employees who know the company’s mission and how they contribute to it. Therefore, the culture itself provides a rewards-based psychological motivator for workers. Like office employees, deskless workers desire inclusion, feelings of accomplishment, and a connection to something greater than themselves. Gathering employee feedback, recognizing employees for their contributions, and similar practices succeed in linking workers to the firm’s overarching vision.

Bonuses tied to the underlying values of a positive organizational culture are highly effective. Take, for example, Whole Foods before its acquisition by Amazon. To maintain the firm’s emphasis on teamwork, Whole Foods provided shared bonuses to teams if profits and customer engagement increased from one month to another. The end results were excellent employee motivation and an extremely high worker retention rate.

In short, motivating employees rests on two goals: building and maintaining a strong organizational culture, then providing rewards and incentives that reinforce it.

Learn how Qlicket can help you communicate your company’s mission to frontline employees.

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