Employee Motivation: How to Assess “How” and “Why”

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Employee Motivation: How to Assess “How” and “Why”

Employee motivation is a term thrown about the workplace like you throw a Frisbee in the park on a sunny day. Sometimes you catch it just right. Other times … it seems to take off with a mind of its own. But before we can talk about how to motivate employees, we first must agree on what motivation really is.

Employee motivation is more than excitement

Some people equate employee motivation with high energy and enthusiasm. Others describe it as what keeps an employee focused and dedicated to a cause, even when faced with adversity. Oddly enough the most motivated employee might not be your super-star but the employee who “takes a licking, but keeps on ticking.” (For you Baby Boomers, you know what I’m talking about. For younger people, Google “Timex.”)

To understand how diverse the descriptions of motivation are all you need to do is compare Robin Williams, Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa, and Donald Trump in the same sentence. Almost everyone would agree that each of these people is or was highly motivated but their observable behaviors couldn’t be more different.

Consequently, it is a fatal mistake to assume that motivation can be detected by activity alone or that a single catalyst jumpstarts and energizes all people alike.

To understand motivation better, it is helpful to dissect the broad term of motivation into 3 elements: Strength, Style, and Source. Or let me put it another way:

• What is the intensity of the motivation?

• How is the motivation observed by others?

• What fuels the motivation?

Once we agree on the elements, the best approach toward employee motivation is actually quite simple and readily available to managers and individuals.

One commonly used assessment and another lesser known one provides a snapshot into how a person affirms his motivation as well as what drives the energy within him. The 2 instruments are the popular DISC and Business Values & Motivators (BVM). DISC and BVM work hand-in-hand. In its simplest form, DISC reveals HOW a motivation will be observed by others and BVM exposes the WHY behind the motive.

Measuring motivation

Many people are surprised to hear that DISC can be used to assess employee motivation. Typically used for interpersonal communication and team building, a DISC profile reveals more than just a communication style preference. It affirms how an individual prefers to approach work and interaction with others. But based on the way it is currently used, companies and consultants leave a rich source of information relating to employee motivation on the table.

For example, each of the four styles (D-I-S-C) represents 4 Ps. DISC then represents how energized an individual is when faced with solving Problems, influencing People, maintaining a steady Pace, and complying with existing Procedures. We are either energized or de-energized by each of the 4 styles. Together these preferences define our approach to work and interaction with people.

How we observe motivation

For those of us who seem to run most efficiently when solving problems, our style is “D,” which represents Direct or Dominant. The D style typically thrives on fixing things, taking charge, putting out fires. In comparison, the S style thrives on Steadiness, a sense of normalcy, and predictability. “Firefighting” de-energizes the “S” just as too much calm unnerves the “D” style. The “D” may even be motivated to find a problem to fix when none exist. You can see why it would be important for managers to understand how workers might respond positively to specific job tasks, roles, and responsibilities and how others might be de-motivated.

A second tool that helps managers understand what motivates employees is called Business Values and Motivators.

Why we do what we do

People innately work harder for what they value. The Business Values and Motivators measures how an individual values learning and solving problems, return on investment, creativity and uniqueness, bettering society and eliminating conflict, power and leadership, and focusing on a specific set of beliefs. When an employee values what he is doing, he is motivated. If the job and/or environment offers values different than the wants of the employee, motivation and engagement will evaporate quickly.

Motivation is and has been a magnet for many heated discussions. With a scarcity of talent bearing down on employers, it is crunch time for attracting more qualified workers and then retaining them. Hiring right and retention are both impossible without employee motivation. Objective motivation assessment thus far has been lacking. Surprisingly one part of the solution is sitting just a click away from management’s toolbox. Using readily available tools like DISC and BVM pays big dividends for companies when it comes to embracing employee motivation.

Contact us about DISC and Business Values & Motivators (BVM) today.

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