Self-motivation in the workplace is one of the employee traits sought by most managers. Just take a quick review of help wanted ads and job descriptions and large majority include some mention of it. It’s also one of the most challenging qualities to define and prove.

Self-MotivationAnyone can say they possess this skill but many employees falter when asked to demonstrate it. In fact, many managers fumble when asked to describe what self-motivation in the workplace looks like. Typically nearly everyone fails to accurately assess whatever self-motivation is regardless of the definition. Managers and employees believe “they will know it when they see it.”   But even when they found it in one person, identifying it in others proves difficult. When it comes to managing and growing employee performance, such an arbitrary and subjective process is expensive, and exhausting.

But new research and awareness into motivation suggests self-motivation in the workplace plays a much big role in future performance. It suggests that companies need to be paying more attention to self-motivation as a predictor of future success than even raw talent.

So let’s take a step back and first attempt to agree on a definition about self-motivation.

Self-motivation is a key life skill. In its simplest form, it’s the force that drives you to do things. Self-motivation pushes us to achieve our goals, feel more fulfilled and improve overall quality of life.  People who are self-motivated tend to have more self-esteem and confidence, to be more inspired and passionate, and seek achievement and accomplishment.

Understanding and developing self-motivation helps you and others to take control of the most essential and productive aspects of life.

What employers want when they seek self-motivated employees is someone who can take charge and act on his own initiative. A self-motivated person will even go out of his way to get the job done in the best possible way. Self-motivated employees step up and rises to the occasion when needed.

The challenge for employers is how to assess this quality before a hire or promotion is made. Resumes and interviews tend to reveal past accomplishments but really do little to qualify if prior success was the result of self-motivation, circumstantial external rewards, or fortuitous circumstances. In other words, was past success the result of an individual trying to prove something to himself and others or the result of a pursuit of a particular reward? How much did the right environment and ample resources contribute to his success verses willpower, resilience, and unique skills?

In all the above situations, success is possible. You might even ask “who cares” how results are achieved if goals are met. Well, managers care…or at least should care. When a candidate gets hired or an employee receives a promotion, the company does not look to honor past accomplishments but pins their hopes on repeatable and future success. To accurately forecast future performance, managers need predictable ways to assess not only skills, but the effort and attitude a candidate will apply.

The challenge is that few people seem to have the self-motivation skills, willpower, and discipline to be simultaneously productive, effective, and efficient.  They need ample support, a desirable environment, and valued rewards to ignite the passion and drive required for success. When one or more of these factors is missing, the energy and/or effectiveness of the employee fall precipitously.

Because self-motivated employees possess what it takes to be productive, effective and efficient, they are a highly prized asset in any company and a driver of differentiation between competitors.

Which candidate would you choose to hire – the one with raw talent or the one with average skills and a lot of self-motivation? If you want self-motivated employees, how would you assess and measure self-motivation in the workplace? (Hint – SPS has the solution…the only solution for measuring the quantity and quality of motivation. Read more about our Quality of Motivation assessments here.)