Boost Employee Motivation by Improving Culture

Laura Moss

Manager of Content Marketing

10 minute read

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We all individually struggle with motivation sometimes, but when employee motivation is low across the board, your people aren’t the only ones who suffer.

So do your customers. And so does your bottom line. 😬

One of the biggest factors that influences employee motivation is the culture an organization fosters, so if you want to improve employee motivation, it’s a good idea to take a look at your workplace culture.

 

What is Employee Motivation?

Employee motivation is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the commitment, enthusiasm, creativity, and energy that an employee has for their job.

Why is employee motivation important? There are numerous reasons, but here are just a few of the benefits of a motivated workforce.

  • Higher productivity
  • Improved performance and better quality work
  • Employee retention
  • Lower levels of absenteeism
  • Better relations between workers and management
  • Fewer accidents and lower healthcare costs
  • Higher customer satisfaction
 

Employee Motivation and Why People Work

There are countless employee motivation models and theories that explain why people work — because the truth is there’s more behind it than just our desire for a paycheck.

The 4-Drive Theory of Employee Motivation, for example, states that we’re motivated by our desire to do the following:

  • Acquire & achieve (receive recognition, rewards, and promotions)
  • Bond & belong (feel accepted, respected, and valued by our peers)
  • Be challenged & comprehend (believe our job is worthwhile and feel stimulated by it)
  • Define & defend (feel aligned with the organization and proud to be part of it)

Although only a couple of these directly relate to culture, research shows that when it comes to improving employee motivation and performance, why we work determines how well we work. And culture is key.

According to Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, there are actually six reasons why people work

  • Play (because you enjoy it)
  • Purpose (because you value the outcome of your work)
  • Potential (because it aids in your identity)
  • Emotional pressure (because an external force, such as guilt or fear, threatens your identity)
  • Economic pressure (to be rewarded or avoid punishment)
  • Inertia (working “just because,” but motive seems removed from both your work and identity)

The first three motives typically improve employee performance, while the latter three hurt it. And studies show that the organizations that do the best job maximizing the former and minimizing the latter are those with the best company cultures.

You probably already have a good idea of which organizations those are since they consistently top lists of great places to work. We’re talking Google, Southwest Airlines, and Trader Joe’s, just to name a few.

 
 

And we can’t help but toot our own horn a bit since Comparably recently named EveryoneSocial one of the best companies to work for in Salt Lake City.

 

How Does Culture Impact Employee Motivation and Performance?

We know that motivated employees work harder and aid in profitability. After all, the statistics speak for themselves.

  • Highly engaged employees increase business profitability by 21%
  • Employees work 20% better when motivated.
  • Motivated employees are 87% less likely to resign.

But what is it about a healthy, positive company culture that actually aids in employee motivation?

  • It creates a psychologically safe workplace where people feel comfortable sharing ideas and opinions.
  • It encourages employees to do their best work because they trust that their contributions will be recognized and rewarded, so.
  • It fosters an environment of continuous learning because employees have access to resources, training, and educational opportunities.
  • Employees feel trusted, autonomous, and not micromanaged, inspiring engagement, productivity, and everyone’s best work.

In other words, workers feel truly empowered — and that’s key to employee motivation.

 

How Can You Improve Culture to Boost Employee Motivation?

According to Harvard research, the highest-performing company cultures are those that encourage play, purpose, and potential and minimize emotional and economic pressure and inertia. Doing so is known as creating total motivation, or ToMo.

But with so many factors affecting ToMo, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here’s what the experts say:

 

1. Design roles with play in mind.

A survey of thousands of employees revealed that rethinking how roles are designed can radically improve employee motivation, especially when it comes to giving employees freedom to play.

Just take a look: “How a role is designed can swing total motivation by 87 points,” write Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi in Harvard Business Review. “A badly designed role results in ToMo scores as low as almost -40, whereas a well designed role can result in a ToMo as high as almost 50. That’s huge, given that in many industries, the most-admired cultures tend to have 15 points higher ToMo than their peers.”

How can you invite more play into employees’ roles? Encourage them to experiment with new processes and ideas, allow them to use company time and resources to explore these, and invite them to be creative and express their personalities.

Southwest, for example, invites play into flight attendants’ daily tasks by encouraging them to have fun on the job. If you’ve ever flown Southwest, you’ve no doubt witnessed employees joking with passengers and even engaging in a bit of stand-up comedy while delivering safety announcements.

 

2. Ensure culture aligns with the company mission and values.

Employee motivation is higher in organizations where workers believe in company values and identity with the company’s mission.

So in addition to hiring people who truly fit with what your organization stands for, it’s also important to ensure that your company actually lives those values.

Many organizations don’t do this though. In fact, a Weber Shandwick survey found that only 19% of employees say their work experience actually matches what the company promotes on its website and social channels.

Reputation gaps like this actually hurt employee motivation — as well as employee satisfaction, retention, and recruitment.

 

3. Explain the ‘why’ behind work.

Employees want to understand the purpose behind their work, so give it to them — and don’t just say “because the CEO said so.”

Instead, highlight how a project or task is good for the team, the customer, or even the community.

People want to contribute to something they believe in, and they’ll work harder and better if they do — even if it doesn’t benefit them directly. So take the time to deliver that “why.”

A 2013 experiment illustrates this well. Researchers asked nearly 2,500 workers to analyze medical images and informed them that they’d be paid per image. One group was told their work would be discarded, while the other was told that they were looking for cancerous cells.

The group that ascribed meaning to their work, believing they were looking for tumors, spent more time on the task and performed better, earning 10% less than the other group.

 

4. Encourage employees to become influencers.

When employee advocacy is built into company culture, employee motivation skyrockets.

Why? Because when you provide your people with the tools and training they need to be influencers for the organization, they feel trusted and valued, and this drives employee motivation.

So make creating and sharing company content a core part of not only everyone’s role, but also company culture as a whole.

 

See How EveryoneSocial Aids in Employee Motivation

Ready to boost both employee motivation and improve company culture? Our platform does exactly that because it expertly taps into play, purpose, and potential.

Your people won’t use advocacy software unless they actually enjoy it — that’s why EveryoneSocial is designed to not only be easy to use, but also fun.

Plus, it allows employees to see the value they drive through their shares first hand, providing purpose. And it empowers them to build their personal brand, thereby growing their potential.

See for yourself how EveryoneSocial drives employee motivation by trying it for free today!


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