Motivation matters

01 March 2019

This article was featured in the March 2019 issue of the magazine.

Rob Boland, group director of product & client success at Reward Gateway, sets out what employees really want from their employers

It’s no secret that there are numerous benefits to a motivated workforce. In fact, in a recent survey we conducted on employee motivation, 42% of people said their mood was better when they were motivated and over a third said both their work quality and productivity increased. Just under a third, the equivalent of 9.3 million people in the UK, said their mental health was better when they were motivated. 

But motivation isn’t something that can be bought, begged or bribed. It can’t be forced upon us. Employers must create an environment where employees have opportunity to be motivated. 

Within our survey we dug deep into what motivates various employees. We looked at the differences between those who classed themselves as ‘extremely motivated’ and those as ‘not at all motivated’. This gave a sense of what motivates those employees who are living and breathing a company’s mission, purpose and values. 

In the UK, those who are not very motivated in their current job are most likely to say that they’re most motivated by their salary (41%). Those who class themselves as extremely motivated in their current job are most likely to say that they’re motivated by job satisfaction (52%), feeling respected (37%), having a purpose (37%), and good working relationships (37%) – money doesn’t come into it. 

In addition, 31% more of those employees who class themselves as extremely motivated say that they have a very good understanding of the business goals of their company compared to those who are not at all motivated.

The business case to create an environment for engagement and motivation is clear: motivated employees are happier, they work harder and understand the business goals companies are trying to achieve.

Motivation is a key part of employee engagement and an engaged workforce pays in dividends. Numerous studies have shown that companies with an engaged workforce outperform peers in stock market returns by over two times. In today’s fast-paced environment, having these engaged employees is vital to staying afloat in a world of disruptive businesses and more competition. 

This is because an engaged employee understands and believes in the business and the direction it’s going, understands how their role contributes to the overall purpose, mission and objectives, and genuinely wants the business to succeed and to feel a part of the shared success. These engaged employees create value for their organisations because they make better decisions, are more productive and innovate more, and want to see the success. 

...companies with an engaged workforce outperform peers...


The number one driver of motivation for these engaged workers is being shown appreciation for their hard work. Also known as recognition.  

Despite overwhelming evidence many employers still don’t do enough to create an environment where employees can be their most motivated selves; instead, they cling to the notion that motivation should always be monetary. Alongside this they undervalue the need for true appreciation and recognition. Our 2017 study of recognition demonstrates this, finding that 59% of Brits would rather work for a business with a culture where they received recognition over a higher salary job where they didn’t get any recognition. 

Individuals willing to put in the extra effort do so because they have a choice and are endorsing their own behaviour. The output of their efforts is a feeling of accomplishment and a sense of pride in their work. This type of motivation lends itself to more positive emotions and improvements in physical and mental health and wellbeing. 

In his book CRAVE: You Can Enhance Employee Motivation in 10 Minutes by Friday, my colleague Gregg Lederman consolidates hundreds of studies on motivation at work that go back to the early 1900s. Social scientists and researchers have come leaps and bounds since then, but still generally agree that the following are what employees crave at work: 

  • Respect – feeling respected and appreciated as a person and for the work they do.

  • Purpose – understanding how they make a difference on their team, to the customer or the company as a whole.

  • Relationships – building stronger connections with the people they work with, especially their immediate boss or manager.

When employees have these three motivators fulfilled, great things happen. Employee engagement improves, the work culture gets better and the customer experience is stronger. The best way to tick all these boxes is through strategic employee recognition and shining a spotlight on success.

So here’s a quick challenge to boost motivation in your workplace. Think of something that you waste around ten minutes doing each week, be it scrolling mindlessly through your phone or procrastinating on a task – and use that time instead to recognise a person at work. Think of someone who’s gone above and beyond, and commit to sending him or her an email, a text, or even a hand-written note. Tell the action, connect it to a business goal, and highlight how it will make an impact to your company. This is the ‘10 Minutes by Friday Challenge’, designed to create a new habit of strategic recognition so that it becomes the norm, in turn, motivating and engaging employees and colleagues.