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Prefer day-to-day motivation over one-time incentives to keep employees motivated: Susan Fowler

Goutam Das     December 19, 2015

Optimally motivated employees in an organisation are 31 per cent more productive, demonstrate creativity on the job and are 10 times more engaged. But what motivates them? The answer, it emerges, is undergoing a significant shift. Susan Fowler, leadership and motivation expert, thinks it is just not about money or incentives any longer. She was speaking at Business Today's annual conclave Mindrush 2015 on Saturday.

The traditional thinking on motivation was to think in terms of quantity - incentivise employees and get them to do what you want. Fowler thinks that led to opportunity loss in terms of creativity and productivity, and translated in sick days and absenteeism. People's sense of wellbeing was being threatened.
The new thought is more about day-to-day motivation, where one's psychological needs are met, as opposed to one-time incentives. Elaborating further Fowler says it is about:

  • Autonomy: Not the same as freedom. It is the perception of choice; it is the perception that you are doing something because you choose to, not because of outward circumstances, or pressure, because pressure and tension can erode productivity.
  • Relatedness: It is the human need to care about people, find meaning in the work they do. It is about inter personal relationships. And, Fowler thinks relatedness can easily be destroyed by focussing too much on metrics without meaning.  
  • Competence: The last piece of the three requirements can be killed, for instance, by bringing training expenditure costs down during times of economic hardship. 
If the three psychological needs are not met, it could end up abusing the three biological needs - food, water and sex - which, in turn, would impact an employee's wellbeing.


But guess what happens when these needs are met? Optimal motivation leads to a "citizenship behaviour"--  employees go beyond expectations and endorse the organisation.

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