How To Motivate Your Employees The Right Way (as told by a fed up millennial)

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It’s been a long time since I’ve written about a Ted Talk, but I came across this one the other day and I found myself agreeing 100% with everything this guy said.

In his Ted Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation, Dan Pink talks about something I think a lot about – motivation. What’s the right way of motivating employees?

Turns out, there really is a right way of motivating us, and most of our employers have it all wrong.

Just listen…

Yea, money isn’t enough these days.

Dangling a bonus or a paycheck every two weeks in front of us, that’s not what keeps us motivated day in and day out.

I mean, it’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but it takes more than that to get me fully invested in my job.

And Dan knows that.

As he says,  “If you look at the science, there is a mismatch between what science knows [about motivation] and what business does.”

Dan talks about three things.

That’s it! Just three things.

Autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

That’s what we need.

#1: As employees, we need to have some kind of ownership over our work. We need to own our jobs and not be treated like 5th graders. Unfortunately, there’s way too much micromanaging going on in a lot of organizations, so it’s far too easy to have zero autonomy when it comes to our jobs. Our managers need to trust us. They need to treat us like adults and trust that we’ll get the job done. And if we don’t, okay, call us out on it. Fire us if you need to, but if we’re good employees, just let us do our jobs.

#2: We want to be good at what we do. We want to be the best of the best. We want to be considered experts. You know how stoked I get when someone says, “go talk to Kayla, she’s super good at that.” That’s an awesome feeling, and it makes me feel like, “damn, I’m actually good at this” and that’s what keeps me motivated. So how do organizations help employees master their work? Well, you train them properly, first of all. Then, you continue to train them. You continue to make sure your staff is up to date with best practices. You focus on making sure that your employees are subject matter experts in whatever they’re doing, and then you find ways to promote their skills. That, in and of itself, does amazing things for employee motivation.

#3: We need to have a purpose. Or sometimes, we need to be reminded of our purpose. There are days that go by where I ask myself, “what the hell am I doing here? What the heck am I doing? Am I making a difference? Or am I just wasting my life away stuck in an office 8 hours a day Monday through Friday?” And when I feel that way, I’m not exactly motivated. But then every once in a while, I’m reminded of what I’m REALLY doing. Of why I do what I do. And on those days, I give 120% of myself to my job. I think that if leaders made a greater effort to constantly remind us of our purpose, they’d get a heck of a lot more from their employees, and we’d all be a whole lot happier.

So yea, that’s just the gist of it, but if you have a few minutes, check out Dan’s talk. I promise you, it’s a great use of 18 minutes.

But if you don’t have 18 minutes, at the VERY LEAST, read the following excerpt.

It’s the key to unlocking the puzzle of motivation in the 21st century. (You can also read the full transcript here.)

The good news is that the scientists who’ve been studying motivation have given us this new approach. It’s built much more around intrinsic motivation. Around the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, they’re interesting, or part of something important. And to my mind, that new operating system for our businesses revolves around three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters.Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses.”

About the author

Kayla Buell

Kayla is the author for - a young twenty- something who's hoping to share her experiences with other young professionals. She loves all things HR, and hopes to make the workforce a better place. Not bratty. Just opinionated.


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