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Seven Elements of Employee Motivation

The ability to move the dial on employee motivation is not a “nice to do.” It’s a vital skill for managers and supervisors.

Employee motivation is the stepping stone to employee engagement and strong organizational performance.

So how do you motivate employees?  The truth is you don’t. However, you can create a motivating work environment by focusing both on the overall work culture and individual employee motivation.

Creating a Motivating Work Culture

Research conducted by Krüger & Rootman involving over 400 small businesses focused on seven elements1 that help you rock the work culture.

The Seven Elements of Employee Motivation

The seven elements are listed below in order from those with the greatest to the lowest level of influence on employee motivation:

  1. Interesting and Meaningful Work2 Meaningful work is the most important workplace motivator for employees. Help employees see how the work they do is meaningful and makes a difference.
  2. Recognition and Feedback 3Provide regular feedback to employees about their performance and leverage the power of employee recognition.  
  3. Empowerment4Empower employees. Give them the freedom and strength to look beyond the status quo and champion excellence.
  4. Working Conditions5Intentionally create a workplace with great working conditions on the physical, social, and psychological levels. Working conditions include the atmosphere of the workplace, equipment, work hours, and other support factors. However, the most important source of support you can provide employees is a strong supervisor-employee relationship.
  5. Strong Leadership6Strong leaders are the cornerstone of employee motivation, engagement, and performance. Focus your resources on developing strong leaders that leverage both support and accountability to engage employees and drive performance.
  6. Workplace Justice and Fairness7Promote an environment of workplace justice and fairness in the way you distribute resources, make decisions, and interact with employees.
  7. Rewards8Money doesn’t buy employee motivation. To create a truly motivating work environment, employ a more holistic approach in your rewards structure. Consider the “total rewards” approach.

While these seven elements will help you create a workplace atmosphere conducive to employee motivation, it’s also vital to focus on what motivates each person individually.

Individual Employee Motivation

Employee motivation is not a “one size fits all” proposition.

Individualizing Your Approach

Each employee is unique and requires an individualized approach.  This uniqueness underscores the need to establish strong supervisor-employee relationships and to get to know each employee on a personal level while keeping it professional. 

By getting to know their employees, managers and supervisors can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for their values, needs, concerns, priorities, desires, fears, and hopes, which are all essential to motivation.

Talking with People

Talking with employees and doing a lot of listening is a great way to get to know them.  It’s also a simple way to build relationships. You can find out a lot about what a person values just by having conversations.

Motivation Assessments

Assessments are also excellent tools to find out what motivates individuals on a deeper level. For instance, the Motivators assessment measures seven universal dimensions of employee motivation –- theoretical, regulatory, individualistic, altruistic, political, economic, and aesthetic.

Employee Ownership

Leaders don’t have complete control over employee motivation.  Employees themselves play an essential role in their own motivation through how they chose to view and respond to the world and the workplace.  There are also other factors beyond the control of managers and supervisors that influence motivation.

However, managers and supervisors have the opportunity and responsibility to impact that which is within their sphere of influence. Understanding the seven elements listed above and what motivates each person can help them work towards fulfilling this responsibility.



SYLVIA MELENA is the Founder and CEO of Melena Consulting Group and the award-winning author of Supportive Accountability: How to Inspire People and Improve Performance.


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1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Krüger, J. & Rootman, C. (2010). How do small business managers influence employee satisfaction and commitment?  Acta Commercii,10(1). pp. 59 - 72. Retrieved from http://www.actacommercii.co.za/index.php/acta/article/viewFile/114/114. Creative Commons License. 

Managing Workplace Socializing

If you’re concerned that your employees are wasting time chit chatting, checking their cell phones, taking long breaks, or watching the clock before the end of their shift, it’s time take a long and hard look at what’s really going on.

It may be tempting to force employees into compliance by installing surveillance cameras and intensifying monitoring activities. Unfortunately, these enforcement measures will not get to the root of the problem and may in the long run exacerbate it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that monitoring is not an essential part of effective management.  As a matter of fact, it is.  However, monitoring alone may not be the fix.  What’s more, you may not even need a fix.

Not all workplace socializing is necessarily bad.  The real question is whether this workplace behavior is having a negative impact on your operations.

If your employees achieve high productivity levels and your company produces excellent results, then the chit chatting could be an indication of a cohesive and engaged team and may even be contributing to that cohesion.  On the other hand, if productivity levels are low and your workforce is yielding lackluster results, then you may have a bigger issue under the surface, which will require more than extensive monitoring to fix.

The only way you will get to the root of the problem is to conduct a thorough and systematic assessment.

There are a variety of issues that can impact workplace productivity and performance, such as undeveloped leadership, unclear expectations, absence of accountability, inadequate recognition, lack of tools and resources, unsupportive company culture, and many more.  However, without an accurate assessment of your organization’s specific situation, you will neither be able to uncover the key issues nor develop effective, targeted strategies to improve productivity and performance.

If you are concerned about the socializing your employees are displaying, you may want to take the time to objectively evaluate the actual impact on individual and company performance before moving forward with corrective action. While it may be tempting to intensify monitoring and compliance activities, please consider the type of environment this may create and the effect if could have on your company’s performance.


SYLVIA MELENA is the Founder and CEO of Melena Consulting Group and the author of Supportive Accountability: How to Inspire People and Improve Performance.


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