If money alone isn’t enough to attract talent, what is?

Businesses have always been concerned with motivation – how to move themselves or others to act.

The naive intuition that is pervasive in the business world is that people are like rats in a maze; that all people care about is money, and the moment we give people money, we can direct them to work one way or another. We are all guilty, to one degree or another, of this overly simplified view of why people work.

Have a think about your company’s hiring processes, internal development processes and company vision. While a lot of people do talk about the importance of people, are actions really driven by elements outside of the numbers – base salary, OTE and the annual revenue and profit expectations of the business?

While this is not all bad, it is a narrow viewpoint and it may be limiting your potential growth.

Our understanding of what motivates people has evolved beyond the basic survival mechanisms of the cavemen (food, shelter etc.), but despite this, many businesses’ people strategies are still stuck in industrial age thinking where compliance was the end goal. In this environment people were viewed as cogs in a complex machine that needed to be optimised for efficiency and output, and the extrinsic carrots and sticks worked – punish what you don’t want and praise what you do.

Compliance was achieved through the standardisation of both people and processes to make them as efficient as possible. Anyone who has been in the recruitment business for any length of time will recognise the KPI culture prevalent in the industry (standardisation of processes), and have likely experienced a client who throws a one line job description over the wall with the instruction to find another Joe Bloggs (standardisation of people).

If, as we pointed out in our previous post, extrinsic motivation is no longer enough then where do businesses turn?

Looking at intrinsic motivation – people doing things because they want to.

In today’s world it is the duty of business leaders to maximise the value of every single employee. As Jack Welsh, former CEO of GE said:

“I think any company…has got to find a way to engage the mind of every single employee…If you’re not thinking all the time about making every person more valuable, you don’t have a chance. What is the alternative? Wasted minds? Uninvolved people? A labor force that’s angry or bored? That doesn’t make sense.”

To do this, businesses need to tap into something that scientists and academics have known for a long time but business has generally long ignored; the hidden and untapped potential of intrinsic motivation in developing engaged and self-managing employees.

Intrinsic motivation refers to the motivation that comes from inside an individual rather than from any external or outside rewards. It is the reason that countless people invest huge amounts of their own personal time, effort and skills to maintaining the integrity of Wikipedia or working on bug fixes for any number of open-source software projects such as Firefox or Apache.

Where extrinsic motivation is driven by economic rewards, intrinsic rewards that drive people are a sense of:

  • meaning
  • choice
  • competence
  • progress

When there is such a shortage of talent, why would business leaders not want to tap into the untapped well of potential that resides in their staff, while at the same time increasing the happiness of those same employees?

While intrinsic motivation is not a silver bullet that is going to solve all a businesses problems, it is low hanging fruit –it doesn’t require any new shiny blinky software or overhauling your whole HR process. Some simple changes to your people strategy could pay huge dividends in your attraction and retention of talented people.

We will discuss each of these intrinsic rewards and how you can apply them in your business over the coming weeks.

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