Business Leadership Today

10 Factors That Influence Employee Motivation


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

next article: 10 Factors That Influence Employee Motivation

Maintaining high levels of employee motivation can be a challenge for many leaders because of the sheer number of factors that play a role in employee motivation. Worker needs are diverse, and what might motivate one employee won’t necessarily motivate their co-worker. 

While there are an almost endless array of factors that can play a role in employee motivation, there are 10 factors that can significantly influence the motivation levels of all employees.

The 10 factors that influence employee motivation are leadership, organizational culture, paths to advancement, professional development opportunities, recognition, the work environment, flexibility, belonging, work-life balance, and, most importantly, meaningful work. 

This article will explore how these factors influence employee motivation and how leaders can ensure they influence employee motivation in positive ways.

What Are Motivation Factors for Employees?

Motivational factors play a role in engaging employees in their work, energizing their efforts, increasing their dedication, and driving their performance. Motivation factors are tied to employee needs. Employee motivation is greater when employee needs are being met. 

There are an almost endless number of motivation factors for employees, but there are two main categories of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic, that these factors fall into.

Extrinsic motivation is motivation to participate in an activity based on meeting an external goal, earning praise or approval, winning a contest or competition, or receiving an award or payment. Intrinsic motivation is defined as doing an activity for its inherent rewards rather than for a separable consequence. 

There are factors that bolster extrinsic motivation that most employers are already providing (pay, benefits, leave time). These can also include bonuses and recognition. 

But it’s the intrinsic motivators (often tied to growth, a sense of purpose, and commitment to the vision) that inspire employees to truly engage with their work and do more than just show up and do the bare minimum. 

Intrinsically motivated employees go above and beyond, cultivate an improvement mindset, support their co-workers, and channel their creativity to help their teams innovate.

What Are the Factors That Influence Employee Motivation?

Employee needs vary. So do the factors that influence employee motivation. Different employees will require different motivators. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to employee motivation. Leaders have to do the legwork to identify what their team members need before they can identify the best ways to motivate them. 

While many factors can play a role in motivation, the factors that tend to influence employee motivation the most are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Organizational culture
  3. Paths to advancement
  4. Professional development opportunities
  5. Recognition
  6. Work environment
  7. Flexibility
  8. Belonging
  9. Work/life balance
  10. Meaningful work. 

Let’s explore these factors.

1. Leadership

Leaders play an important role in keeping employees invested in their roles and motivated to do great work. All of their actions and behaviors can either help or hinder the work environment and thus impact employee motivation. 

Ensuring that the impact they have on motivation is positive requires leadership to have an awareness of employee needs, a commitment to employee success, and a willingness to contribute to the employee experience in ways that help employees connect with their jobs. 

Here are a few ways leaders can ensure they are supporting a motivating work environment: 

Create an atmosphere of trust: High-trust work environments are conducive to a high level of employee motivation and have an overwhelmingly positive impact on employee performance, employee well-being, and a host of other factors. 

Check in often to find out what they need: To help employees tap into the kind of intrinsic motivation that helps them engage and commit to their roles, leaders should identify what employees need and give them the tools to succeed.

Celebrate their successes: Celebrating employee accomplishments increases motivation because acknowledging the hard work they’ve put in lets them know they are valued and the work they do has an impact. 

Talk to them about impact: Helping your team members to see a bigger purpose in their work, find meaning in their day-to-day duties, and see the impact of the work they do can have a positive effect on motivation. 

Facilitate their growth: Creating a clear path to growth, development, and advancement for employees shows them that you are committed to their success, which keeps them motivated to keep working toward their goals. 

2. Organizational Culture

Workplace culture can significantly impact the behavior and performance of employees. It provides much-needed context for an organization’s mission, vision, values, goals, and strategies. 

Culture helps employees not just understand the “how” of their jobs but also the “why,” which is essential for building engagement and motivation. 

Culture plays an important role in employee motivation because of its impact on the employee experience. Employees are more likely to stay motivated in a positive work culture that supports and values them, helps them grow and thrive, and provides a trusting, psychologically safe environment for them. 

Leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping culture because leaders impact culture more than any other factor. They establish and clarify norms that guide employees’ behaviors, maintain working conditions that are conducive to collaboration and high performance, encourage accountability, and help employees connect their work to the organization’s vision.  

To foster a motivating culture, leaders should set an example by being good representatives of the culture and communicating and positively reinforcing cultural values through their actions and behaviors, as well as their words.

3. Paths To Advancement

Did you know that a lack of advancement opportunities was among the top reasons US workers quit their jobs last year? 

When employees feel stuck with no chance for growth or advancement in an organization, they see no future for themselves there. Their motivation suffers because they feel disconnected from long-term goals. This can lead them to seek out other opportunities with organizations where they will have more room to grow and advance. 

The need to advance is about more than just a possible increase in compensation. Employees need to feel they are advancing in their careers and are more motivated when they work for organizations where they can see a future for themselves. 

Many employees also gain motivation from the new challenges that can come with advancement and the feeling that they are trusted and valued by the organization.

When employees feel that leadership cares about them and is willing to help them grow in their roles and take on more responsibility, it can do wonders for their motivation and performance. Helping employees chart a path to advancement demonstrates that the organization is invested in their success.

4. Professional Development Opportunities

Offering growth and development opportunities is a great way to help employees advance in their careers, and it can positively impact employee motivation because it signals to them that they’re valued and vital to the organization’s future success.

Providing in-person or online training, tuition reimbursement, leadership development, or setting aside time during the work week for learning can yield tremendous results that benefit both the employee and employer.

When organizations offer employees opportunities to grow their skills, it empowers them and helps them build the confidence they need to excel in their roles and move into higher-level roles. To determine what development opportunities would best suit an employee’s career goals, leaders can offer developmental coaching to team members.

Sara Canaday, author of Coaching Essentials for Managers: The Tools You Need to Ignite Greatness in Each Employee, says leaders should practice developmental coaching (not just performance coaching) to keep employees motivated:

YouTube video

5. Recognition

Psychology tells us that recognition in the form of praise is the primary source of positive reinforcement, the process of modifying behavior for a more positive result. Because of this, recognition can be an incredibly powerful motivator. 

According to research, 69% of employees say they’d work harder if their efforts were recognized at their workplace. When employees’ contributions are recognized, they are up to 10 times more likely to strongly agree that they belong with the organization, and 80% of employees report being more productive when recognition and rewards are utilized to motivate them.

Recognition positively influences employee motivation because acknowledging and celebrating the hard work, achievements, and successes of employees lets them know they are valued and the work they do has an impact.

Recognition should always be part of the feedback leaders provide to employees because it meets a core human need for both the employee and the leader, and it can profoundly impact motivation by reinforcing the behaviors that lead to achievement.

For recognition to be an effective motivation technique, it needs to be genuine, reference a specific achievement, and single out employees’ efforts. It should also be a team effort, with frequent peer-to-peer recognition.

6. Work Environment

To stay motivated, employees need a work environment that offers them a positive employee experience and an inclusive organizational culture where every team member feels empowered and supported. 

An inclusive culture is a workplace culture that is supportive of and respectful toward all employees. 

Organizations with inclusive cultures embrace differences in backgrounds and experiences and build high-performing teams of employees who are engaged with their work and invested in the organization’s success. 

An inclusive workplace culture ensures that the contributions, talents, skills, and perspectives of all employees are welcomed and utilized in ways that help organizations achieve their vision. It can also deter toxic behaviors and help team members avoid conflict.

When it does occur, conflict should also be addressed as soon as possible so that it doesn’t get out of hand and turn the culture toxic. Employees cannot stay motivated in a toxic work environment.

7. Flexibility

According to a 2021 Jabra report on hybrid work, 59% of survey respondents said flexibility is more important to them than salary or other benefits, and 75% said they’d rather work for a company that gives them the flexibility to work from anywhere. 

It’s clear that today’s workforce demands more flexibility. Flexibility in work schedules, whether it’s remote or hybrid work options that increase autonomy or incentives like additional PTO, can be a great motivator for employees. 

It can also support a harmonious work environment where team morale and productivity are high and employees can depend on each other. 

Flexibility is an incentive that can benefit both employees and employers. In the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43% of respondents said that flexible working hours helped them be more productive, and 30% of respondents said that less or no time commuting allowed them to be more productive.

By giving workers the autonomy and flexibility they need to thrive in both their personal and professional lives, you are forging strong, trust-based relationships with your employees and, at the same time, intrinsically motivating them to hold themselves accountable and take ownership of their roles. 

8. Belonging

A sense of belonging at work keeps morale high, improves cohesion, helps collaboration, and is linked to higher motivation. It also prevents work environments from becoming toxic. 

Creating a sense of belonging requires a psychologically safe work environment. Psychological safety refers to the belief that one will not be punished for asking questions, raising concerns, or voicing ideas. 

When a work environment is psychologically safe, employees are encouraged to contribute, participate in decision-making, and build authentic connections with each other. 

Employees need to feel psychologically safe at work. They need to feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work every day to build authentic connections with their co-workers. A sense of belonging is essential to building team cohesion.

To support a sense of belonging in the workplace, organizations should be committed to policies and strategies that support an inclusive work environment for all employees and strengthen cohesion, cooperation, and collaboration. 

9. Work-Life Balance 

Work-life balance refers to an employee’s capacity to balance the demands of their personal and professional lives. A healthy work-life balance allows employees to manage their non-work time and at-home priorities more effectively while still meeting their work obligations and continuing to grow professionally. 

A good work-life balance can help employees be more present, more motivated, more loyal, and less stressed out at work so that they can engage, perform well, and produce quality work. It can also help them be more present with their family and friends and less anxious about work priorities outside work. 

There are many ways organizations can help their team members find a balance between their work lives and personal lives. 

Providing a good PTO program and setting communication policies that allow employees to disconnect from emails, texts, etc. after work hours can improve work-life balance for employees and help them stay more motivated at work. 

Flexibility in work schedules can also help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance and take better care of their families and personal needs, leading to better overall well-being and greater motivation at work. 

10. Meaningful Work

According to McKinsey & Company, over the past 30 years, American workers have identified meaningful work as the most important aspect of a job—more important than income, job security, and the number of hours they work.

Humans have an innate need to seek out meaning in their lives—even their work lives. Helping your team members to see a bigger purpose in their work, find meaning in their day-to-day duties, and see the impact of the work they do can have a positive effect on motivation. 

Meaningful work has a purpose and creates an impact. When employees view their work as purposeful and impactful, they are committed to their work because they want to make a positive impact. 

For many people, work helps them meet their need to accomplish goals and make a difference in the world. Having a job where the work one does is purposeful and has a deeper meaning beyond the daily tasks improves motivation.

Effective leaders measure performance with impact. They use impact, rather than quotas or profits, as a measure of success, and help employees see the connection between their day-to-day activities and the larger mission and vision of the organization.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

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