How do you motivate people at work?

Money?

Well, maybe. But there’s a growing school of thought that money isn’t the be-all and end-all.

And many analysts argue that organisations shouldn’t make financial incentives the primary motivator for employees. And with good reason.

An article in McKinsey – called Motivating People: Getting Beyond Money makes a compelling case for finding other ways to reward people.

Authors Martin Dewhurst, Matthew Guthridge and Elizabeth Mohr say: “Money’s traditional role as the dominant motivator is under pressure from declining corporate revenues, sagging stock markets, and increasing scrutiny by regulators, activist shareholders, and the general public.”

They go on to identify three potentially powerful non-cash motivators, drawing on previous studies and some research of their own.

These are:

  • praise from immediate managers
  • leadership attention (for example, one-on-one conversations with CEOs and directors)
  • the chance to lead projects or task-forces

They conclude that these three motivators might be more effective than cash in many instances.  Particularly ‘leadership attention.’

What do I think?

Well. Money will always be important (it pays the bills and has huge infleunce on our quality of life outside of work). But I agree with Dewhurst, Guthridge and Mohr.

And – in an age of unparallelled change and budget challenges – public sector organisations must find more creative ways to reward and motivate staff.

I recently took the opportunity to harvest the thoughts of a small pool of colleagues here at Wrexham Council, and the feedback was interesting.

Achievement, recognition and challenging tasks were among the top motivators – reflecting the arguments of Dewhurst et al.

But other things came through strongly as well, including camaraderie, good rapor with colleagues, and a positive atmosphere.

It makes sense. If you’re working in an oppressive, unfriendly environment where everyone seems unhappy, it’s hard to feel motivated.

Come to think of it, maybe the most effective motivator of all is a positive workplace?

Positivity motivates.