The latest issue of the Harvard Business Review (January/February 2010) includes an article titled “The HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas for 2010″. The first idea is one that really caught my attention, and it discusses what really motivates workers. In her research, Teresa Amabile, has discovered through a study that the most important thing that motivates employees is making progress. From the article:
On days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak. On days when they feel they are spinning their wheels or encountering roadblocks to meaningful accomplishment, their moods and motivation are lowest. (emphasis added)
I am not going to deny that progress is important when it comes to motivation. Any person would become frustrated if they continued to work hard, put in a full effort, and still not make any headway. Unfortunately, when that happens, it isn’t due to anything that the employee has done, it is a fault of the system and processes that the employee operates in.
I think the bigger key is the part highlighted in bold – it isn’t just making the progress that is important, it is that they are receiving the support needed to do so, and most likely, recognition for making progress. An individual can toil away in an organization, making progress but receiving no recognition or benefits from their hard work and success. In my opinion, progress will be motivating if the individual receives some type of gain from the progress, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be financial. Numerous studies have shown the important of giving and receiving simple recognition can improve attitude and performance. Employees want to be recognized for their effort and success. It feels great to know that you have accomplished something; in an organizational setting, it is even better for someone else to notice the progress and hard working you are achieving.
HT: Dan Pink