The word ‘motivation’ has a Latin origin: ‘movere’. It basically means to move. As the name implies, motivation is something that keep us moving and achieve our goals.

Motivation is like ‘the fuel’ of a company. It increases commitment and effortful actions of among employees.  Low motivation means low satisfaction and meaning, which can increase the tendency to shirk. High motivation shows enthusiasm and engagement towards the work. It is also a necessary, though not sufficient, condition for success.

We all know that motivation is fundamental in giving direction to our behaviours, but what exactly drives employee motivation? Although there are many factors that can contribute to one’s motivation, let me give you a few of the most important values and needs that can drive behaviours.


Autonomy is one of our basic psychological needs and a fundamental factor that boosts motivation. Autonomy is mainly about one’s freedom to make decisions, have some control over the tasks, and manage things such as the projects and working hours. It’s known that a sense of autonomy in the workplace increases job satisfaction and emotional wellbeing. When the managers trust the employees and give them some space so that they can make decisions, choices and plans, employees can be more engaged and productive. As Daniel Pink said, ‘Control leads to compliance, but autonomy leads to engagement’.

Opportunity to develop

Real meaning and wellbeing happens when we grow and improve ourselves. This notion has implications for the workplace as the availability of opportunities to learn, develop and grow in the workplace is a source of motivation for many employees. Therefore, the work environment should provide employees with good resources that can assist them in becoming better version of themselves by learning and teaching each other.


This psychological need comes from our need to belong. As social beings, we all need to interact with others, and establish and maintain meaningful and healthy relationships. Employees are more satisfied and more motivated when there are at least couple of people they can trust and interact with. Helping employees to get connected with each other (such as asking for their opinions, giving them feedback, or doing some random acts of kindness) might be quite motivating. Opportunities for sharing experiences, mentoring, and social gatherings are also effective.


Curiosity is a powerful source of intrinsic motivation as it grows passion in people to learn and search new things. It also helps satisfy our need to develop and improve ourselves. Matching the tasks with the interests and the skills of employees, asking thought-provoking questions to generate a discussion, encouraging asking questions (even weird ones), and creating an environment to support new perspectives might be some ways to encourage curiosity.


We value what others think about us and, thus, we want our work to be recognised and appreciated by others. This recognition doesn’t have to be for big successes. In fact, employees are more engaged when they receive appreciation for any kind of progress, an initiative, hard work, attempts to make things better, helping others, or even being kind.

There is a lot more we can add to this list, but the idea is that learning specifically what employees value and which needs they are trying to satisfy is the key to finding different ways to motivate them. We should also remember that values can change over time and not everyone might be aware of their values. Therefore, keeping an eye on changes and helping employees become aware of their values might be a good idea.

Further Reading

Pink, D. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: River head Books.

Singh, R. (2016). The impact of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators on employee engagement in information organizations. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science57(2), 197-206.

Bergstrom, E. (2016). The Influence of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation on Employee Engagement. Umea School of Business and Economics.

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