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Motivation can have more impact on output than ability

Last updated: 10 May 2022

The people who work for an organisation provide its competitive edge, so managers should aim to create an environment where their staff feel motivated to continually improve their own and the organisation’s performance.

We form our opinion of others by looking at their abilities, their interests, their personality and their motivation. In other words we judge them by what they can do, what they find stimulating, their preferred way of behaving and by why they behave the way they do. We can train someone to a greater skill level and encourage them to have a wider range of interests but the key to any form of success is motivation.

When recruiting, employers invariably check that the successful candidates have the necessary skills and experience for the post and increasingly they are considering the impact of personality traits. However the key to ensuring that employees are both happy and productive in their work, is in the understanding of how innately motivated they are and how the workplace can be structured to spark such motivation.

The first and most crucial step is to understand what actually motivates an individual. The spark in each of us is fanned by different things and can be as individual to us as our DNA. It is often hard enough to reflect and have a clear understanding of what motivates oneself – let alone someone with whom you may have only a working relationship. The use of a motivation questionnaire will aid this process.

The outcome of the questionnaire presents a picture of the factors that motivate an individual which can then be compared with the job demands, the ethos of the organisation, reward structure, managerial style, etc to predict how well they are likely to function within the post. Armed with this knowledge you can examine what changes can realistically be made to encourage the individual to peak performance.

Ideally the process should be applied to your whole team. Following completion of the questionnaire each member of the team should receive confidential feedback which ensures that they are comfortable enough with the outcome to be prepared to share a substantial part of it with colleagues. Your team can then work together to develop an environment best suited to produce the desired organisational outcomes.

Of course this approach is not as simplistic as it sounds! The first and possibly hardest step is to get all of your team signed up to the idea and committed to involving themselves honestly and openly in the process. It needs to be done thoroughly and therefore takes up time – a scarce commodity in most organisations. Any necessary actions identified, particularly where they involve changes in attitude or behaviour, take time and hard work and are likely to require evolution rather than revolution! It also has to be recognised that not everyone will have all their needs met while others will reap greater benefits and this will have to be handled sympathetically.

Taking steps to increase your understanding of the motivators of your staff is an innovative approach to teamwork which on the surface may appear risky. However, when carried out sensitively and professionally it can be very rewarding for the organisation in terms of staff morale and improved performance, leading to more successful outcomes.

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