What Motivates Employees to "Go the Extra Mile?"
A new study addresses this important management issue.
Posted December 5, 2014
It’s one of the elusive Holy Grails of management: How do I consistently motivate employees to “go the extra mile” for me? How do I get employees to give 110% when studies routinely show the vast majority of them are disengaged – not emotionally committed to the companies they work for.
Thus, I took notice when that very question was asked in a recent employee survey I was reviewing. The survey, The 7 Key Trends Impacting Today’s Workplace, was conducted by the employee engagement firm TINYpulse, and involved over 200,000 employees in more than 500 organizations.
As the survey title suggests, the research explored a number of different management topics (culture, recognition, growth opportunities, etc.), but the issue that most interested me was the one surrounding motivation, as getting employees to give maximum effort is a challenge that has bedeviled managers for, well, as long as there have been managers.
The specific question the survey asked was: “What motivates you to excel and go the extra mile at your organization?” Employees could choose from 10 answers. Interestingly, money – often simply assumed to be the major motivator – was seventh on the list, well back in the pack. The results were as follows:
- Camaraderie, peer motivation (20%)
- Intrinsic desire to a good job (17%)
- Feeling encouraged and recognized (13%)
- Having a real impact (10%)
- Growing professionally (8%)
- Meeting client/customer needs (8%)
- Money and benefits (7%)
- Positive supervisor/senior management (4%)
- Believe in the company/product (4%)
- Other (9%)
Corporate culture counts – What to make of these results? I admit I was initially surprised by the high ranking of “camaraderie/peer motivation” and the low ranking of “money.” But if you look more closely at the research and the questions, reasonable patterns and explanations emerge.
First, this isn’t a survey of senior management, where compensation is high and frequently a major motivational driver. This research cuts across a wide swath of employees at all organizational levels. Second, if you consider several of the top responses in addition to “camaraderie” – for example, “feeling encouraged and recognized,” “having a real impact” and “growing professionally,” they describe the level of positive feelings employees have about working in a particular environment – in short, their attitude toward their corporate culture. Is it encouraging and supportive? Does it foster growth? Do they feel they can make a difference? So even though “positive supervisor/senior management” was seemingly very low on the response list (at only 4%), it is after all management that plays the crucial role in shaping a company’s culture.
Regarding the overarching importance of camaraderie and culture, the report accompanying the survey noted, “Given the major role that peers play in motivating each other, it’s up to hiring managers to focus not just on a candidate’s skill but also on his or her cultural fit within the organization. When it comes time to interview a candidate, make sure to see if they:
- Engage in open communication
- Thrive in a collaborative environment
- Handle pressure with grace
- Share praise and accept accountability.”
The report went on to conclude, “Organizations must start intentionally finding high performing and high culture fit employees. Further, organizations must be ruthless when it comes to rejecting individuals who aren’t a great fit. Even if they come across as a high performer, they can wreak havoc on the positive, collaborative culture you need to create.”
All good solid management counsel. You’ll won’t go wrong building a positive collaborative culture and selecting people who will work well within it.
Just as a point of interest, however, I should add that back when I was an employee I wouldn’t have been in the majority here. Had I been responding to this survey, truth be told, I would have answered “Money and benefits.”
But that after all is the great value of surveys: You gain insight not just into what you think, but into what large numbers of other people do.
In this instance it shows that when it comes to “going the extra mile,” the overall cultural environment plays a key role in determining how far and fast people will run.
This article first appeared at Forbes.com.
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Victor is the author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World (Prentice Hall Press).