There is frequently a gap between what research says and what business does when it comes to motivation.
Our brains are stimulated by two types of motivation: intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) motivators. Many businesses focus more on the ‘do this, get that’ principle to motivate employees to complete desired activities, such as meeting sales targets or completing project milestones.
While this strategy worked effectively for a trained labour force in the twentieth century, research indicates that ‘knowledge workers’ today respond better when there is a focus on the intrinsic.
“Knowledge workers,” as prolific author and the ‘father of management thinking’ Peter Drucker put it, “are individuals who know more about the task that they execute than their employers.” Therefore, the question is how can any manager realistically attempt to supervise or even coordinate the technical activities of employees who are more adept than they are of identifying the tasks required to complete their goal in that environment?
They can’t, in fact. Managers should instead focus on releasing knowledge employees’ inherent motivation.
Author Daniel Pink states in his book Drive that the best way to do this is to appeal to an individual’s inner desires of autonomy, competence, and purpose, which will have a longer-lasting impact than relying solely on extrinsic (external) rewards.
One of the reasons for the popularity of flexible working is that it is a great illustration of autonomy. This liberty corresponds to our desire to oversee our own lives. Giving employees autonomy guarantees that they are more involved in what they do. What results are being seen? More creative solutions and thoughts. An employee who is happier and more motivated.
The motivational gains that may now follow from the surge in hybrid working models are an unexpected silver lining to the pandemic.