The surprising truth about what motivates us

What truly motivates us? This great animation by the RSA explores the typical motivation scheme of many organisations – the idea that if you reward something you get more of what you want – and finds that offering financial incentives can lead to poorer performance.

Studies from around the world and across a variety of different sectors (economy, psychology, sociology) reveal that when a worker is offered more money for a mechanical task, the scheme works as expected and their performance improves. However, when it comes to tasks that involve cognitive skills, the studies find that performance actually drops.  

For these tasks, there are 3 factors that result in better performance: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Self direction leads to higher engagement and more creative approaches to challenges, and many innovative companies are already seeing the benefits of designating time for employees to work on and share creative personal projects.

The purpose motivator is what drives people to go to work in the morning. We know that the millennial workforce is increasingly valuing purpose over profit, as they are most attracted to companies that can prove a clear, actionable purpose to better world. Beyond Good Business 2017 speakers, the Corporate Rebels, have toured the world visiting such companies and found the most engaged workforces tend to be at organisations where the purpose and values are clearly articulated and demonstrated to their employees.

That is not to say that money doesn’t matter to employees. Their pay should still indicate that they are a valued by the organisation, but to keep employees engaged and accountable, the purpose motive must remain paramount to profit.