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.

The National Lottery Community Fund are invested in helping civil society organisations to develop their resilience so that they are in a stronger position to pursue their goals.

One way of developing that strength is to build financial resilience through generating unrestricted income.  Social Investment – the offer of repayable finance for organisations delivering a social purpose, from an investor who is looking for both social and financial return – can help.  It is especially useful for civil society organisations who struggle to access high street loans and, for those who are looking for investors who share their values.

Social investment can also be structured so that it is useful for commissioners and civil society organisations who are working together on early action and innovation around complex social issues; it can help by covering costs until preventative outcomes have been achieved, which in turn release funds – that may otherwise be locked up in acute care services – to repay the social investors for the preventative intervention they have financed.Since the Fund’s work in social investment began in 2010 they have commissioned a number of evaluations and research studies.

These include some in-depth, long-term evaluations which will generate a number of reports between now and 2023. You will find the reports here: