Why You Must Know What Your Team is Motivated by

Why You Must Know What Your Team is Motivated by
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

All too often, employees are treated as cogs in the machine.

Some want to be cogs and nothing more. Others gradually acquiesce. And then there are those whose spirit is never broken.

Leaders sometimes see it as their job to break all spirits and get their team to conform to their expectations.

But there are simply too many opportunities, in the gig and creator economies or otherwise, to treat your best talent this way.

Here’s why you must know what your team is motivated by.

People Are Differently Motivated

It may seem obvious, but the fundamental realization begins here. People are differently motivated.

Some leaders take the stance that a writer is a writer, an accountant is an accountant, an administrative assistant is nothing more.

There is a fatal flaw with this way of thinking – it doesn’t put your employees first. Inevitably, some will leave if they don’t feel like they’re understood. Then, you’re stuck with the massive bill of recruiting, onboarding, and training a new team member.

It’s possible that a small gesture could have helped you keep that team member. If you had cared enough, it would not have led to that point.

Providing the Right Opportunities Will Lead to Better Employee Retention

This does not automatically mean greater pay. Salary and compensation are important to most if not all workers, but there are other factors well worth paying attention to. Whether it’s an alignment of values, growth opportunities, work-life balance, inclusivity, or otherwise, retention depends on your understanding of key factors.

There will be those who are already inspired by your mission and can’t imagine doing anything else with their lives. But there will also be those who are more entrepreneurial, don’t want to be a part of the machine, and can’t imagine staying at a company where there are no performance-based rewards.

It’s not your job to beat everyone into submission, to try to get everyone churning out work like robots. It’s your job to reward performance with incentives that align with employee values. Of course, employees should earn the right to such rewards.

Employee Engagement Leads to Better Performance

If you feel like team performance might be suffering, now’s not the time for a better motivational speech. It will fall on deaf ears.

Employee engagement initiatives have a massive upside if carried out consistently and ongoingly.

A Forbes article from 2019 says employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Additionally, highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability.

If you don’t already have an employee engagement program, or if you haven’t been making it a priority, now would be a good time to set a new plan into motion.


It’s important that leaders respect the diversity and equality of everyone on their team. This comes with the caveat that they should also respect the unique personalities, talents, and interests of their team. Failing to do so could mean missing out on standout employees who may not be performing at their best simply because they don’t feel understood.

Employee engagement is always a delicate balance of respecting individual privacy while achieving clarity on the well-being of each team member, as well as what they are motivated by. It may feel like walking a tightrope, but the results are well worth the effort.

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