• Job satisfaction beats bonuses in staff motivation stakes

  • 21 Oct 2013
  • Comments 6 comments

Study finds ‘emotional factors’ are strongest motivators in the workplace

Bonuses are not the top motivator for employees, according to a study into what makes workers most productive by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).

The survey of more than 1,000 workers found that only 13 per cent of people agreed that a bonus would have an effect on their motivation, however having a good basic salary and pension was viewed as an important incentive by almost half of the respondents.

In fact, the top motivator was ‘job enjoyment’ according to 59 per cent of respondents, while other emotional factors such as good working relationships and fair treatment also rated highly in the survey.

More than two-fifths of the respondents cited ‘getting on with colleagues’ as a key motivator, while just over a fifth agreed that ‘how well they are treated by their managers’ affected motivation, with a further fifth saying that higher levels of autonomy motivated them.

The ILM said the findings suggested that the £36.9 billion spent on performance bonuses in the UK last year had “no impact on the motivation and commitment levels of the vast majority of recipients”.

The survey highlights how important good managers are to ensuring happy and motivated staff. When asked to identify one thing that would motivate them to do more, 31 per cent of employees said ‘better treatment from their employer’, ‘more praise’ and ‘a greater sense of being valued’. However, while the majority of managers (69 per cent) said they ‘always giving feedback’ to their staff, just 23 per cent of employees agreed.

“Understanding your employees and what makes them tick is vital in having a happy and motivated workforce,” said Charles Elvin, chief executive of the ILM. “In the past year UK companies have collectively spent an astronomical amount on financial incentives for their staff. But this report is telling us there are far more effective, and cost-effective, ways to motivate people. These include giving regular feedback, allowing people to have autonomy in a role, the opportunity to innovate and improved office environments.”

The research also revealed that employees tend to fall into one of four clear employee archetypes, which each have different motivation factors and reward mechanisms:

  • Career Climbers

Most interested in training, development and their career prospects. They are also likely to be under 35 and hard workers.

How to motivate: Access to training and development is most important to those starting out in their management careers and the Career Climber wants to make the best of themselves. Employers can motivate the Career Climber by providing continuous access to training and opportunities for development from the day they join.

  • Sociable Workers 

Most motivated by getting on well with the people they work with, the Sociable Worker is on a below average salary, respects their manager, works hard and enjoys their job, which gives them great satisfaction. They are least likely to say they work because they need the money.

How to motivate: Building positive relationships at work is very important to the Sociable Worker, so giving regular feedback, creating a positive working environment and using coaching styles are a great way to motivate these types of employees. A strong team dynamic and regular opportunities to interact with other employees can ensure they feel connected and engaged with the team and the wider organisation.

  • Flexi-Workers

Being able to work flexibly, from home or with varied start and finish times is important to the Flexi-worker. They’re likely to have been with their employer for a slightly above average length of time, be more qualified than the average employee and get on well with their manager.

How to motivate: Flexi-workers respond well to their employers investing in them and prioritise flexible working as a key motivator. Offering challenging and rewarding part time jobs will help attract them to a company, and being prepared to adapt to any requests for flexible working will keep existing employees engaged and motivated.

  • Financially Focused

Financially Focused individuals choose performance related bonuses as their top motivating factor and place the greatest emphasis on financial rewards and the importance of money. They’re also least likely to enjoy their jobs and tend not to have warm feelings for their employer or their manager. 

How to motivate: Certain roles with more transactional relationships between employer and employee are more likely to attract mercenaries, which can be positive if both employer and employee are happy with this arrangement. Financial incentives do motivate them, though employers should be careful of financial rewards creating inequality across other teams.

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Comments (6)
  • I was talking to a group of entrepreneurs at a gathering. They found disbursement of bonuses a much easier task than to play into the emotions and the minds of employees, because it requires persistence and painstaking efforts to build empathy.

  • Hi Yasmin, we've now added a link in the story to the original ILM research.

    Ken and Rachel, thanks for your comments. Was just thinking, if we already know this, why are so many employers still focused on bonuses and financial reward rather than creating engaging and supportive workplaces/cultures?

  • Ken, that's exactly what I was thinking, this is nothing we didn't really know already!

  • It will be nice to see some moe details of the research, e.g. the dates of the research, what sectors/industries were covered, etc

  • Come in Fred Herzberg, Boat No 1959. Your Time Is Up!!

    Does today's HR manager not study history?!

  • The results of this research confirm what others have long held.  Even though it defies common expectations, we know that employees are motivated more by intrinsic factors than extrinsic.  Read more (some good links to other research) here... Who (or What) Really Motivates Employees? | http://bit.ly/106ypgu