Successful leaders are acutely aware of what inspires employees and use this insight to develop reward structures and processes that create stronger teams and deliver higher performance. 

Why motivation is more than money

There’s an assumption that a buoyant market business that pays the most will win in the battle for talent, but evidence and anecdote suggest this isn’t the case. Yes, money is a substantial factor for some employees, but it isn’t the only one.

In the modern world, where the battle for talent is fierce, understanding that motivation is more than money is critical. Employees want opportunities to grow and develop in the workplace, says McKinsey. And they want to work for businesses that stand for something.

Successful leaders are acutely aware of what inspires employees and use this insight to develop reward structures and processes that create stronger teams and deliver higher performance.

Capturing your character 

Imagine yourself in an interview. It’s a job you want, but the interviewer asks you: “If this job you are interviewing for today didn’t exist, what job would you see yourself enjoying?”

How would you respond?

This question (or ones like it) forms part of the modern interview process. You’re already in the door because you’ve demonstrated the skills and experience to do the job in your application. The purpose of open-ended questions such as this is to get you to elicit something about your character.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, but how you approach it will offer the interviewer insights into your values and motivational triggers (whether you choose to be a nurse, gamekeeper, artist, entrepreneur, sportsperson, etc.). Uncovering underlying motivation but doing it unexpectedly and creatively is an approach that will get a more genuine, unrehearsed and authentic response. In addition, this may unlock and inform how you will motivate individuals in your team to support them better to do their jobs well and with purpose.

Another common question asked in interviews is: “What is your greatest fear?”

At a simplistic level, you wouldn’t want to employ a teacher who was afraid of public speaking or an international salesperson fearful of flying. But the question delves deeper into what drives us – and what could potentially hold us back.

When we’re at work, we operate in a state of fear, suggest Zucker and Ruth Gotian in a fascinating HBR article. It’s not the visceral fear of being hurt or sacked but a state of “subjective safety” that’s coloured by our view of the world. Explaining our greatest fear can elicit far more than first appears. They say that answers to the question can help highlight areas where you may need additional support. “(Colleagues can) challenge you and ultimately help you to see and adopt new perspectives.”

Whether professionally (as employers and managers) or at a personal level (as friends and colleagues), it’s important to understand what motivates the people we work with and what could hold them back from achieving their potential.

Why? Because doing so enables us to construct teams with a cohesive culture and develop effective reward structures that drive better performance.

Creating cultural fit

The importance of cultural fit isn’t new to recruiters and leaders, but it’s taken on a new dimension in recent years. The Great Resignation has seen the “quit rate” in the US, Europe, and the UK hit 20-year highs. There’s some academic discussion about whether COVID-19 caused it or whether the pandemic accelerated a shift already taking place. Regardless of the reasons, the truth is that people are more confident about leaving their jobs and finding another if their workplace isn’t delivering.

We all want to feel valued and that our contributions make a difference. We want to work in a culture that understands us, respects us, and delivers the rewards we want. That may be money, power, prestige, or personal advancement. But it could also be working somewhere with strong sustainability policies, a strong reputation for DE&I initiatives, or strong corporate social responsibility credentials.

At Saragossa, we understand that unlocking what motivates candidates is vital. It’s why we provide our clients with insight into each candidate that can accelerate this process. Our 16-point appraisal process is a detailed assessment of each candidate, with information on their skills, experience, attitude, and approach. It’s one of several ways we support our clients to get a unique perspective on prospective employees. Money still matters, but understanding motivation matters more.