For a very long-time employee motivation has been thought of to be some sort of witchcraft and wizardry or some kind of magic sorcery. Some typical questions that arise from business owners are but how exactly do you motivate your employees to work as hard they possibly can all the time? How can you motivate your work-force to increase productivity and efficiency all the while increasing revenue? How can I increase employee happiness and satisfaction and at the same time decrease employee turnover? These are questions that have perplexed organizations for decades when the answer may have been staring them right in the face. Recently research has begun to show that employee motivation is based on nothing other than ordinary science, specifically internal and external motivators. I was raised in business and I am a firm believer in what Dan Pink mentioned multiple times in his speech that “there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.” Just because the research exists or that science proved something is valid doesn’t mean it will get implemented in business. The old ideology to praise and reward with a carrot as well as threaten and punish with a sharpened stick approach to employee motivation has gone by the wayside. It has ushered in a new approach to truly incentivize employees. The Carrot and Stick approach of motivation is based on the principles of reinforcement and was created by a famous British philosopher known as Jeremy Bentham, during the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution first occurred in 1760, I believe it is about time we adopt a new way of motivating employees and conducting business during the 21st century. Modern businesses need to re-think rewards. Dan Pink wasn’t arguing that extrinsic motivators don’t work at all he was arguing that they only work for “20th century tasks”. Science has proven that for simple tasks rewards persuade employees to perform well, but for tasks that require thinking outside the box rewards are often detrimental and lead to poor performance. Recent scientific research seems to back up the idea that for most tasks you can’t incentivize people to perform better with just extrinsic rewards such as money. However, most business and organizations currently operate with an extrinsic reward system to incentivize their employees. Besides a few pioneers and innovators such as Google, the Boston Consulting Group, and Facebook, most organizations need to radically change how they motivate their employees to increase overall satisfaction in the workplace. Unhappy employees are typically unproductive and inefficient. Happy employees on the contrary are productive and efficient. The issue of extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation has been intensely debated for quite some time. I don’t think there is any clear winner and to a certain degree I believe they are both equally important in the workplace. For extrinsic motivation to surpass intrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation must be present first. This is often not the case in your average workplace. While many people like their job, most do not find their actual job motivating. Modern social scientific research favors intrinsic motivators as being more crucial to employee motivation which involves autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I personally agree with Dan in that the new way of operating a business is heading towards a result only work environment or “ROWE” as he put it along with increased autonomy. Its not perfect and there are caveats, but its an improvement. Creativity never comes from the idea of receiving compensation and if then rewards often destroy the very thing they are intended to create. Autonomy does result in increased creativity, but more importantly you need to look at the companies who give their employees autonomy such as Google. They are often business that rely heavily on innovation and change, but there are many companies that need to focus more on efficiency than innovation, so it makes sense that they will never completely embrace autonomy. People always mention how great of an employer Google must be as they seem to attract and keep the best employees. Since Google is one of the most sought-after employers that exist, people who seek employment from them are already intrinsically motivated not vice versa. I strongly believe autonomy works best only if intrinsic motivation is already present. Some people would also take advantage of too much autonomy, but employees do that already. Pink ended with “If we get past the simplistic ‘carrots vs sticks’ ideology, and allow people to be more motivated by autonomy, mastery and purpose, we can make our businesses stronger and maybe change the world”.
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