If you want to unlock the puzzle of employee motivation, you need to focus on four basic emotional needs of human beings
Nitin Nohria and Boris Groysberg of Harvard Business School and Linda-Eling Lee of the Center for Research on Corporate Performance say two studies they recently completed show an organization's ability to meet these four fundamental drives explains, on average, about 60 per cent of employees' variance on motivational indicators, whereas previous models have only explained about 30 per cent. They stress that the four drives must be satisfied in concert; a poor showing on one substantially diminishes the impact of high scores on the other three:
The drive to acquire
We are all driven to acquire scarce goods that boost our sense of well-being, which usually expresses itself in a need for money. This drive to acquire is relative (we always compare what we have with what others possess) and insatiable (we always want more), which explains why people always care not only about their compensation packages, but about others' as well. This drive is handled by the organization's reward system - how effectively it discriminates between good and poor performers, ties rewards to performance, gives the best people opportunities for advancement and compares with competitors.
The drive to bond
We bond not only with parents and family but also with organizations, associations and nations. "The drive to bond accounts for the enormous boost in motivation when employees feel proud of belonging to the organization and for their loss of morale when the institution betrays them. It also explains why employees find it hard to break out of divisional or functional silos," the researchers write in Harvard Business Review. To handle this drive you must engender a strong sense of camaraderie through a culture that promotes teamwork, collaboration, openness and friendship.
The drive to comprehend
We want to make sense of the world around us, producing theories and accounts that make events comprehensible and suggest reasonable actions and responses. Employees are motivated by jobs that challenge them and enable them to learn and grow. If they feel trapped, they often leave for better challenges elsewhere. You satisfy this drive through job design, ensuring jobs are meaningful, interesting and challenging.
The drive to defend
We all naturally defend ourselves, our property and accomplishment, our family and friends, and our ideas and beliefs against external threats. This manifests itself not just as defensive behaviour but also as a quest to create institutions that promote justice, have clear goals and intentions, and allow people to express their ideas and opinions, which create feelings of security and confidence. The drive to defend helps to explain people's resistance to change and their reticence towards mergers. You satisfy this drive through developing fair, trustworthy and transparent processes for performance management and resource allocation.