Motivation in the Workplace

Posted: April 25, 2016

Steph Flood Director of Human Resources and Administration

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Recently, as part of the PHR (Professional in Human Resources) Certification, I had the opportunity to study various theories of motivation and how they impact employees in the workplace. It’s amazing to me that people have been formulating these theories for decades and they are still extremely applicable in today’s workplace.

Our monthly Lunch-n-Learn event allowed me to share more about what I’d learned with the whole VisionPoint team. It was so well received that I thought others outside of VisionPoint might find value in this information as well. Enjoy!

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid

One of the most widely known and accepted motivation theories is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This hierarchy begins with the most basic requirements for life and progresses through stages of growth as people strive to fill their higher level needs.

  • Physiological Needs – The basic necessities of life. Forr example, food and water.
  • Safety Needs – People seek safety from physical and emotional harm.
  • Social Needs – People have a desire for acceptance and belonging.
  • Esteem Needs – People seek recognition for their achievements.
  • Self-Actualization – When people reach this level, they are looking for opportunities to be creative and to fulfill their potential.

In The Workplace

To put Maslow’s theory into perspective, let’s look at these needs from an employee’s point of view. I’ve included a few examples from life at VisionPoint to help illustrate how these needs are met.

  • Physiological Needs – Jobs provide money, which allows people to buy groceries, and thereby meet their physiological needs. We pay our employees a competitive salary and provide a long list of benefits including a 401k, health care, flexible hours and a dog-friendly workspace. Not to mention the occasional free lunch!

  • Safety Needs – When employees feel secure in their jobs, and are not concerned about layoffs or being fired, their safety needs are met. Our leadership team keeps everyone up to date on what’s happening with the company and the strategic vision for the future. We know that our jobs are safe and that the company is in good hands moving forward. Another component of this level is physical safety. We have a comfortable office space with an alarm system to protect our work and our belongings when we all go home for the night.

  • Social Needs – Having friendly co-workers and participating in team meetings can help employees reach their social needs. One of my favorite things about working at VisionPoint are the people I see every day. It would be difficult to find a team of more dedicated and hardworking people who are friendly and fun to be around.

  • Esteem Needs – Giving constructive feedback and praise for a job well done will help employees meet their esteem needs. At VisionPoint, feedback is not only encouraged, it’s required. In addition to individual feedback on a day to day basis, we all (yes, everyone in the company) provide feedback for annual reviews and evaluations.  

  • By providing employees with opportunities to learn, grow and reach their full potential, you can help them reach self-actualization. Professional development is a foundational part of VisionPoint’s culture. Every year, each employee creates a professional development plan to learn about what is most interesting to them and bring more value to the company. Monthly meetings with our supervisors ensure that our professional development plans stay on track.

The Importance of Empathy

Here at VisionPoint, we strive to live and work by a specific set of defined values that we refer to as Vision Points. One of these values, empathetic, is closely tied to the motivation people feel to strive to do their best work.

Empathy means more than just being friendly to one another. To be empathetic is to understand where another person is coming from and relate to them where they are in that moment. If you are able to understand what motivates people – whether it’s a client, a co-worker, or even yourself – you will be more likely to be empathetic to their situation.

Additional Reading

There are several other motivation theories out there that can have implications for your work and your everyday life. Here’s a list if you’re interested in doing a bit more research.

In Conclusion

Understanding and appealing to what motivates people will allow you to be more empathetic and can improve the interactions you have on a daily basis. It can help you in your communications by understanding what the other person wants, and finding a way to fulfill their needs. It can also help you with relationships. Those who have higher level needs met and who feel satisfied with their job will be more productive. Lastly, motivation theories can help raise your self-understanding, which can help you meet your own needs and be more productive.