Employee Motivation Research Turned on its Ear

You’ve heard the expression, “You wouldn’t know a good thing if it bit you”? It’s a funny expression, but as it pertains to employee motivation, it’s right on the money.

According to a recent study by Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer, when 600 managers were asked to rank the impact on employee motivation and emotions of the five workplace factors that are commonly defined as significant influencers—incentives, recognition, interpersonal support, clear goals, and support for making progress—they identified “recognition for good work” as Numero Uno.

And they were dead wrong.

When the researchers tracked the day-to-day activities, emotions, and motivation levels of hundreds of workers in many settings, they found that the top motivator was actually listed dead last on the managers’ survey.

The top motivator was (drumroll)…PROGRESS. That’s right, progress.

By analyzing 12,000 diary entries with the daily ratings of motivation and emotions, the researchers found that progress was the key factor on 76 percent of peoples’ best days and only 25 percent on their worst. Who’d have thunk it?

This is GREAT news, because unlike many other motivators, progress is something you can control, monitor, post, celebrate, and transform…and see results within days!


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