True Motivation: A marriage of meaning and money (Part I)



There’s a lot of debate on what motivates people to work: is it money, is it autonomy, purpose, mastery, or is it something else?

My answer is – all of the above. Let’s explore how it works and then we’ll explore how you can take advantage of this in your workplace.

Can we reconcile two different views?

“People respond to money and status – at the end of the day, it is what you pay them and the authority you give them that motivates them.” – anon
“To be motivated, people need autonomy (the ability to make their own decisions), mastery (the ability to master a skill or discipline) and a strong sense of purpose. Neither money nor status guarantee that.” – anon (since Daniel Pink)
Exploring the Arguments


In Drive Daniel Pink presents a powerful argument that autonomy, purpose and mastery are the keys to motivation and businesses would be well advised to put these front and centre of their reward policies.

A fast way to understand Daniel Pink’s argument is to watch this RSA animate video:

RSA Animate video of Daniel Pink's Drive

Jurgen Appelo argues that some people take Daniel Pink’s work too literally and believe that it doesn’t matter what you pay people. But his experience is contrary to that – without a financial imperative people do not give their best. He set up Happy Melly to help people have a purpose and make money at the same time.

He presented his view in his lightning talk at Agile By Example in 2013:

Juergen Appelo explains why money is key to motivating people

What should we do?


So what should we do?

Do we stick to traditional methods, abandon pay and promotion in favour of this brave new world or try to do both?

In Part II we’ll explore how motivation works and understanding much more clearly why these apparently different views are actually compatible with each other.

Then in Part III we’ll get to the meat of the matter: what practical steps can you take to better motivate people in your organisation?

Posted in Engagement, Ownership, Rewards.

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