Colin Yeow- Deputy CEO | Emergenetics International- Asia

Colin Yeow- Deputy CEO | Emergenetics International- Asia

In the human capital development space, employee motivation is a topic we hear time and time again. It’s usually in the form of a question— “What’s the best form of employee motivation?”

I was reading a blog from Harvard Business Review and found it fascinating! It was titled “Why You Lead Determines How Well You LeadUsually, when we discuss ‘how well’ someone does something, we end up discussing the individual’s skills, ability or potential. In this case, the title seemed to suggest otherwise.

As I read the blog, I found myself agreeing with the author, Tom Kolditz, as he explained that internal, intrinsic motivation was the key factor that produced higher performance in leaders. Another surprising result was that those with a combination of both external and internal motivations didn’t perform as well. This meant that external motivations are actually counter-productive when it comes to leadership performance.

This, to me, has great significance in the field of people, team, and leadership development.  It suggests that with employee motivation we should look more at internal, intrinsic factors instead of having external incentives or rewards in place to drive people. Dealing with internal, intrinsic motivations, however, might mean going deeper into personal development, focusing on unique individuals – the development of ’me’ – before we look at team development or ultimately, organisational development.

At Emergenetics, we like to look at this as first understanding the Power of ME, before we harness the Power of WE.Employee Motivation

Understanding how to motivate people well, and in a sustainable manner can reap many advantages. It can help us establish trust, clarify intent, and build teams. Focusing on the individual, it will further allow us to develop customised strategies in coaching and mentoring leaders as well as to conduct effective performance reviews.

Here’s a quick story to consider: Adam works at ABC Company and joined them a couple of years ago because he wanted to make a difference by selling the products the company manufactured. Over the years, in order to motivate and retain Adam, the company tied the number of products he sold to a hefty bonus at the end of the year. It resulted in Adam feeling motivated to sell the product but only for a short time. After a year, Adam reportedly felt drained and de-motivated and eventually resigned.

This is a common scenario at many organisations. Money is a common tool used to incentivise employees, but it is not the only way, neither is it the most effective. It may have short term gains, but ultimately, what it does is to distract the individual from their original motivations.

Organisations might do better to consider other aspects such as providing more leave days to do meaningful work outside of work, providing work-life balance and/or flexible work hours or facilities at work that allow employees to dream and recharge.

The difference is that allowing for a more holistic approach considers the fact that every individual is unique and may have different motivations. Companies shouldn’t decide how employees should be motivated but instead, create a motivating environment that allows for internal, intrinsic motivation to remain key and central to what drives an individual. 

Emergenetics helps organisations do this by revealing an individual’s behaviour and thinking preferences which in turn may reveal their motivations, and ultimately, help them and their organisation realise their full potential as employees and leaders.

“Stop searching the world for treasure, the real treasure is in yourself.”
― Pablo, Author and Poet