4 Drivers Of Employee Motivation That All IT Leaders Must Know

by drjim on September 24, 2008

The Four Drivers Of IT Staff Motivation

The Four Drivers Of IT Staff Motivation

We’ve talked about the fact that sometimes employee motivation can be a lot like performing brain surgery – you’ve got to be careful or you’ll end up doing a lot of damage. If an IT manager can realize that their staff (indeed all humans) have four fundamental emotional drivers that need to be met, then they are well on their way to maximizing employee satisfaction and maximizing productivity. So what are these four drivers that we all respond to?

  • The Drive To Acquire: More! More! More! As human beings we are all programmed to go out and get scarce goods (iPhone?) that make us feel better about ourselves. I think that we can all agree that we feel “happy” when we are successful and we feel “sad” when we fail. It’s not just physical things that we desire, but also experiences and improvements in our social status. This drive is relative – we are always comparing what we have to what those around us have. Oh, and it’s insatiable – we always want more, more, more!
  • The Drive To Bond: We all know about how we bond with our parents, siblings, etc. However, the human creature is amazing because we have the additional ability to extend who we bond with to associations, organizations, and even countries. This is a big one – when we are successful in bonding, then we fell loved. When we are not successful in bonding, then we fell loneliness. For your IT workers, bonding at work is a critical part of who they are. When staff feel proud to be part of an organization (Starbucks?) this can be a big boost to their motivation. It also explains why we get so depressed when we get fired or laid off – we feel that the organization has betrayed us.
  • The Drive To Comprehend: We are creatures that really want to understand the world in which we live. We are constantly using scientific, cultural, and even religious theories to try to make sense of it all. Our reason for doing this is that we want to be able to come up with reasonable responses to things that happen in our environment and to be able to determine what actions we should take next.
  • The Drive To Defend: You knew that this one had to be on the list! When external threats show up, we humans naturally defend ourselves, our family & friends, our property and things, etc. Remember that “flight or flight” thing? Fulfilling this drive leads employees to feel secure, failing to fulfill it leads to strong emotions like fear and resentment. This drive is one reason why mergers or buyouts can be so devastating for staff.

Now that you know what the four drivers of your staff are, the big question is how can you use these drivers to make sure that they are motivated to work hard. We’ll talk about that next time…

How many of these drivers do you see driving your own behaviors? Which one do you think is strongest in you? When managing a team, have you come up with ways to make sure that these drivers are being satisfied? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking!

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Motivational April 7, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Interesting. For me, it depends on the situation. I can see myself motivated by each one during different situations.

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noobie June 5, 2009 at 10:14 pm

It really helps to add a little hear and there. By just hearing some reason to improve helps keep the interest up. Mostly I think of how these four areas help me know how well I fit at the job, that is how well I like the people I’m around.

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Dr. Jim Anderson June 6, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Noobie: … and that’s the key. We’ll be working in the IT field for about 40-45 years during our careers. That’s a long time! If we can realize what motivates us, then we can focus on that and it’ll make life a lot easier…!

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Gregory Despain February 16, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Fired Up comment about motivation

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CJ Deguara October 21, 2012 at 11:56 am

Whilst I feel that there are more motivators to consider, I do agree that these are very important drivers, most research segments motivations into a minimum of 12 motivators, some even reaching 24, these 4 are a good start. For me I have an insatiable need to comprehend, I define it as curiosity. I think that the above leaves out the more primal driversandthe most basic of needs that we are hard wired to achieve and can be a real distraction if not satisfied; even the base need of hunger is ignored, try making an employee work on an empty stomach without a lunch break lol. Ever wondered why all large organizations have their own canteens and specific times for lunch breaks?

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Dr. Jim Anderson October 26, 2012 at 6:35 pm

CJ: good point. It can be amazing just how well a standard meeting can go if you think ahead and bring food. Those hungry people seem to agree a lot faster once their belly’s are full…

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Shivarp October 29, 2012 at 10:43 pm

I was reading a similar article in Harvard Business Review, an article dated August 2008. So who originated this idea ?

Thaanks,
shivarp

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Dr. Jim Anderson November 2, 2012 at 10:35 am

Shivarp: Good question. I think that managers have been looking for the best way to motivate their employees for a long time. There is no one answer (that’s why you see so many different articles!); however, we seem to be coming to an understanding that taking the time to do it right can be invaluable…!

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