TIL: Understanding what motivates people

Just 13% people around the globe are engaged at work.
24% of people around the globe are actively disengaged at work.
Lack of motivation leads to quality defects, patient safety incident, shrinkage, turnover, absenteeism.

It was demonstrated in 2001 that there are 10 core values that motivate individuals at work, regardless of nationality or religion. Those values are: power status, achievement, pleasure, excitement, independence, understanding, benevolence, tradition, conformity, security.

Researchers asked 30000 people to rank order the importance of these values and the results were almost the same for all of them:

  1. benevolence
  2. independence / autonomy
  3. understanding / wisdom
  4. security
  5. conformity
  6. achievement
  7. pleasure
  8. excitement
  9. tradition
  10. power status

There are no significant differences in core values among cultures but there are some interesting differences between generations:

Generation X and Millennials are less motivated by intrinsic motives than Baby Boomers. Generation X want more pay and bonuses, Millennials consider more important leisure time (vacation, smart working…).


The factors that were driving why someone was satisfied at work (the motivators), were not the factors that were causing people to be dissatisfied at work (the hygiene factors).


  • achievement
  • recognition
  • work itself
  • responsibility
  • advancement
  • growth

Hygiene Factors:

  • company policy/admin
  • supervision
  • relationship with supervisor
  • work conditions
  • salary
  • relationship with peers
  • personal life
  • relationship with subordinates
  • status
  • lack of job security

Improving a hygiene factor does not raise motivation.


Different types of motivation exist.; the critical distinction is autonomous versus controlled motivation or and intrinsic.

People certainly can be motivated externally by money, titles, badges, competition, fear of failure… But a

You can use both extrinsic and intrinsic motives but you should be aware that

However an indirect extrinsic reward tied to your effort, your engagement in the task or the completion of the task can be a huge boost to performance.
Do not assume people are like you (Social Projection).
Do not assume extrinsic rewards have a linear relationship with happiness: the happiness benefits of money begin to diminish after $70000
If you want to improve task performance in quantity aspects emphasize a mix of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards; if you want to improve task performance in quality aspects emphasize intrinsic rewards.
Do not ignore social comparison: you must ensure rewards are aligned with contributions across people.

Notes from: Leading People and Teams Specialization

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