Author Profile Picture

Carole Gaskell


Managing Director

Read more from Carole Gaskell

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Motivation is the ‘root cause’ of culture and performance


Until now, companies have never been able to define what really makes their employees tick, or to measure how motivated they or their teams are. But what actually is motivation and how can it really drive us as people?

Combining the results of research in 2015 from Gallup, Blessing White and Towers Watson,  an average 73% of employees are not engaged, proving that  organisations clearly have a motivation and engagement problem.

Motivation is all about energy, it is the motive and the internal reason we have which prompts us to act in a certain way and is derived from the Anglo-Norman term, 'motif,' which is often translated as 'drive.' So our motivations are our inner drivers, the fire in our belly that lights us up from within and determines how we feel about things and how we act.

Ten years of research into motivation by James Sale, author of ‘Mapping Motivation’ shows there are three primary roots of motivation within the human psyche:

  • Our personality (which tends to be fairly fixed, difficult to change and more past orientated).
  • Our self-concept (how we see and feel about ourselves, our beliefs about ourselves and our internal world, tends be less innate, more variable and present orientated).
  • Our expectations (our beliefs about future outcomes. These again are more variable and future orientated).

In essence, it is the unique blend of our personality with our self-concept, beliefs and expectations which creates our motivation and determines the outcomes of our life and work.

As motivation is virtually synonymous with energy, it is critically important for leaders to understand what energises them and their people and to also train managers about this new learning. Motivation is the missing essential component of performance and engagement, going beyond behaviours (which are merely outer reflections) of deeper, invisible forces which drive people's ultimate actions.

80% of the variation in employee engagement sits with the line manager. 

We now have the opportunity to create a revolutionary new motivational model: instead of managers struggling to change behaviours, they can focus on understanding the motivational drivers at the root cause and work with people to address these – and performance improvement can be dramatic.

It’s not all about money

For many organisations, the most significant budget is the ‘people budget’ and a common temptation is to reward people by focusing on remuneration. But money is only one of nine key motivational drivers and is not the answer for everyone.  We need to understand people’s actual top motivational drivers to have a radical impact on their performance.

You probably know at a gut level that addressing people's motivators has a direct impact on engagement. Hay group research proved that highly engaged employees are 50% more likely to outperform their performance targets. The best companies at engaging people achieve 4.5 times the revenue growth.

The Engage for Success survey highlights that when employees are engaged, companies benefit from 18% higher productivity; improved retention rates with attrition savings of around 20% of an employee’s salary, and 12% improvement in customer service.

The best companies at engaging people achieve 4.5 times the revenue growth.

To date, much of the focus has been on how organisations can engage their people - rather than how employees can engage themselves. Understanding motivation engenders self-generated engagement, which is more sustainable.

The government's ‘employee engagement task force’ revealed that 80% of the variation in employee engagement sits with the line manager. We all understand that it's the relationship between employee and manager that drives discretionary effort. I believe that if managers are given simple tools and understand and act on the motivational  ‘hot buttons’ of their colleagues, engagement, performance and productivity all rise accordingly.

This in turn results in more engaged customers and better customer service.

Blending Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs with Edgar Shein's Career Anchors and the Enneagram, we have identified nine work motivators using an individual profiling tool which measures motivation properly for the first time.   

Each type of motivator has its own distinctive needs, wants and desires - we all have a unique blend of these motivators which can change over time. I have grouped the nine motivators in three clusters.

Familiarising leaders with these ‘hot buttons’ of motivation and helping them to measure and recognise the key motivators in themselves and others can be transformational.

This type of learning and development with directors and managers can help management to really understand what makes their employees tick, and how and what extent they need to fix any motivational issues.

Are you driven by relationship motivators?

  • The Defender who seeks security, predictability and stability
  • The Friend who seeks belonging, friendships and fulfilling relationships
  • The Star who seeks recognition, respect and social esteem

Perhaps achievement motivators mean more to you:

  • The Director who seeks power, influence and control over people and resources
  • The Builder who seeks money, material satisfactions and above average living
  • The Expert who seeks knowledge, mastery and specialisation

Or are the growth motivators what turn you on?

  • The Creator who seeks innovation, creativity and change
  • The Spirit who seeks freedom, independence and autonomy
  • The Searcher who seeks meaning, purpose and wants to make a difference.

Once managers understand their own top three motivators, the top motivators of their people and how to adapt their management style to take these into account, they can release significant energy into an organisation. Equally important is knowing people's lowest motivators to avoid wasting energy.

Each motivator is energised by different ‘hot buttons’ which every manager needs to know. When they understand their own and their team’s motivators and they can adapt their management style according to the motivator type.

  • The Defender wants communication and continuity from a manager
  • The Friend wants support and involvement
  • The Star wants awards and status
  • The Director wants responsibility and influence
  • The Builder wants money and material perks
  • The Expert wants training and development
  • The Creator wants rewards for innovation
  • The Spirit wants autonomy and empowerment
  • The Searcher wants praise and regular feedback.

Career tips for motivator types

With 33% of UK workers not happy with their career progression, understanding  our motivational drivers can help us make much better career choices. For example, a Defender needs to be given clear roles with a set routine and career paths - they like stable, well established organisations, while a Director likes management or leadership roles with clear and visible responsibility for people and resources, promotion and career prospects.

A Star likes visible perks that link to their position, clear hierarchical structures, job titles and the opportunity to ‘shine’ and a Builder likes performance and reward to be strongly linked, is drawn to professions with above average pay and visible routes to promotion.

The Expert likes roles requiring specialist knowledge and skill, motivated by environments where personal development leads to formal recognition of expertise and a Creator likes problem solving, development work in cutting edge, innovative organisations or high change, challenging environments and a Searcher likes purposeful organisations, making a difference, is motivated by learning, caring orientated roles and projects often with consumer facing opportunities.

With this insight, learning & development can work with individuals and leaders to ignite their team and unlock the energy that really drives productivity within organisations.

It also helps people to make better individual career choices by examining whether a workplace culture and team suits their own work motivators and truly empowers leaders and individuals to be responsible for their own motivation and engagement.

Author Profile Picture
Carole Gaskell

Managing Director

Read more from Carole Gaskell

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!