‘Why do we do what we do?’ – Motivation

The importance of ‘Motivation’:

Organisations must never underestimate the importance of properly motivating their workforce, but such a task is far from simple. In order to fully appreciate its complexity an organisation must first understand the various factors impacting on its employees and what inspires them, not just to do their job, but to do it as well as possible.

This begins with treating employees not as commodity, but as individuals that must be reached, engaged and inspired repetition. Our Pilot Study Group were interested in a range of factors when we asked them about motivation, but all of them were concerned with having their interests and ambitions, if not fully and immediately realised, then at least appreciated and understood.


Long-term vs. short-term:

As far as our group was concerned, three things were held as the most significant current motivators; ‘being self-sufficient financially’, ‘particular hobbies/pursuits’ and ‘a desire to live in a certain way’.

What’s most interesting about this is that, while clearly demonstrating an interest for long-term success and a concern for lifestyle, none of our respondents were motivated by work in and of itself. Clearly, they are aware of what they want and are ambitious enough to view it as motivational, but they seemingly show little interest in the process that enables these desires to come to fruition.

This may be an unfair interpretation. For example, it could be argued that what this shows is a more pragmatic understanding on the part of a graduate audience; i.e. that work and external interests (desire to live in a particular way) are invariably intertwined, and the distinctly-formed career paths of our predecessors may no longer be the norm.


The ‘Numbers Game’:

What this further demonstrates is that, among our respondents at least, having a variety of interests and hobbies is seen as important. They are more concerned with ‘doing’ a variety of things, not necessarily bound up with earning money, than they are with working in a job they really feel happy in. It is clear that financial security, and thus independence, is a top priority, but the apparent disengagement with how that security is to be achieved is interesting.

This is perhaps born out of yet another contemporary concern, namely that of the ‘numbers game’. Many graduates have found themselves applying for as many different ‘opportunities’ as possible and, quite literally, jumping at the first thing that comes along. As we all know, an overly saturated graduate market primarily causes this, with more people than ever having the required characteristics of a ‘good degree’ from a ‘good university’. Whether this is the case or not is, as yet unclear, but it is certainly an issue keenly perceived to be facing graduates today.


‘Motivation’ in professions and careers:

Regarding particular professional motivations, our respondents’ answers were consistent with the first question, in that they were largely concerned with ‘success’ and ‘achievement of long/short-term objectives’. As above, this is indicative of their preoccupation with self-sustainability and being able to afford the freedom to live as they wish outside of work.

Having said that, very few of our respondents were desirous of having the ‘freedom to innovate’ at work, nor were a particularly substantial number interested in ‘job satisfaction’. This further supports our findings above, and our belief that, as far as these individuals are concerned, realisation of long-term plans and personal lives are deemed far more important, perhaps even to the detriment of work itself.

Having taken all this into account, it was particularly interesting that a high percentage of the respondents were concerned with ‘on-going learning and professional development’, indeed a similar number to those indicating concerns about objectives and success. There is clearly a desire to learn and improve, but this is paradoxically paired with a limited concern for job satisfaction, and even with freedom of thought and creativity in the work place.


What floats your boat?

When asked what they looked for in employers, to gauge whether or not they would be motivated to work there, our respondents gave a wide range of answers. A substantial number were, predictably, concerned with ‘clear objective-driven job descriptions’, ‘a menu of training and development options’ and ‘acknowledgement of achievement’. All of these are consistent with our findings so far.

However, a significant proportion were also concerned with ‘opportunities to get involved with projects outside my job description’ and ‘a sense of making a difference’. This is indicative of a more involved approach to working than has so far been in evidence, and most certainly a keener interest in the nature of work required in relation to one’s personal beliefs.


Thinking about ‘Motivation’ – The wider picture:

The above suggestion is further supported by some of the free text responses towards the end of the section, many of which were concerned with ‘doing what is of value’, ‘leading a life to be proud of’ and ‘being encouraged to be innovative’ etc. These may appear contradictory to some of the things that have been said so far, but they do show that our respondents were keenly interested in work being, as one respondent put it, ‘about more than simply paying the bills’. It does appear to be about ‘fit’ and whether or not one’s personal interest, beliefs, values etc. match up with those of a prospective employer.


Final thoughts:

All of this point is particularly poignant, as it corroborates what we have been saying in previous posts. What we seem to have here is a juxtaposition of ideals; on the one hand people are motivated by success, innovation, sustainability, freedom to live there lives as they wish; however, on the other, they seem to be constrained by such concerns as job security rather than job satisfaction, and long-term achievement rather than shorter-term enjoyment. They want to develop, they want to achieve, but there appears to be a void between the proud moment of becoming a ‘graduate’ and achieving ‘success’.

(Image courtesy of blog.janicehardy.com)