3 Keys to Employee Motivation

Motivated employees work harder, pure and simple. We all know that, but the obvious question still remains: how do we get our staff motivated?

Daniel Pink, best-selling author and speaker, has studied the research surrounding motivation in the workplace, and the basic fundamentals of motivation fall into three categories.

  1. Autonomy
  2. Mastery
  3. Purpose

A word of warning, none of these areas can be immediately mastered in the span of a day or two. It takes effort and time, but with the right application a solid base of motivated employees will result.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s look deeper at each of the three core areas of employee motivation.

Businessman with Trophy


Autonomy, at its core, can be defined as the amount of control someone has over the “how” of their work. Allowing people to have some measure of control over the tools, timelines, techniques, etc. will give them a sense of fulfillment. Imagine if someone asked you to build a house, but then they proceeded to tell you exactly what materials to procure, what labor to use, etc.

You might get it done, but it wouldn’t be as satisfying as someone giving you the end goal and setting loose your creativity and unique talents to find the best way to accomplish the task.


Mastery is all about employees feeling as if they understand a topic on a deep level. If we peel back the psychology, researchers have found that each and every one of us wants to believe that we are special–that we know something that others do not. Mastery is a great example of harnessing that psychological desire and tying it to the workplace.

We recently released some data in an infographic that shows companies are jumping on the bandwagon here—in fact, 69% of respondents provide professional development opportunities in order to ensure that their employees are differentiated in their skills to ensure a competitive advantage.


Purpose is a tricky one, but it can also be the most powerful of the three. Giving someone a strong mission/vision will help them to understand the purpose for what they are doing.

Asking someone to file papers all day sounds painful. Asking someone to file documents to assist with low-income housing residents so that their kids can have a safe place to grow up sounds like an amazing mission. Instill purpose into people, and they will become an amazing force for positive change.

Take your mark, get set…

And go! Pick one of these areas and start working today to emphasize them with regard to staff development. By the way, if you’d like to dig deeper into this topic, here’s a video of Mr. Pink describing in detail the ideas of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Enjoy!

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