Can motivation be improved through employee wellbeing?

The high street retailer Argos is launching what they are calling, the UK’s first ‘Employee Motivation Day’. As they state, “Delving into employee motivation levels, a nationwide survey, revealed that ‘feeling valued’ by their boss was the top motivational factor in helping them achieve more during their nine to five.” While the nine to five is increasingly something of an outdated concept, what motivates employees certainly isn’t and here we will take a brief look at the changing nature of organisations, technology, and how motivation might be improved through wellbeing.

Extroversion, intuition, feeling or just plain oversimplification?

Defined as ‘a factor or factors that cause an employee to pursue work tasks or goals. It's what causes you to act in a certain way’, it essentially has two components: extrinsic motivation: that which is external to the individual such as punishment or reward within an organisation, and intrinsic motivation: that which comes from within because you find work satisfying, enjoyable and fulfilling. While internal policy, procedure and measures can be adapted to improve extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation is another matter and as a result has been studied for decades where organisational leaders have used assessments like Myers-Briggs to determine their employee’s personality types so they can better anticipate behaviours and—yes, you guessed it—understand motivation. 

Additionally, motivational books have been used as tools to encourage employees to increase their performance and / or get them back to a positive trend. While assessments, books and other tools can and have helped, the factors that motivate employees are evolving and employee demand, technology and data are set to drive a new understanding of the subject which will likely make previous attempts appear oversimplified. By embracing these changes, leaders must hold themselves accountable to build meaningful and purposeful relationships that matter with employees. 

‘Engagement’ as it is termed, will be the modern HR focus, along with technology and big data.


So, how are organisations changing?

The Demand Side - The Millennials

 The Millennials

The Millennials

Workforces are changing in part due to increasingly sophisticated demand from a new generations of workers—the type that would make Karl Marx proud. The educated, health-aware, tech savvy ‘millenials’ are a workforce who are demanding a different deal from their employers—where employee benefits, particularly those relating to health and wellbeing, are key. For example, Investors in People Survey (UK) 2014 noted that more than half (51%) of respondents said the health and wellbeing benefit offered by their employer improved their overall job satisfaction, and this is a trend which is increasing. Leading employers are seeing this as an opportunity to increase their offer to attract, retain and engage with their employees. 

There is also a drive toward an increasingly ‘diverse and inclusive’ workforce to include those who reflect a customer base—i.e. in most firms, everyone. Previously, the role of HR was largely a passive service although in the future we believe that it will evolve: to become more strategic and central to business aims, and a driver of social corporate responsibility—including wellbeing.

Supply Side - Technology and Big Data 

Colliding with this increasingly demanding new generation of talent is the advancement in new technology. Price Waterhouse Coopers, in their recent report ‘Engaging Your Pivotal Talent’ for example, envisage that by 2017 assembly workers in the Far East will be wearing sensors to gauge concentration, work rate and mood. While this might be seen by some as intrusive and detrimental to relations with workers, others, including workers themselves are seeing it as an opportunity to give feedback on how they manage in the workplace.

New technology and data are platforms from which the workforce can develop a voice to broadcast feedback such as: my work/life balance needs attention, my work adversely affects my health, I am excessively stressed for an unacceptable amount of time whilst working.

The tide of new technology and data is obviously a threat to many employers although the most forward thinking see it as a huge opportunity to increase engagement with their employee populations, and work on employee motivation. After all, if you are able as an employer to show in a meaningful way that you care about your employees and use technology to gather, analyse and respond to data then you have a sizeable opportunity to increase engagement and contribute to intrinsic motivation—the millennial will want to work for you because you are forward thinking and responsive to their concerns as revealed by data.

Employee Demand, Technology, Big Data and Employee Wellbeing will reveal new paths to understanding and contributing to motivation 

 Big data

Big data

This brings us to the question: can employee motivation be improved through wellbeing? At Virtually Free we envisage a future in which the world of work will incorporate much of what is outlined above: a decline in Myers-Briggs type oversimplification of workers’ personality and motivations, a demanding millennial workforce, the integration of new wearable technology—with a particular focus on health and wellbeing, both preventive and reactive and big data providing many opportunities to analyse and improve how they engage with and motivate employee. In short, help employees through wellbeing programs to reduce stress and you will increase engagement and intrinsic motivation.