The Art of Motivating Employees | Ideas & Techniques

Dec 05, 2013
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A thought-provoking question was posted on LinkedIn recently: “compensation + X = motivation?” From an employee perspective, what is X and how does it impact motivation? Money is a key component but what else contributes? Why is the X factor so important?

As an HR professional, it’s important to have a strategy for motivating employees. But, it seem like that there's an infinite variety of factors that contribute to motivation. Most of us understand employee engagement to be key,  as it has tremendous impact on your organization’s ability to compete in the marketplace. If engagement suffers, innovation and creativity will decrease and instead of driving the business forward, it will be lagging behind your strongest competitors. You need your employees to be engaged. So what’s the X factor?

The X Factor

The responses to the LinkedIn post were pretty incredible. The X factor varies from person to person and all are valid:


It is apparent that we all have varying motivational factors and they may change from week to week, depending on how we feel. Money is definitely one part of the equation but the intrinsic variable can shift and is difficult to nail down. I know what you’re thinking—if everyone has a different X factor, how does HR keep engagement running at peak levels? Well, it all depends on you.

Stop the Variable Shift. Communicate.

Many times, we assume what others want. We assume that because we know what motivates us, we’ll know what motivates someone else. However, this is not the case. Instead of assuming, let’s just ask. Communicate with your employees on an individual and regular basis. Find out what motivates them to work hard and feel successful at what they’re doing. Understanding the X factor is your responsibility, as the employer.

You’ll know you’ve found that X factor when you see the following:
• Your HR recruiter works overtime to put the finishing touches on the campus internship program, ensuring that the organization’s brand is front and center and attracts the right talent.
• Innovation and creativity is high. Employees are not afraid to take risks.
Employee referrals are your main source of recruiting.
• You see increased customer service ratings.
• Turnover is reduced.

The X Factor is a Funny Thing

Yes, it varies from employee to employee. It can be hard to define or solidify. It can change from one day to the next. It can seem illusive. The key to solving the “compensation + X = motivation” equation is communication. Don’t assume you know what works for everyone. Ask. Find out what will make your team more productive, more committed, more loyal.

How did your team solve for X? Tell us about it in the comments. 

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