Basics of Employee Motivation: One Size Fits One

bob's BlogDr. Bob Nelson
April 04, 2012

Most organizations approach employee motivation as though “one size fits all.”  If there is a recognition program it is typically targeted to include everyone.  Recognition tools are available for everyone.  Celebrations typically include everyone.  The truth of the matter is, however, that motivation needs vary from person to person and they also change over time so that a “one size fits all” program will typically only be motivating to a small percentage of employees at any given time.


What motivates a person, motivates that person and varies widely from person to person with the uniqueness of each individual, his or her motivations, interests, hobbies, personality, age, gender, culture and background.  Instead of plopping a single recognition tool or learning management system on your organization and expecting everyone to be excited about it, much better is to realize that motivation today is very personal to people and needs to start with their unique motivations, interests and values.


Ask people what they want and then strive to give them those things in a timely, specific way when they have performed well.  Don’t give them one thing (insert “ring,” “watch,” “trophy,” “plaque,” etc.) and expect them to be excited about it!  They rarely will be.  And it doesn’t help much to give them a choice among various “things” that all roughly cost about the same amount of money.  A thing is a thing and doesn’t do much for someone hoping for an experience, visibility, inclusion, development, responsibility or prestige.


It’s not that difficult to get to know those that work for you to find out what really drives them. Meet them at their energy and help support what they are striving to achieve in their jobs, careers and lives.  If you sincerely do that, they will notice and think twice about leaving to work for someone else.  Why would they if they are getting their needs met in working for YOU!

—Bob Nelson

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