Five key motivators for modern employees

15 September 2022

Five key motivators for modern employees


Expansion & Improvement

At a time when staffing is more difficult than ever, employers are paying increasing attention to hiring and retaining valuable staff members through the right culture, working practices and conditions. While salaries remain a key motivator for employees, not every company has the resources at this time to invest more in compensation in order to keep their team together.

Fortunately, it’s not all about the money – the modern employee has a range of concerns that go beyond the financial.

Gary Staunton explains the factors that can help motivate your workforce to keep them happy, productive and engaged with your business.



Why does motivation matter?

When workers care about the work they’re doing, they’re far more likely to keep doing it, and do it well.

Employee engagement has been shown to increase profitability, work quality and productivity of employees, and it helps retain top talent. Engagement and motivation are largely a factor of your company’s culture – how your team feels about their work, the way they’re treated and how the business aligns with their own needs and beliefs.

Cultural expectations and norms change over time – the modern millennial and Gen Z workforce has distinct points of view compared to previous generations, and rapid advances in technology and working practices have accelerated these changes.



What are the key drivers for modern employees?


1. Authentic communication

The idea of your work-personality being entirely different from the way you behave outside of work has become significantly blurred in recent years. Modern employees are driven to pursue work that feels authentic - feeling like they’re being themselves and bringing their unique skills and point of view.

This requires a more open culture, creating a space for employees to communicate, review and be honest with each other and the leadership group. Old school, top down management tactics don’t leave room for individual contributions – which could leave you missing out on valuable insights.

Your team is a valuable source of information, from potential business improvements to group creativity and ideation, but most importantly this helps you understand your employees themselves.

Unless your employees are able to be honest about their needs and concerns, it’s impossible to ensure those needs are being met. An open, communicative culture brings your team closer together, helping them connect honestly and enabling you to find what really motivates them.

In practice, this will require actively creating an open atmosphere, encouraging those who wouldn’t normally speak up and purposefully leaving space, which may mean those who are in the habit of always speaking up taking a step back.


2. A message that matters

Modern employees are increasingly purpose-driven, wanting their work to have a tangible effect in the world around them. It’s your job as an employer to be able to make that purpose clear with a mission that provides a clear understanding of what you stand for, what you want to achieve and how.

Employees will naturally gravitate towards work that feels meaningful, making decisions and building connections based on their personal values. Similarly, vague or disingenuous messages are an instant turn off – if your mission doesn’t matter to you, why should it matter to your employees.


3. Empathetic leadership

While businesses often have policies in place to promote culture and acceptable behaviour, getting leadership to follow them in practice is a different matter. The reality is that values-adherence among leadership has to be 100%, or you risk undoing all the work you’re trying to do, impacting your ability to lead and your ability to create change.

Employees can smell fake authenticity – and there’s less and less need for them to put up with leadership they don’t respect. Modern employees deserve leaders who listen to their views, give feedback and follow up on their actions with integrity. If they don’t find that, there’s a huge market out there of positions that can meet their needs.


4. A clear route to adding value

Once you have a message and a leadership living those values, you also need to demonstrate how your employees play a role in making that goal a reality. If you have a hierarchy where managers take all the glory, where’s the purpose for the people whose work adds up to achieving that success?

From the CEO to the cleaners who keep your space in the right condition to work in, everyone on your team is playing a part in moving the business forward. While each task is different, it’s a leader’s job to ensure that everyone can point to how they’re contributing to the business. Because motivation comes from being part of something bigger - a shared purpose. And no matter where you are on the corporate ladder, everyone deserves to feel like their contribution matters.

Shifting your management approach from focusing on the ‘what’ of your employees' work to the ‘why’ empowers them to find value in their work and collaborate more effectively for the common good.


5. Feeling valued

The end goal of these efforts is a very human output – we all want to feel valued. Given how much time work takes up in our lives, it’s natural to want to spend that time somewhere that appreciates you.

There’s no one route to making someone feel valued. Even as I outline some tactics above, it really is a personal choice based on each employee's needs. It starts with listening, values and purpose, but it also stretches to many other factors about an employee's experience, from paying a fair salary, to recognising performance and offering progression to achieve their goals.

It’s only by engaging with your employees that you can actively help them stay engaged. By building better relationships you can ensure that both your team and your business can benefit from the value they produce.


Building your business on motivation

Your team is your biggest asset as a business – how you motivate them is the difference between them becoming the driving force behind your success, or a weight around your neck. In a hyper competitive employment market, you can’t afford to ignore your motivation strategy.

At Haines Watts London, we support businesses in every aspect of their journey, from accounts, to culture and growth. We know there’s more to your business than the numbers, and we’re here for you every step of the way.


If you’d like to know more about motivating and engaging your team, get in touch with us for a chat.