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3 Ways Better Than Money, Promotion or Recognition to Motivate Employees

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There are dozens of ways that leaders and organizations motivate their employees. Pay raises, promotions and recognition are the most common motivational levers pulled.

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While those all make sense on the surface, they don't necessarily equate to sustained employee motivation. If an individual is given repeated salary bumps, but is forced to do unfulfilling work, it's unlikely they'll stayed engaged in their day-to-day activities. Or, if they consistently get promoted via inflated titles and monikers but they're constantly micro managed, the phony title is hollow and the promotion can be a de-motivating factor.

Lastly, recognition is meaningless if employees are given wooden plaques, Plexiglass-glass trophies or framed certificates without the context of their connection within the organization or with other co-workers.

These obvious methods of motivation tend to ignore the psychological needs that truly drive and motivate employees, so it makes sense that an amalgamation of the best psychological motivators for employees is worth considering.

1. Control.

At the heart of the issue of control is our human need to perceive we have freedom to exercise short- and long-term choices. That reflects our need to feel that what we are doing is of our own direction and discretion. 

Allowing employees to take appropriate action and make decisions relating to the work they do can be more motivating than any other single factor.

Related: How to Take Control of Your Career … Now!

2. Connection

Some psychological models identify "connection'' as our need to be accepted and loved. Within the workplace it manifests as caring about the organization and be cared about by others. It is our inherent need to feel connected to others, without concerns about ulterior motives, as well as believing in a vision larger than ourselves. 

Connection has the power to galvanize a workforce during hard times and inspire them during good times, and isn't that a critical definition of motivation?

Related: 5 Ways to Foster Team Culture on a Startup Budget

3. Competency.

This motivating factor has been defined in psychology circles as significance or esteem.

On the job it tends to materialize as a personal sense of effectiveness or competency to successfully address everyday challenges and opportunities. It's demonstrating skill over time or a feeling of growth and flourishing within the organization.

Without a strong sense of competency, of having the right skills for the right job to drive results, it's difficult to believe in yourself and stay motivated.

Not only are these three factors impactful, they're also low- or no-cost to implement. And each of these factors touch the employee's core, unlike pay, promotion and awards.

While pay, promotion and awards can be important motivating factors within the proper context and application, leaders that pay consideration to employees' core psychological needs will likely see greater motivational dividends in the long run.

Related: Thriving Cultures Are Built With Recognition and Praise

Tor Constantino

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Tor Constantino is a former journalist, consultant and current corporate comms executive with an MBA degree and 25+ years of experience. His writing has appeared across the web on Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune and Yahoo!. Tor's views are his own and do not reflect those of his current employer.