Employee Motivation Factors, Performance & Job Satisfaction

December 7, 2018
5 min
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Let’s ask the right questions

The quality of the questions we ask define the quality of the answers. So, what are the best questions to ask? What drives employees? What can organizations do to create better performance or job satisfaction? Let’s explore these questions together.

I have spoken to countless leaders who proudly proclaim, “employees are our most important asset.” At first glance, there is nothing wrong with that sentiment, but let’s take a deeper look. Most progressive organizations we’ve met on this journey challenge “employee” as the title. JetBlue refers to their people as “crewmembers”.  Entertainment Cruises refers to their people as “ship crew”. In our book we propose “tribe”. Many organizations are moving away from thinking about their teams as simply a set of employees. 

What if we pivot from asking what employees want to asking what do humans want? Does that open the door to explore concepts such as purpose, happiness, and mindfulness?

People not employees

Thinking about your team as “employees” leads to the same assets management mindset that has led to the disengaged workforce we see today. Instead, ask yourself, “what do people want?” While this may seem to be a minor, and almost inconsequential, detail, this changes the game. It changes the game because the whole approach is changed.

Employee Motivation Factors, Performance & Job Satisfaction

When we consider an ‘employee’s’ wants, needs, and desires we’re immediately funneled into thinking in simply economic managerial terms. Because, being an employee is an economic position. But, this isn’t what drives and inspires people to go the extra mile – strategies based on “employees” will only ever get you people doing what little they can to get their paycheck and go home.

So, what are leaders to focus on when they want to inspire people? Three essentials show up in the research: happiness, mindfulness, and purpose.


It’s a fuzzy concept, so let’s get definitions out of the way. According to Patrick Lencioni, author of The Truth About Employee Engagement, happiness in the workplace is the feeling that who you are matters, what you do has an impact, and that you’re making progress.

When leaders focus on happiness, it isn’t an act of selfless altruism – rather it’s benefiting everyone – especially leadership.  

In the following Ted Talk, Dan Gilbert explains the emerging science behind happiness – and what you can do about it.



Mindfulness is that state of mind in which you are totally immersed in the moment and fully present. Research into this psychological state has shown more and more that it is the optimal state for work – not only for productivity, but for enjoyment.

Most people’s idea of mindfulness is a cliched image of someone inactive and meditating. And while this is certainly a deep state of mindfulness, mindfulness in the workplace means anything but inactivity. In fact, research has shown that the more dynamic the workplace the more beneficial mindfulness practices can be. This means the more chaotic and demanding the work is the more you need to be fully present in the moment.

The evidence is quite clear – mindfulness is among the best strategies to implement. One study, conducted by Rich Fernandez, found mindfulness strategies to be directly correlated with a 200% ROI. With that kind of ROI, mindfulness is certainly essential for companies to remain competitive in the future.   

Watch Peter Bostelmann’s insightful Ted Talk explaining the rise of mindfulness.



Happiness and mindfulness are about the individual experience, but to really inspire and motivate your team you need to offer a vision that links them to something bigger than themselves: purpose.

Leading the way in the people centered approach to motivation in workplace is Simon Sinek. He’s taken the world of purposeful work by storm – garnering over 5 million views of his famous Ted Talk, Start with why.  


How motivation affects your bottom line

You may be wondering why your strategy should include such soft concepts – you’re trying to run a business after all. Well, these elements when brought into the workplace have a strong relationship to a number of KPIs and, ultimately, profits. In fact, large organizations are beginning to notice these factors and are utilizing these insights in the creation of their high level strategy.

How about those people focused essentials I brought up earlier? The evidence for focusing on happiness in employees is growing: businesses with happy employees are 20% more productive than those without. Salespeople even show 37% more sales.

We can even see the effect transferred over to stock price – Fortune 100 companies with happy employees grew 8% more between 1998 and 2005, than companies without. What does this look like for profit? According to SAP’s calculations, a 1 percentage point increase in employee engagement corresponds anywhere from 50 to 60 million euros in operating profit.

We hope to spark the journey to find the right questions. If you agree, instead of asking what employees want, let’s examine what people want.

John Paul

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