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3 Essential Employee Motivation Questions


Employee motivation can make or break a business’ retention rates, and in a column for Inc., Minda Zetlin offers up three essential questions managers can ask any team member to uncover the secrets to his or her engagement at work. Even self-employed workers can benefit from asking themselves a couple of these questions, as their answers will reveal key insights about passion and drive.

  1. Why are you here? This question sounds like a challenge at first, but the employee’s answer will instantly give away whether they’re working for a paycheck or for something deeper. Managers can use this information to structure incentives that will top up employee motivation and engagement.
  2. What do you want that I can give you? Zetlin notes that in her work as the president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the contractors with whom she works typically want prestige or visibility. She fulfills these needs by giving public acknowledgements; for example, she often lets key volunteers join board meetings to report on their work.
  3. Can I let you own your project? “I believe people work hardest on things that are theirs to shape and manage on their own,” Zetlin wrote. “So I try to fit the right people for our most important projects, and then I largely get out of their way.” Managers should similarly see what they can outsource to their teams and relinquish sole control of these items.

Another key insight from Zetlin’s Inc. column is the attitude she takes toward managing. Most of her team members are volunteers; as she explained, “I see my job as most often wielding influence rather than power.” Many managers would do well to share her perspective.

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(Photo credit: Cambodia4kidsorg/Flickr)

Marissa Brassfield
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