For most of our clients, the spring busy season is over (hooray!), and that creates some time and space to focus on yourselves and your firms. It’s my hope that you’ll use this time to renew your focus on your team members, too, by making a real effort get to know more about each and every one of your direct reports. Knowing your team members and understanding what lights them up in their work helps to increase their engagement and retain them long term. To facilitate this, I’d like to share a process that can accelerate your learning about your team, and that is to have each of them rate their professional motivators.

Merriam Webster defines motivation as “the condition of being eager to act or work.” Your job as a career manager (supervisor, people manager) is to seek out what drives and encourages your assigned team members to perform at their best. Through our work coaching staff, key leaders and partner groups, what we’ve discovered is that each person is unique in what encourages them and boosts their performance. In short, what motivates me may not be motivating to you.

Originally, when we rolled out this concept there were six motivators, but we recently updated it to nine, based on changes we’re seeing in the workforce. A key change is the influence of the millennials and their increasing dominance in our firms.

First, let’s define our list of the nine professional motivators, adapted from the Journal of Career Planning and Employment:

  • Acknowledgment and feedback. This is the act of communicating your appreciation for your people’s efforts and showing them courtesy and kindness in the work place. It is ensuring that you treat your people with dignity and honor them for their part in fulfilling your firm’s vision. It is the least costly motivator in terms of time and money and is often the one we forget. Acknowledgement and feedback can be as simple as an email or stopping by someone’s cubicle to tell them what a great job they did on a project and what they can do to improve next time, when warranted. Providing genuine feedback is one of the greatest gifts we can give our team members.
  • Camaraderie and fun. This is the level of team building, relatedness to others at work, activities to promote socializing, and the elements of laughter, play and fun that you promote in your work group. It also includes the level of enjoyment your people derive from working with the others on your team and with your clients.
  • Compensation and benefits. This encompasses base salary, commissions, financial incentives, stock options and other income-based pay, as well as health insurance, vacation, and other employee benefit programs. This is the one area where most firms focus their motivational energies – but, as you can see, it is only one of the nine motivators and surprisingly isn’t always the most important one!
  • Flexibility and time off. You appeal to this value with the range of choices you provide your people to schedule their own time, choose their work hours and days, work from home, take time off for personal activities and earn time off. It could include alternate work schedules for some, too, but doesn’t always mean “less hours” or part-time. It’s more about the control people have over when and where they complete their work assignments.
  • Growth and responsibility. This is the process of providing your people with expanded duties and responsibilities, where their work is increasingly complex and the importance of their work to the firm and your clients grows, too. Team members motivated by growth and responsibility desire to take on more – and often in a short time period.
  • Leading edge technology and efficient processes. Team members don’t want to work for a firm that feels old-fashioned or a slow to change and younger team members value technology, stream-lined processes and the latest “gadgets.” Appealing to this motivator includes demonstrating a willingness to invest in the latest tools and processes to work efficiently and effectively.
  • Making a difference. This focuses on making work have more meaning than earning money and serving clients. Team members want to feel a part of something larger and have a positive impact on their communities and a difference in the lives of others. It also includes understanding how their work fits into the big picture with clients and makes a difference in their lives and/or organizations.
  • Personal development and mentoring. In this area, the focus is the amount of additional skill, ability and market value that your firm adds to your people during their employment via continuing education, investment in certifications, mentoring programs, leadership development and more. It’s all about how to continue to get better.
  • Transparent and frequent communication. Your employees crave information about the big picture of your firm’s vision, growth plans and short and long term strategies. It also includes your perspective on their individual progression and future within the firm, as well as details about issues that affect them, their teammates and the firm as a whole on a day-to-day basis.

We recommend that you start by asking each person to rank the motivators using a scale of 1 to 9, where 1 is most important and 9 is least. You can do this as part of your performance review process, in an individual career development meeting or in a team meeting. You’ll want to emphasize that there are no right or wrong answers, because we all value the nine motivators, just in different degrees and order. Sharing your own ranking of the motivators first will produce a higher level of buy-in and support – and appeal to those motivated by transparent and frequent communication.

Click here for a sample version of the Nine Motivators Ranking Exercise.

At your next meeting, show genuine interest in how your team members rank their motivators and create an ongoing conversation about the ways in which you can encourage them to feel inspired and encouraged in their work. As much as possible, seek to structure each person’s working relationship around their individual motivators. For instance, among three high performers on a team, Sarah might prefer to attend a special leadership development program in lieu of a bonus, while Tom would like to take Fridays off in the summer, and Lisa is hoping for an increase in base compensation.

Another important aspect of the motivators is how an individual’s ranking may change over time, based on differences in life circumstance or where someone is in their career. For instance, early in my own career I was highly motivated by compensation and career growth, and while both of those still matter to me today, flexibility and time off are even more essential as I work to achieve balance with family and work demands.

Consider having all team members firm-wide rank their motivators and track the inputs in our Nine Professional Motivators Compilation Tool. Once you know more about your firm’s top motivational values, you can focus your people-related programs for maximum effect. For a firm whose team’s highest motivator is camaraderie and fun, a solid investment in social time, get-togethers and holiday parties will have a strong impact on team morale.

Merriam Webster offers a second definition of motivation, which is “to give someone a reason for doing something.” There can be no higher calling than to find new ways to excite and encourage your people to be their very best, so I hope you’ll start today by familiarizing yourself with the things your team members care about most!

Best regards,