It’s no secret that motivated employees are better for business. A motivated employee will put in blood, sweat and tears to produce the outcomes needed. They will take ownership for the work they do with an organisation as if it is their own business and they will continually strive for success over the long-term. Money alone does not motivate people to strive for success. You’re only buying high performance for a short time if you take this approach.

According to recent research conducted by the Harvard Business School (HBS), the key to motivating employees is to create an environment that meets four basic emotional needs. To truly motivate their teams, organisations and managers must promote all four areas and not just focus on one.

The needs identified were:

Acquire – The drive to obtain or work towards something, either tangible or intangible

Bond – The drive to form relationships and connections with people and groups

Comprehend – The drive to learn, satisfy curiosity and accomplish goals

Defend – The drive to protect ourselves and others against threats and to promote justice

When the HBS researchers conducted employee surveys in over 300 companies, they found that on average organisations were only meeting 60% of these employee needs. And organisations which were focusing only on driving one need had lower levels of employee engagement and motivation.

Also, an interesting learning from the research is that individual line managers have an equal amount of sway in influencing these four factors as the organisational culture.

So what strategies can line managers and executives adopt to impact these four areas?

Acquire – Develop a fair and achievable reward program, which celebrates individual and group successes.

Bond – Drive an organisational culture which promotes team work and collaboration; together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

Comprehend – Provide stimulating jobs, appropriate challenge, variety and the opportunity for continuous learning.

Defend – Create an environment where people management systems are transparent and just. It is important employees understand the reasoning behind decisions, even if they don’t agree with them.

What motivates you at work? What strategies has your employer implemented to achieve greater employee engagement?