According to research cited by Daniel Pink greater monetary rewards actually have a negative impact on performance.    In his book Drive, he cites three factors that do motivate people in today’s knowledge-based workplace: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  But there is a prerequisite, paying people enough that money does not factor into their day-to-day thinking.

In the 10 minute video below he explains how he came to this conclusion.

Autonomy: the desire to be self-directed.  According to Daniel Pink autonomy leads to engagement.  But what is engagement?  To paraphrase a familiar response, I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.  In the example from the video, Mr. Pink points to a company that has benefited from giving employees complete autonomy for one day each quarter.  In his words, “getting out of the way.”  Once a quarter works in the example but autonomy looks different depending on the context.  To me, one day every three months is not really autonomy.

Mastery: outstanding skill; expertise.  If there isn’t a monetary reward, what motivates a person to master something?  Passion.  People excel at what they love.  How do you know what your passions are?  One way to find out is to take the Strong Interest Inventory.  This tool provides valid and reliable insights into a person’s interests and how they can satisfy them.  Alignment between a person’s passion and their work is powerful.  When there is alignment between these two factors a person pursues challenges and opportunities to improve.  Who wouldn’t want that kind of person working for them?

Purpose: the reason for which something is done.  In the video, Mr. Pink notes that “when the profit motive gets unmoored from the purpose motive bad things happen.”  Their are plenty of examples of bad corporate behavior but I think there is a bigger point to be made.  People are drawn to a purpose they believe in.  Starbucks emphasizes global responsibility.  Apple focuses on innovation.  At Disneyland “imagination is the destination.”

What happens if your organization addresses some but not all of these factors?  For example, providing autonomy without mastery.  That could be disastrous.  Mastery without purpose leads to burnout.  Autonomy without purpose lacks focus.