Many people answer this question quickly by saying one word: pay. While it is true that some people work for financial compensation, not everyone does. In fact, you can probably think of many people you know for whom money is not their primary motivator. Some are mainly driven by being in control while others put a high value on being recognized for their efforts. Others still are primarily driven by the desire to help those in need.
When I say “primarily driven,” I do so because it is quite rare that someone is motivated by a single driver. Typically, employees will have 2-4 motivators that are most important to them, with one in particular being a little more important than those that follow.
A number of researchers have attempted to understand the various motivators that provide purpose for workers, and I’ve found that the list generated by Hogan Assessment Systems to be particularly useful, especially when it comes to family businesses:
- Recognition: Responsive to attention, approval, and praise
- Power: Desire for success, accomplishment, status, and control
- Hedonism: Orientation for fun, pleasure, and enjoyment
- Altruism: Help others and contribute to society
- Affiliation: Desire for and enjoyment of social interaction
- Tradition: Dedication, strong personal beliefs, and obligation
- Security: Need for predictability, structure, and order
- Commerce: Interest in money, profits, investment, and business opportunities
- Aesthetics: Need for self-expression, concern over look, feel, and design of work products
- Science: Quest for knowledge, research, technology, and data
The above list is important for family businesses for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve found that family businesses are typically very clear about their purpose, and they make great effort to hire employees who share that purpose. If, for example, you are a family business that is primarily driven by helping others (“Altruism”), then being clear about that characteristic will help you to find employees who share that purpose… and will likely do better work as a result.
Second, as a manager in a family business, understanding that your employees will not all be motivated in the same way means that you can tailor your management to fit the specific drivers of each employee. For example, giving an award for “Employee of the Month” may do very little to motivate a worker who doesn’t care about “Recognition,” but that same award will likely mean a lot to someone for whom “Recognition” is at the very top of their list.
What drivers are most important in your family business?