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The Science of Improving Motivation: Understanding Employee Behavior and Increasing Productivity in the Workplace

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The word motivation is derived from the term motive, which refers to wishes, requirements, or desires. It is the process of driving individuals to take action to achieve their objectives. In psychology, the study of motivation is concerned with finding the best answers to two fundamental questions: What causes behaviour, and why does it vary in intensity?

The goal of motivational science is to develop ideas about what motivates people and how they behave in order to understand what motivates them. Behaviour and the degree of engagement become apparent and identifiable when motivation is seen in the real world and evaluated by scientific processes.

Many call motivation a psychological phenomenon, which means that the desires and needs of an individual must be addressed by devising an incentive strategy. So, how can you apply the science of motivation to your company?


How Can Your Business Benefit from Using the Science of Motivation?

You hear this often, but the truth is that employees are at the heart of any organization. Your business will not run or grow without your hardworking employees, so you want to make sure that your people work harmoniously to lead you to success. To achieve this, you need to work hard to keep your employees motivated, and understanding the science behind it will help you with this.

One thing you can use to motivate your team’s behaviour is the concept that the desire for money, recognition, success, and other psychological aspects may influence individual actions in work objectives. A key responsibility that managers have is to instil in people a desire to do their best work. Thus, as a leader, you need to pique the people’s interests through their colleagues’ work performance.

To understand the science behind motivating employees, you must first understand what drives people personally and professionally. This way, you can better comprehend motivational theory and how the goal-setting theory in the workplace can help your employees become more productive.

The Phenomenon of Motivational Science

Early Origins

The origins of the science of motivation can be traced back to the ancient Greeks when the philosopher Aristotle proposed that a purpose or motivation can lead to action.

Several different motivational theories have emerged over the years. On the one hand, intrinsic ideas claim that motivations are driven by the desire to participate in a particular activity. On the other hand, extrinsic theories claim that motivations are driven by actualizing the outcome of the activity itself.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In the 1940s, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs emerged as a dominant approach to understanding human motivation. This theory argues that five different types of human needs influence an individuals’ behaviour. It starts with basic physiological necessities like food, water, warmth, and shelter, which humans need to survive. Then, it moves up to safety and security.

A person can then move up the triangle to meet psychological requirements like establishing friends, having intimate connections, and feeling a sense of belonging with a group. It is followed by esteem needs, which include respect, recognition, and freedom.

Finally, self-actualization lies at the apex of the pyramid. According to Maslow, this is the ultimate aim of human needs, which you can achieve when you reach your greatest potential in life.

Goal-Setting Theory

Later on, in the 1960s, psychologist Edwin A. Locke studied goal setting and its effects on human motivation. The thirty-year-old research led to the emergence of the goal-setting theory, which continues to be a recognized framework today.

According to Locke’s studies, work performance is inextricably tied to goal setting. Thus, challenging and specific goals and proper feedback can improve task performance.

Applying this theory to the workplace, money, and salaries may seem the most powerful motivation. However, there are other powerful forces to consider, such as the psychological urge to belong at work, to influence a positive outcome, and to be part of an important cause that matters to employees. These factors all ultimately drive employee motivation.

Increasing Work Productivity by Using the Psychology of Motivation

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to motivating your employees since humans are unique. However, you can use a combination of various tools to determine what works best for your team. It could be different approaches for different employees, so it helps to experiment with your methods.

So to help you increase motivation in the workplace, here are some tools you can explore for your employees.

Trust Between the Employee and Employer

Employers want assurance that they can rely on their workers to perform a good job, and employees want to know they can rely on them to do a good job. As a result, building a trust-based culture fosters a healthy work environment that boosts employee motivation and productivity.

Rewards and Incentives

A sound and well-planned employee incentive program can help your staff stay motivated and productive. You can give many incentives, including bonuses and raises, recognitions, tuition reimbursements, training sponsorships, and others. By having a good program with the right incentives, you can certainly encourage employees to work harder.


Recognizing the hard work of an employee may seem like a small feat, but it can make a huge difference in their motivation, morale, and confidence. Even a simple thank you or great job can already push them to work harder and push to become better in what they do.

Organizational Purpose

Nowadays, employees are demanding more from their work than just a paycheck. It is especially true for the younger workers, who focus more on career opportunities and work-life balance. Thus, your organizational goals can be a powerful incentive. In addition, engaging your employees through your company’s mission can help them become more committed and motivated to work towards your objectives.


Positive Workplace Environment

It is unlikely that a person would always enjoy their profession, but you can take steps to incite this feeling. Realistically, there will always be days when people do not feel as capable of performing their duties as they usually do. Thus, you should always work towards creating a positive work environment that can encourage them even during the bad days.

Luckily, there are several ways you can boost your workplace atmosphere. For example, studies proved plants to be a cost-effective strategy to promote office productivity while increasing enthusiasm and optimism among your team.

Career Development Opportunities

According to one report, the most common reason employees leave their positions is a lack of career advancement opportunities. The willingness of employees to learn and improve their careers is something you can leverage as an employer, but many companies overlook this aspect.

Employees naturally want to put their expertise to good use, which makes sense. But, aside from this, they are also interested in learning new talents. Thus, if you do not provide a clear path or opportunities for career advancement, employees may decide to leave your company.

That said, you may combat this by talking to your employees about their career goals and incorporating career advancement into your company culture.

Valuable Feedback

Everyone wants to be told that they have performed well, but not everyone has the chance to do so. Giving your group and employees feedback comes with several advantages, and one of these is increased motivation.

Employees always want to grow and improve, so providing them feedback frequently allows them to see how effectively they are doing it. In the other case, if someone is not doing well in their job, feedback may help them address their concerns and improve their performance. As a result, employees are more inclined to assume ownership and responsibility for initiatives if they feel appreciated.

Importance of Motivation in the Workplace

To achieve your business objectives, you need to utilize different resources. One of the most important will be human resources, which you can only maximize if you have motivated people. It may be accomplished by instilling in employees a desire to work. It will assist you in making the most efficient use of your resources. To better understand why this is important, here are the top benefits of a motivated workforce.

Improves Efficiency in Employees

The performance of an employee or subordinate is determined by more than just their talents and skills. As an employer, you need to bridge that gap between ability and willingness to work to get the most out of their performance. By marrying the two together, you can achieve harmony, increase productivity and efficiency, and lower operating costs.

Assists in the Attainment of Organizational Objectives

To succeed in your business, you need to use your resources to their full potential and create a cooperative work environment. However, more than this, your employees should be goal-oriented and act with purpose. Goals are only achieved when coordination and cooperation coincide, which is possible with motivation.

Establishes a Welcoming Atmosphere

Employee happiness is greatly influenced by motivation. Therefore, practising good motivational strategies in the workplace will aid in establishing a smooth and sound organization where all your employees’ interests are aligned with your company goals. Furthermore, with an effective incentive plan, you can reduce employee dissatisfaction and agitation and create a more harmonious atmosphere.

You can build friendly relationships in the workplace through monetary and non-monetary incentives. For example, you can implement possibilities for personnel to be promoted and disincentives for inefficient ones.

The staff would be able to adjust to changes, and there would be minimal or no opposition to them. Effective cooperation from all employees will lead to more stability, and higher productivity will result in increased profit maximization.

More Stable Workforce

To maintain your company’s growing momentum and good reputation, you need to have a stable workforce. Employees will only stay loyal to a company if they feel part of the decision-making process, so you need to give them some degree of freedom with their work.

Your team’s abilities and efficiencies will always benefit both sides—the employer and the employee. Thus, by working hard to maximize these, you can improve your company’s public image and attract more capable individuals. In addition, the more experience your employees gain, the more they will grow with your company.

Applying the Science of Motivation in the Workplace

Since the beginning of time, business owners have been attempting to encourage their employees to do more to help their company flourish. At its core, management is to lead by example and make your employees feel happy and proud of their job. In effect, they will be more likely to want to join you and power through to help your business succeed.

Ultimately, motivation is derived from a person’s wants, desires, and needs, which are all intertwined in their way. By understanding these aspects in your team, you can better recognize their demands and develop appropriate motivational strategies.

Given this, one may argue that motivation is a constant process since it is based on unrestricted needs. Therefore, you need to practice your motivational efforts regularly for employees to remain satisfied.

Putting everything together, you can better understand employee behavior and increase productivity by leveraging the science of motivation for various reasons. First, both an individual and a company need to be motivated to succeed. And motivating an individual is critical because:

  • The employee will be encouraged to fulfil his personal and workplace objectives.
  • A sufficiently motivated person will be satisfied to stay with the company.
  • Working in a dynamic group will benefit an individual to improve and grow.

Second, motivation is essential in the workplace for the following reasons:

  • An empowered team is anchored on driven employees.
  • There will be innovation and adaptation as changes occur.
  • If individual employee contributions and greater teamwork are present, the company will be more profitable and successful.
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Albert, as Editor-in-Chief of, emphasizes practical and real-world business insights, covering growth strategies and marketing innovations. His expertise shines through in the site's content, which blends thorough analysis with actionable advice, establishing as a go-to source for professionals and enthusiasts.

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