Crack the Motivation Code

Why are you interested in a candidate’s motivation? If you are like most interviewers, it is because you believe that if you understand what makes the person tick, it will help determine if the person will do a good job.

That’s true, and it will, but even more importantly, it is motivation that determines how satisfied people will be and how long they will stay. If you can crack motivation, you can increase tenure and hang onto better performers longer.

It would be great for all of us if what we call motivation was really that simple to comprehend. But it is far from simple, and to begin with we have to understand that it is more relative than absolute. Most interviewers believe that motivation is something to look for in candidates but tend to have little personal insight into the work situation for which the candidates are being considered. They are told certain things about a job and have to operate on assumptions and hearsay when they recruit.

Just as much as motivation can tell us why people work, it can help us understand how they want to work. And that is critical information, because how we feel each day when we go into work determines how keen we will be to do our job and how long we will plan on staying around to do it.

As employers we should always remember that even when people work for us, they are really working for themselves. Some people are shocked when a good employee leaves. They cannot understand why the person just walks away from a salary and benefits they consider to be so desirable and secure.

They have a blind spot, however, which is that they see the work experience as being about the company rather than about the person. They think they are offering so much, and in fact they may be in a reward sense, but obviously the work is not delivering the emotional goods that are so valuable and important to the person.

If you are hiring for yourself, before you ever look at a candidate, and even before you determine how you will recruit, the most important thing you can do is analyze the job’s behavioral and motivational requirements. Then ask the key question: If I find someone who naturally has the behaviors I need in this job, will that person be motivated to stay and perform by the work activities, by the work environment attributes, and by my management approach? If the answer is “yes” on all counts go full speed ahead, but if the answer to any part is “no”, make the changes that need to be made.

If you are in recruitment, then taking your client manager through the same intellectual process is a very worthwhile exercise for both of you, and highly beneficial to the organization.

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