Boost Employee Engagement With These Motivation Matrix Exercises

Want to find out what makes your employees tick and boost engagement? Use these motivation matrix exercises.

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Whether you are the business owner managing a small team or an HR professional in charge of managing hundreds of individuals, part of your job is to find ways to bring out the best each employee has to offer.

To do this you must first understand what motivates your employees. Understanding their motivations will allow you to maximize their skills and boost productivity in the workplace. However, what might be an incentive for one employee could be useless for someone else.

What’s clear is that motivation is the key to tapping into talent. Whether that means investing in better benefits or helping your team members fulfill their personal career aspirations, it’s critical to figure out what makes your employees tick.

First, there are 3 types of motivation

Motivation can actually be divided into 3 categories. Most of us know the extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, but family is also considered a key motivator.

Extrinsic motivation is doing something for the external rewards a person can derive from it. In a person’s career, their extrinsic motivation can be for financial gain, benefits related to the job, or avoiding negative feedback. In fact, extrinsically motivated individuals desire frequent feedback, and regular praise or check-ins can boost their engagement.

The second type of motivation is intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is different from extrinsic motivation in that activities are done for the satisfaction people get from it rather than from external pressures or rewards. In other words, they enjoy completing the task and doing well. For intrinsically motivated employees, their own competency and capabilities keep them happy, especially if they can develop new skills.

The final motivator is family. Family can actually be a huge motivator in why people work. Especially if they don’t particularly enjoy their job. The desire to provide for the loved ones in their personal lives is proven to keep people going no matter the task. But this doesn’t have to be linked to blog relatives. If an employee gets along well with their coworkers, then they may be motivated to help their colleagues succeed.

Now that you understand the motivation behind people’s actions you can figure out how to apply these motivations to get the best performance out of them. One way to do this is by using a motivation matrix.

What is a motivation matrix?

A motivation matrix is an exercise that helps employers and managers gauge what motivates their employees. It’s sort of like an interview but loosely structured to make interviewees feel more comfortable divulging information.

After using the motivation matrix, you should have a good idea of what motivates your employees, the aspects of their job that they find draining, skills they need to work on, and what their long-term goals are. This exercise helps you delegate better, make informed decisions about organizational planning, and spot burnout sooner.

After using the motivation matrix, you should have a good idea of what motivates your employees, the aspects of their job that they find draining, skills they need to work on, and what their long-term goals are.

How to conduct a motivation matrix exercise

Before conducting the actual exercise you should make sure there is enough trust built up between you and those you are conducting the exercise with. Prepare yourself to listen rather than leading. This exercise requires employees to be open and honest with you. The idea of being so vulnerable with someone in a position of authority can be quite scary. Feeling like they’re heard can put people at ease. Once you have selected who would be good for the exercise it’s time to get started.

Follow these steps

1. Set aside an hour or an hour and a half.

2. Select a writing surface such as a whiteboard or if this is being conducted remotely have them use a PowerPoint slide.

3. Have the employee break up the whiteboard into 5 sections.

The first one will be dream jobs. These dream jobs don’t necessarily have to be related to their current job. Encourage your employee to not hold back in this section.

The second section is their strengths. Knowing what areas they find strength in and which ones they don’t is vital to helping you understand where your leadership skills as an employer can be applied.

The third section should be motivators. This is what gets your employee excited to come to work every day.

The fourth section should be what they dislike or find demoralizing about their jobs. Have them label the final section skills. This section won’t be about skills they currently possess but skills that they need for their dream jobs.

4. Throughout the exercise ask clarifying and follow-up questions when necessary.

5. Pay attention to body language and tone as your employee describes their work.

6. Once the exercise is over, have your employee take a picture of their board and encourage them to revisit it in the future.

The Skill / Will Matrix

You can also use a similar matrix to uncover employee motivations, called the Skill / Will Matrix. In this 2×2 matrix, “Skill” lies on the vertical axis, and “Will” is on the horizontal one. Both are divided up into “low” and “high”  zones. The 4 quadrants are listed below:

  • High skill, high will indicates someone who can delegate and deliver work efficiently. This person is likely intrinsically motivated.
  • High skill but low will suggests that the individual has the skills necessary to succeed but lacks enthusiasm. They may require extrinsic motivation, such as praise or benefits.
  • Low skill and high will translate into an individual who has all the characteristics to do well but simply can’t provide deliverables of high quality. This individual may be intrinsically motivated but will require a coach or mentor to succeed.
  • Low skill and low will employees are likely in the wrong role or are simply dissatisfied with their job. They will be the hardest to retain, and may not even have the self-awareness to determine what will motivate them.

To find out more about building a motivation matrix, motivational theory, and how to calculate the cost difference between an engaged worker and an unengaged worker, download our free eBook “How to Motivate Your Employees.”

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