Employee Motivations Evolve as they Progress in their Careers

People management is one of the primary concerns for companies in the knowledge economy. Hiring the right people is only the first piece of the puzzle. The bigger challenge is around creating a positive environment and having the right processes in place to allow these people to give their best.

Many a time, employee motivation measures tend to look at employees as a mass of people who want the same things and are driven by the same incentives. But it is important to remember that an organisation is made up of individuals. These individuals come from different backgrounds, are at different stages in their personal lives, and are looking for different things from their careers. Trying to use a single approach to motivate this diverse group is unlikely to yield positive results.

For instance, a leadership training workshop may be welcomed and appreciated by a mid-level manager who aspires to take on leadership roles in the not-so-distant future, but it is unlikely to cut ice with a young junior programmer who would much rather learn about a new software that would help her do her job better.

Our needs and wants evolve as we grow in our careers. The better the alignment between our wants and what the role demands, better the chances of executing responsibilities flawlessly. Our SEEK framework describes the critical success factors needed at each stage for people to successfully carry out their business.

A typical journey in a corporate career follows the path from a being an individual contributor to a first-time manager, then to a mid-manager and finally to executive management. If we look at the motivations at each level, it would look as follows:

The Individual Contributor Level – Knowledge Quotient

Most people start off their careers in individual contributor roles. The primary focus at this stage is on learning job skills and executing them. It is about understanding their functional area more deeply and trying to do better quality work. What the organisation needs to provide, is the necessary skills training to help employees do their jobs better.

The First-Time Manager – Experiential Quotient

As people move on to ‘manager’ roles, their focus suddenly shifts from being excellent executers to becoming enablers. Rather than them being responsible to do the work on a project, they need to work with their team to enable them to do the work and deliver on the project. Many a time, employee promotions are a result of the organisation’s growth imperatives rather than the employee being ‘ready’ to move to the next stage. Therefore, employees are sometimes thrown into the deep end without having the skills to cope. Since most people learn on the job by observing and interacting with other managers, the organisation needs to facilitate opportunities for interaction to help drive maturity and individual growth.

Mid-Management – Emotional Quotient

After a certain stage in a career, success becomes dependent on emotional capabilities rather than functional expertise. Self-awareness and the ability to understand the strengths and capabilities of people around us is most essential for success. At this stage, the key is to ‘empower’ people to scale and grow, by putting certain processes and creating an environment that encourages performance.

Executive Management – Spiritual Quotient

At the highest levels of an organisation, leaders need the ability to detach and look inwards, to determine what’s best for an organization. They need to develop an almost spiritual temperament, to enable clear decision making that is free of personal biases and ego.

Understanding and acknowledging these differences while planning any talent management initiatives is crucial for organisations to drive superior outcomes, a motivated workforce and long-term success.