Work Motivation – Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose

I found this video by RSA Animate really interesting. It describes what motivates us to work and states how, for non-trivial tasks, higher monetary incentives tend to lead to worse performance.

This behaviour is apparently not too anomalous and has been replicated in many locations and by many different professionals in fields such as economics, psychology and sociology. For simple tasks, standard monetary motivators work, but for anything more complex additional monetary motivations do not work as usual. The video suggests one of the ways around this is to pay workers sufficient money such that monetary motivation is not an issue and not relevant.

Once this has been achieved, behavioural science shows that there are three additional factors that improve employee motivations.

  1. Autonomy – The ability to direct the course of one’s own life – the work that is performed.
  2. Self Challenge & Mastery – The overarching desire for people to improve themselves, gain experience and get better at what they enjoy.
  3. Purpose – The reasons you do what you do. Doing tasks merely for money and profit is not too motivating, but doing tasks to make someone’s life better, to make the world better, to have a well defined purpose to your work and to make money – now that is motivating.

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