Breath of Clarity

Drivers and Motivations

Original Post:

A leader who successfully communicates a clear vision of the future and secures commitment to that ideal keeps people coming to work each day. Further, a leader needs to breathe life into the organization with intensity, stamina and a deep conviction for their vision. Stephen Covey identified principles that are effective in creating a vision including seek significant early involvement by other members of the organization, encourage widespread review and comment, allow time for the process to work, demonstrate commitment, follow-through, and concurrent action by leaders. An organization’s vision should be simple, focused, uplifting, and usable. In general, since people gain satisfaction from working with others and find social aspects of the workplace rewarding, a leader should give employees opportunities, such as group meetings, to interact with others. Due to employee differences in culture, personal traits and experiences, each person is still going to have different needs and prefer some motives over others. A person will be most productive in a situation that allows the expression of personal social motives. The way for a leader to create conditions of employee satisfaction is to give followers the opportunity to make decisions and direct projects. They will create meaningful work assignments that allow them to be self-motivated. Since everybody defines success differently, a quality leader recognizes that people want to exercise their talents to attain success and gives them the agency to do so (Manning 2014).

In cases where employee needs are still not being met, the Forum Corporation explained that leaders must take responsibility for initiating change (Manning 2014). Visioning, credited to Ronald Lippitt, involves “images of potential” rather than to “problems” as starting points for change (Manning 2014). If people are not fully bought in, I would analyze the organization using a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis (Manning 2014). Below, figure 2 illustrates how a SWOT analysis analyzes internal strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats presented by the external environment (Manning 2014). A leader needs to tailor a SWOT analysis to accurately reflect the current conditions at his/her organization and inform action.

Further, when employees are not fully bought in, organizations can conduct a study of their people that helps them get to know their needs. I found a study that examined an organization within a major energy providing industry facing staff retention challenges. Specifically, the organization is concerned that it is losing its core, critical and scarce skills to the external market every year. The findings revealed that factors such as organizational culture, leadership style and support, ability to exercise control with respect to decision-making and problem-solving, team work, recognition, renumeration, flexible working hours, challenging work, and a desire for career advancement and skills development are critical to retaining specialist staff. Employee opinions should be regularly explored because their environment changes rapidly and this, both positively and negatively, impacts their decision to leave or stay (Mabuza and Proches 2014).

Moreover, it is important to understand that multiple employees within the same organization can have different drivers. For instance, there are some individuals who are financially motivated and may join a corporate role in order to get a high pay check. They may be more competitive with coworkers and additional hours to get a high compensation. On the other hand, it’s interesting to consider how cooperation and social initiatives are more of a priority for others in the corporate workplace. For example, a different newbie at the corporation may already be accustomed to being driven by a social cause that they care about. Even though the person may have strong technical skills that align with the new position, he/she may consider leaving the corporate role because it lacks a sense of purpose. Or, a worse problem may be that the employee stays at the company but significantly decreases productivity. To combat the issue, firms are increasingly launching initiatives with explicit social mandates. Using individual-level data for approximately 10,000 employees in a global consulting firm, a study presented empirical evidence of a positive retention effect associated with employee participation in a corporate initiative with explicit social impact goals. Although the results came from a conservative context in which the likelihood of observing employees with a taste for social impact was low at a profit-driven business consultancy, employees in the firm still willingly took pay cuts to participate in corporate social initiatives and their post participation likelihood of staying at the firm was greater than that of nonparticipants. It demonstrated a positive association between social initiative participation and retention (Bode et al. 2015). Therefore, knowing the diversity of drivers that exist at a company and then accordingly putting mechanisms in place results in employees exhibiting behaviors that align with a leader’s common goal.


Bode, Christiane, Singh, Jasjit and Rogan, Michelle. 2015. “Corporate Social Initiatives and Employee Retention”. Organization Science. 26(6): 1702-1720.

Mabuza, Phuti and Proches, Cecil. 2014. “Retaining Core, Critical & Scarce Skills in the Energy Industry”. Indian Journal of Industrial Relations. 49(4): 635-648.

Manning, George. 2014. The Art of Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill

Comment by Professor Robert Gnuse:

Mary, very nice post with good supportive details and explanations. There is a plethora of things that people may want in the workplace. Essentially, being able to meet one’s need for power, achievement and affiliation can help provide a more secure environment promoting/supporting a positive work environment. Good discussion of how corporations are using employee survey data to boost buy-in and align drivers to increase retention. For those not fully brought in, maybe a one-on-one conversation should take place to ascertain their agenda/incentives and determine if they can align with the company. Although, the discussion instructions said that firing employee dissenters was not an option, in the real world there will always be a small percentage of staff for whom parting ways will be beneficial to both them and the company.