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Driving Engagement in the Future of Work

7 minute read

Motivation is key to individual and business success. When employees are demotivated, it can conversely lead to failure and ramp up significant costs – including recruitment costs as employees might feel unfulfilled and therefore seek fresh opportunities elsewhere – perhaps with a competitor where they might feel more motivated and appreciated. Motivating employees is therefore key to preventing churn, and if done right it can make the feel rewarded and appreciated to the point that they may help their company to be competitive and profitable.

“$1 trillion dollar lost because of low employee motivation.”

To discuss the findings of a recent report about the impact of motivation, our partners at Forty1 joined us and shared with Engage Employee what they learned from it. Hosting the panel was Kath Goodson Global, Client Development Director at Forty1. She was joined by her colleagues Dr Guy Champis, Head of Behavioural Science; Richard Burton, Managing Partner; and Hillary Brown, Managing Director.


During the webinar, they talked about the national view of workplace motivation and why there is a need to embrace the power of behavioural science. In is they considered questions such as: What drives people to be motivated at work? How can leaders achieve more sustainable and balanced motivation? After all, motivation is a key factor in employee engagement.

For their 2024 research for the report, Forty1 spoke to 2,500 employees in the UK and the US. They were equally split between two large organisations. Each employee has been in those firms for at least 2 years, allowing them to have a good feel of what it was like to work in them. The interviewees ranged from employees at the beginning of their careers in their 20s to people working in these organisations who are in their 70s.


Core topics within the report include:

  • The role of employee well-being, learning and development
  • HR and the importance of internal communication
  • Investment funds are looking at levels of motivation among organisations’ employees to attract funding. Motivated employees outperform their peers.
  • What is actually meant by motivation, including intrinsic motivation.

From a psychological perspective motivation sits at the base of any decision people make or any course of action that they engage in. However, motivation comes it least two forms: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The latter is about the motivation an employee gets from how much they are paid, what the organisations thinks of them, and how their peers perceive them.

In contrast, many businesses are focused on intrinsic motivation: How they can make the workplace feel more comfortable, more like a family. However, research finds that neither of these definitions of motivation should be prioritised over the other. The ideal situation is to find an equilibrium where both types of motivation are increased. In doing so, organisations should be able to achieve a more sustainable workforce.


The key findings discussed by the panel include:

  • The good news is that motivation really does matter, and every organization wants to improve.
  • There is a clear business imperative to have high motivation in the workforce.
  • The most powerful form of motivation is what we call identity motivation.
  • More than half the workforce is not optimally motivated at work.
  • Organisation often think financial motivation through bonuses as one of biggest drivers for employees, but actually it's a topic with which they don’t often engage. It is still a factor that needs to be considered – particularly as we’re in a cost-of-living crisis.
  • Identity motivation is slightly stronger amongst women, while financial motivation isn’t within this group.
  • There are slight differences between the UK and the UK. The US market tends to be more motivated by money than we see here in the UK.
  • Age or tenure within the business: those who are at the beginning of their careers show the lowest levels of intrinsic motivation. Those who are 20 to 29 are the least motivated by meaning or enjoyment in their job, and that was surprising to Forty1. When people are young, they’re quite aspirational and quite idealistic. That's not the case with that age group today; they are driven more by financial motivation.
  • The other age groups have higher levels of intrinsic motivation.


Different groups of people will be motivated by different types of motivating factors. So, to ensure employee engagement, there’s no point in taking a one-size-fits all approach. The future of work may not, for example, involve a rigid career ladder. People’s perceptions of what there career means changes over time. However, this could be an opportunity for their employers to enhance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Through bilateral internal communications, it is also possible find out the causes of any form of demotivation – including why employees are dissatisfied with their work – before it’s too late. Quite often disaster can be averted and turned into a positive opportunity for growth when people feel their organisation is listening and cares about them. This can drive employee engagement, higher levels of productivity and collaboration, which can lead to more sales and better results.

To learn more about the findings, and how motivation boosts performance, click to watch the YouTube video.

By Graham Jarvis, Editor 

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