If Money Won't Motivate My Employees, What Will?


Hi there, I'm Russell Stratton, President and Leadership Champion with Bluegem Learning. I work with organizations just like yours to help leader and managers be even more effective and to help them improve individual and team performance.

What I wanted to speak to you about today is one of my favorite motivational theories. And this was the work of Daniel Pink and his theory called "Drive". Why I like Pink's theory is I think it really resonated with the modern day. Now, that's not to say that I'm discounting some of the classics, but I think Daniel Pink's work really sort of hits the nail on the head.

So let's just briefly run through what it's all about. So what Pink was talking about is, how do we motivate people at work? And from his studies, one of the things that he found, which may be a surprise to some of you, is that money doesn't motivate people. Well that's not quite right. It motivates people to a certain extent if they're doing basic mechanical tasks. What do I mean by that? Well, a study done by MIT in the US had found that if you have people do a mechanical task, something very basic operation that they can do physically, then money will motivate people. But once you give people a task that involves them using some brain power up here, they found that, actually, money ceases to be a motivator. And actually, sometimes demotivates people. Sounds strange.

They tried this out, not just with students with MIT, but also across the world in countries such as India, where they did exactly the same experiment and found out that the money they were offering people for those cognitive tasks was not motivating them to do an even better job. So if that's the case, then what actually does motivate people?

So what Daniel Pink found out is that there were three things that really motivated people to do their absolute best at work.

The first thing was having a sense of purpose. This wasn't just about knowing what you had to do, but really finding out that what you did had a higher purpose that was just above you as the individual. What you were doing was something that really added value to other people's lives. This reminds me of one of my clients in construction that would always talk about, their role was that they built homes for families. They didn't just frame houses, they built homes for families. That was the higher purpose that they were working to.

The second thing they found that motivated people was a sense of mastery. People actually want to be really good at doing their job. This is one of the reasons why you'll find that people may take up hobbies that seemingly have no endgame to them. They're not gonna be doing it professionally, but they actually just practice a skill because the joy of being good at something drives them. Why do people play a musical instrument on the weekend, for example. So if you think about that in a work setting, how do people get mastery and be really good at what they do?

And the final piece that we're looking at was about autonomy. It really worked for people if they had control over what they did and how they did it. Now that wasn't to say that, as managers, we don't have a role to play. But our role was to guide and shape what people were doing. Not to be there micromanaging and telling people, "This is how you do each particular task."

So what Daniel Pink was finding from his research was that if you combine those three areas, give people a sense of purpose, allow them to get mastery of what they do, and give them autonomy over what they do, then you're able to achieve great things.

I hope I gave you some food for thought, particularly if you're thinking about how you're gonna motivate your team and perhaps the benefits and compensations that you might offer people.

If you found that interesting, make sure you check in next week when we're gonna be talking about how we could use simulations in management development training. In the meantime, you have a great day.

If you're interested in booking one of my dynamic experiential workshops check out www.bluegemlearning.com

#management #performancemanagement #LeadingTeams #motivation #Leadership

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"Bluegem Learning & Development and Corporate Culture Shift have presented two very effective and interactive workshops with our organization. Their comedic and engaging presentation style in the ‘Managing the Unmanageable’ workshop has left a lasting impression on our staff. I highly recommend this workshop if you are looking for a valuable, cost effective customer service training option."

- Jeff Gerestein, City of Brooks

"Russell produced a highly engaging HR programme that reflected our organisational issues. He is without doubt an outstanding training deliverer, challenging managers to address what can be difficult HR issues. I highly recommend Russell, and would always seek to engage Russell on future learning development opportunities."

- Sharon Gartland, DSG Consultancy Services

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Russell Stratton

Leadership Champion

RUSSELL STRATTON is an international Leadership Expert, Professionally Certified Trainer and Coach, with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. He is co-author of the book 'I Need to F@#king Talk To You - The Art Of Navigating Difficult Workplace Conversations'.


He is a Master Facilitator for Bluegem Learning's ground breaking "Leadership Success" workshop series - providing a practical toolkit for building engagement and improving individual and team performance. Using live actors in a stop/start forum theatre approach and a combination of dynamic experiential learning techniques, participants come away with a greater ability to actually perform better as employees and leaders in your organization.


He is an accomplished management education, learning & development professional with a proven track record of working with clients in the public, voluntary and private sectors to achieve lasting, measurable step changes in business performance.


Russell works internationally with a wide range of organizational cultures and with all levels from front line customer facing staff to executive management boards. Having worked as both a Personnel Manager and Operational Manager he works at both strategic and tactical levels.

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