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New Research on The Four Drive Theory of Employee Motivation

Rising arrow 2011Our knowledge of the Four-Drive Model of Employee Motivation is constantly being expanded as researchers study it and organizations work with it.  This is exciting because it allows us to use this theory more effectively to drive performance and increase employees motivation.

Recently I have been in contact with Kristen Swadley, a student at Missouri Southern State University.  Ms. Swadley has added to our understanding of Four-Drive Model by conducting research to see if demographic differences such as age, gender, marital status, tenure, income,  job role, or education level impact any of the four drives.  Analyzing data from 315 surveys, Ms. Swadley found some interesting findings that point to both the robustness of the Four-Drive Model as well as how specific demographics correlate to some of the drives.

The following information is from the thesis she completed around this study:

Regarding gender the analysis showed that there was no difference between males and females in their tendency towards a particular drive.  Thus the four-drive model does not have a gender bias.

However, there was a relationship between the age of respondents and the drive to defend – older participants (over age 41) showed a higher correlation with the drive than the younger age (under 25).

The drive to defend was also found to be higher in married and divorced participants compared to those who listed their status as single.

Tenure showed a correlation only with the drive to bond where unemployed individuals rated that drive significantly less than those who were employed (specifically, those employed for 0-3 years and over 12 years – which is an interesting fact in itself).

Income levels showed a correlation between both the drive to bond and the drive to comprehend.  Those individuals who earned under $19,999 placed a significantly lower value on both these drives than those in the higher earning brackets.

There was a difference in the drive to comprehend between various work roles.  Specifically, there was a difference in how both middle management and trained and professionals viewed that drive compared to skilled labor  (with middle management and trained professionals placing a much higher significance on it).

Unsurprisingly, educational level also showed a correlation with the drive to comprehend, with those participants who had achieved a graduate degree valuing this drive much more than those with just a high-school degree or some college.

This information helps us as leaders start to understand how we can better use the levers we have to motivate our employees.  Ms. Swadley puts it best when she says, “While it is true by the tenets of the Four Drive Theory that all humans are motivated in some way by the four basic drives, it is important to take into account that all employees are motivated by the four drives at differing levels. A manager with the intention of implementing the Four Drive Theory in the workplace should have employees tested to find out which of the drives are most important to the individual on down to which of the drives provides the least amount of motivation.”

We hope to have Ms. Swadley right a guest post in the upcoming weeks to explore a little deeper what her findings mean for managers and leaders – until then, please let us know what you think by leaving a comment.  Thanks!

3 tips to increase the Drive to Acquire & Achieve

Four Drive Model

The first drive in the Four Drive Model of Employee Motivation is the drive to Acquire & Achieve. This is typically the drive that most organizations focus on when they are trying to find a lever to influence employee motivation.

However, companies often get too caught up in the financial aspects of this drive (i.e., how much of a raise can we give, what is our targeted incentive/bonus payout, etc…).

The following are three quick tips to help you think about how to impact this drive and increase employee motivation.

1. It’s not just about the money. It is so much more…This drive also includes the drive to achieve. Achievement takes on a number of different forms. Think about this in terms of grades – there is no monetary component to this, yet we are driven to try to get an A. In organizations, recognition is a very powerful motivator because it recognizes individuals or group achievement (kind of like a report card). Organizations can tap into the drive to achieve by focusing on ensuring that recognition is done correctly (e.g., timely, relevant, and appropriate to the effort/result).

Achievement is also about setting realistic goals that can be achieved. Short-term milestones are elements to use to help keep this drive up. One way to think about this is to think about the need to reinforce achievement on at minimum every 5 weeks. If you don’t have a milestones set up that fall within that time frame, you will tend to lose people. Make sure that you celebrate those milestones as well.  One thing that we are trying to get better at The Lantern Group is celebrating when a project or milestone is done. We get so caught up in the next project or next event that we don’t take the time to stop and congratulate ourselves on a job well done.

2. Add Some Perks. While we tend to focus on the big items like pay and bonuses with this drive, some of the more powerful levers that we get to pull are smaller “perks” such as office space, titles, parking spots, flexibility to work from home and other things that help satisfy the Achieve drive.

In addition, there are a number of small perks that also tie into the Acquire side of the equation, such as pizza Fridays, movie days, lunch seminars, discounts on classes, days off, foosball or pool in the office, employee of the month/quarter/year… You will notice that a number of these also contribute to the other three drives of Bond & Belong, Challenge & Comprehend, and Define & Defendsee also Four Drive Model

3. Improve your Total Rewards Communication. Too many times we’ve worked with companies that offer fantastic total rewards – not just their base salary, but their benefits, bonus programs, culture and recognition opportunities; however, no one at the company knows about these programs!  This is because they are outlined in a legal terms in a five different 50 page HR documents. It is vital that you market what you are providing to people in a way that will capture their attention and convey the big picture.That means that you have to overcome silos within the organization and market your Total Rewards as a comprehensive program that highlights the offerings from across the organization.

Also, make sure that your Total Reward communications are not just a one-time effort at the beginning of the year, but instead a campaign that highlights various aspects of your offering throughout the year and keeps people engaged and charged up.

While the concept behind these ideas is simple, the implementation of them isn’t always as easy. If you need help, please give us a call. We can help you work through the issues and improve your employee’s motivation!

Kurt

Four Drive Model: New Theory on Employee Motivation

The Four Drive Model of Employee Motivation was presented by Lawrence and Nohria in 2002. The model is a holistic way of looking at employee motivation beyond the typical “pay” model that is prevalent in the corporate world today. I will not go into detail regarding the model here, but just give  an overview and how this model presents a new way of thinking for organizational leaders (see here for how leader’s can impact performance using it).

The Four Drive theory is based on research that shows four underlying drives – the drive to Acquire & Achieve, to Bond & Belong, to be Challenged & Comprehend and to Define & Defend.

Each of these drives are important if we are to understand employee motivation. While companies typically focus on the drive to Acquire & Achieve (i.e., base pay, incentives, etc…), the other three drives play an integral part in  fully motivating employees. Thus, the new theory provides a model for employers to look at when they are trying to find ways to increase employee engagement and motivation.

For instance, companies often pay lip service to team building as they don’t see how it really impacts performance. The Four Drive model shows that team building relates directly to the drive to Bond & Belong – which in turn can influence an employees motivation. Thus conducting a team building session should no longer be just about having fun for a few hours, it should help a company’s employees positively build and enhance the bonds they have with their co-workers.

The drive to be Challenged & Comprehend  highlights the fact that we perform better when we are not bored or “not challenged” and learning on the job.  Instead of trying to automate and simplify all work, leaders should look at how they can enhance or create challenges for employees and provide them opportunities to learn and grow.  With this in mind, organizations must look at how they are structuring their jobs, their projects, their incentives.

Organizations do not typically think of the drive to Define & Defend when they are thinking about motivation. The Four Drive model indicates that a company’s reputation, its moral bearing, the culture and what it does can all be significant factors in how motivated employees are. Think of the different motivation an employee would have working for a pharmaceutical company that is providing life saving medicines for people or a one that is out to maximize shareholder returns. Which do you think would have the more motivated workforce?

Note: Alright, a theory that is almost seven years old really isn’t new, but theories moving from academics into the real world often require a much longer time to be accepted – so I’d give this a good grade! For more information, please go to www.lanterngroup.com or www.prlawrence.com

A LOOK BACK AFTER ONE YEAR –  6-11-10

We have done much work on increasing our understanding of the 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation over the past year.  We are in the final stages of development for a 4-Drive Assessment that will help people understand how the four drives influence their individual motivation.  Another area of research for us was to look at how managers can use the 4-Drive Model to create programs, put in place systems, and change their behavior to increase their employee’s motivation.  All of this work has helped solidify our understanding of the 4-Drive Model and reconfirmed our belief that this is a very powerful employee motivation model.  We now understand that using this as an underlying architecture for creating a motivational workplace can be very beneficial for organizations.

Our work in this area has also shown that there are some weaknesses to the model.  For instance, “Purpose” isn’t really addressed in the model.  Purpose has been shown to be a key motivator in individuals – highlighted in Pink’s recent work but dating back to research done by Deci, Eisenberger, Locke, Lathum and most importantly Leider.  In the 4-Drive Model we have been forced to put passion under the Define & Defend Drive – but that stretches the current definition for that drive.  We are currently working on a way to integrate Purpose into the 4-Drive Model.

All in all, we still believe that the 4-Drive Model is one of the strongest and most robust models to help understand employee motivation and engagement.  We are working on developing more actionable tools and programs so that managers can both understand the model and be able to use it to increase their employee’s motivation.  It is with great anticipation that we are looking forward to the next year and taking this to the next level.

12/15/10

Please see Rethinking the 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation for further thoughts on this model and how our thinking has led to new ideas.  Here are some other links to blogs we’ve written about the 4-drives Impact on Leaders here, and other four-drive info here, here, here, here and here.

Kurt

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