Written by

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity. He is a best-selling author of 20 books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has over 2 million social media followers, 1 million newsletter subscribers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.

Bernard’s latest book is ‘Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That Are Redefining Organisations’

View Latest Book

Follow Me

Bernard Marr ist ein weltbekannter Futurist, Influencer und Vordenker in den Bereichen Wirtschaft und Technologie mit einer Leidenschaft für den Einsatz von Technologie zum Wohle der Menschheit. Er ist Bestsellerautor von 20 Büchern, schreibt eine regelmäßige Kolumne für Forbes und berät und coacht viele der weltweit bekanntesten Organisationen. Er hat über 2 Millionen Social-Media-Follower, 1 Million Newsletter-Abonnenten und wurde von LinkedIn als einer der Top-5-Business-Influencer der Welt und von Xing als Top Mind 2021 ausgezeichnet.

Bernards neueste Bücher sind ‘Künstliche Intelligenz im Unternehmen: Innovative Anwendungen in 50 Erfolgreichen Unternehmen’

View Latest Book

Follow Me

What Really Motivates Employees (Hint: It’s not carrots or sticks)

2 July 2021

Once you get the “right people on the bus,” (as taught to us by Jim Collins and his best-seller, Good to Great), a leader’s job is to keep them there by figuring out the elixir of intrinsic motivation. Despite overwhelming evidence that traditional methods including a carrot (reward) and stick (reprimand) approach is not effective, an incredible number of companies still waste time and energy on such methods. According to Paul Marciano, Ph.D. and author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of Respect, 40 years of research proves that not only does the traditional reward and recognition programs not work, they actually decrease overall morale.

In the U.S. workforce, 70% of employees are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work according to Gallup, so management teams are highly motivated to find ways to motivate their employees.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

It’s not ALL about pay, but it is about FAIR pay

If you don’t have a fair pay structure in place, you can kiss any aspirations of motivation good-bye. While increasing pay doesn’t necessarily equate to highly motivated employees, if the basics aren’t in place—fair pay and working conditions and job security—employees won’t be motivated no matter what you do.

Discover what motivates each individual

One size does not fit all when it comes to workplace motivation. As a company leader, take the time to get to know what’s important to each employee and mentor your management team to do that for each direct report. For one employee, getting to leave early for a job well done is a motivator but for another it’s simply a handshake with a genuine, “Thank you! Your contribution was essential to our success.”


Employees have a very real need to be recognized for their contributions. This doesn’t mean they want programs for an “Employee of the Month,” but they do want to know that their work is seen and appreciated by their manager, supervisor or company owner. A quick chat at an employee’s desk to show gratitude and to recognize their specific contributions leads to continued motivation. It’s the personal time and attention from a manager that is the true motivator.


Motivated employees are those that are empowered in their tasks, jobs and to make a difference in the company. Organizations with strict formal processes strangle the motivation of those who wish to make an impact. They give up without even trying because the regulations are set. Organizations also empower employees when they set them up for success with proper training and mentorship to help them achieve their next goal.

A larger purpose in the work

Particularly important to the millennials who we work with, but motivating to all regardless of age, is the knowledge that our work has a larger purpose. People with a purpose are more resilient and focused, so it’s important for companies to be sure their employees understand how the work they do improves people’s lives.

Collaborative working relationships

Employees who feel part of a team and who get to build collaborative working relationships with others in the company are also highly motivated. This sense of belonging to a tribe where you depend on others and they depend on you, keeps the motivation high.


Trust is a foundational component to any relationship and one that is essential for employees to be motivated. When an employee feels that they aren’t trusted to do the job they are getting paid to do because they continue to be micromanaged, it squelches any motivation they have. Those that are trusted to do their jobs are much more motivated.

Supportive feedback

Motivation also increases when employees get supportive feedback. Most employees want to get better and progress in their careers and when a supervisor shows interest and shares ideas on how to improve, most are highly motivated.

A path to advance

It’s important for employees to see a way to advance within a company to continue to stay motivated. If they view their job as a pit stop on the road to another opportunity elsewhere, their motivation will deflate for the job they’re doing.

A culture of self-care

While there are countless companies who offer gym memberships and lunchtime yoga and profess to support work/life balance, it’s incongruent with the impossible expectations and demanding timelines that are consistently required. Companies who truly have the personal health and well-being of their employees top of mind are the companies motivated employees gravitate to.


Employees are motivated by the quest to be the best versions of themselves. They don’t want to be complacent, but want to continually grow and face new challenges. Employers who provide that for their employees help to motivate them.

Motivated leadership

If leadership isn’t motivated, it’s pretty impossible to have motivated employees. If your organization is suffering from a motivation problem, be sure that your company and leadership is sufficiently motivating to inspire its employees. If not, it’s time to reignite the passion.

As always, let me know your thoughts. What would you add to my list? What motivates you?

Business Trends In Practice | Bernard Marr
Business Trends In Practice | Bernard Marr

Related Articles

Future Of Work: The 4 Biggest Workplace Trends In 2023

Corporations and even smaller organizations will learn to adapt in order to cater for shifting employee expectations in the wake of the post-pandemic “new normal”[...]

The 7 Biggest Business Challenges Every Company Is Facing In 2023

In this article, we look at the seven biggest challenges businesses will be facing in 2023.[...]

Is This The Downfall Of Meta And Social Media As We Know It?

Meta Platforms – the company formerly known as Facebook – is cutting its workforce by 13% – equating to a loss of 11,000 jobs.[...]

How To Build A Positive Hybrid And Remote Working Culture In 2023

In 2023, building a culture that allows a business and its employees to thrive while working remotely is about more than surviving in the “new normal” or post-pandemic society.[...]

Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman: How To Boost Growth And Drive Meaningful Change

What does it really take to unleash the growth potential of a company and create meaningful change?[...]

The 5 Biggest Business Trends In 2023 Everyone Must Get Ready For Now

Businesses have faced huge challenges and have undergone an incredible amount of change over the past few years, and this won’t slow down in 2023.[...]

Stay up-to-date

  • Get updates straight to your inbox
  • Join my 1 million newsletter subscribers
  • Never miss any new content

Social Media

Yearly Views


View Podcasts