Will Your New Hires Become Demotivated?

The answer lies in understanding which of five motivators applies to individual candidates.

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Jan 23, 2024

You want to hire phenomenal people, of course, but you also want to hire people who are likely to withstand the inevitable frustrations that accompany every job. The trick is to figure out during the interview process what the issues most likely to demotivate and frustrate your potential new hires are.

To figure that out, you’ll want to add one simple question into your interview process: Could you tell me about a specific situation at your last job when you felt really demotivated?

While the specifics of those answers are potentially infinite, there’s an easy way to categorize those responses. Research shows that there are five major motivations that drive people at work: achievement, power, affiliation, security, and adventure. What follows are descriptions of the motivations and some of the factors that could potentially demotivate someone with that driver.

Achievement motivation. Individuals motivated by achievement strive for personal excellence, setting challenging goals, and finding satisfaction in overcoming difficult tasks rather than in comparison with others. They can be demotivated by tasks that are too easy or lack challenge, as these do not provide a sense of genuine accomplishment. Monotonous or repetitive tasks that offer little room for personal growth or goal attainment can also be significant demotivators.

Power motivation. Those driven by power seek influence and authority, preferring leadership roles and decision-making power, with a desire to be respected and followed rather than seeking dominance. They can be demotivated when they lack authority or influence over decisions and outcomes. Being in a position where they are unable to direct or lead others or where their opinions and contributions are not recognized or valued can significantly reduce their motivation.

Affiliation motivation. People motivated by affiliation desire harmonious relationships and acceptance, thriving in roles with significant personal interaction and often excelling in team settings. They can be demotivated by isolation or a competitive, non-collaborative work environment. They may find a lack of team interaction or working in environments where personal relationships are undervalued or ignored to be particularly disheartening.

Security motivation. Individuals with a high need for security value stability and predictability in their work and life prefer long-term consistency and are often resistant to abrupt changes. They’re likely to be demotivated by frequent changes or instability in their job, whether in terms of role, location, team, or company policies. Uncertain job prospects, irregular schedules, or unpredictable work conditions can be major sources of discomfort and demotivation.

Adventure motivation. Those driven by adventure are motivated by risk and change, enjoying dynamic environments and challenges. They’re often demotivated by routine and predictability. They find a lack of new challenges, opportunities to innovate, or the inability to take risks, particularly stifling. Environments where there is little change or opportunity for personal initiative can quickly lead to a loss of interest and motivation.

Now, just based on those descriptions, you may already know what types of hires are most likely to become demotivated working at your company. For instance, if yours is a stable and unchanging enterprise, hiring a slew of adventurers is likely to become a problem.

But if you want even more insight, most companies have a ready source of data. Based on a recent employee engagement survey report, you can add an open-ended question to your survey, like “Please describe a recent time at work when you felt demotivated.”

Not only will those responses reveal the types of demotivators and frustrations antagonizing your employees, but if you group the data by department or manager, you’ll immediately discover where those issues most frequently occur. Imagine that you’re hiring people for your call center division, and it turns out that employees’ major frustrations in that area involve rapid change and upheaval. Now you know that if your new hires are heavily driven by security, they’ll likely experience significant demotivation. But if your new hires are more adventure-driven, they’re likely to be just fine.

There’s obviously a little bit of work involved in adding this nuance to your hiring process but finding great hires who are likely to stay motivated for the long term is well worth the effort.

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