Motivation and Loyalty

A look at the types of things that can motivate employees, and how motivation can be used as an assessment tool when interviewing candidates.
By Rodney Hall | May 31, 2006

Motivated employees tend to be happier employees, and happy employees tend to stick around longer than unhappy ones — and do better work. Not exactly groundbreaking news, is it?


Last month we introduced the link between employee motivation and loyalty, i.e. the more motivated an employee is within a company, the more likely the employee will want to continue working there and thrive. On the flip side, employees who are not motivated by their work are more apt to look for motivators elsewhere.

The theory is based on research by Dr. Frederick Herzberg, former director at PSP, a human resource development firm in Pittsburgh. For the past 13 years, PSP has interviewed and tested virtually every management-level candidate for one of the top 10 builders in the U.S. (visit to see what PSP learned).

Personal motivators can change during the course of a person's career. For example, general management candidates are typically further along in their careers than those in sales or construction management. Therefore, money and authority become somewhat less important; for the most part, they have already been achieved and no longer serve as the primary drivers. And the number of motivators tends to increase as a person climbs the corporate ladder, e.g. a CEO will have more motivators than a mid-level manager.

Now that we know this, what do we do with it? Two things. First, assess your own personal drivers and use them as a career navigation tool. Don't jump the fence to greener pastures if a new opportunity fails to match most of your personal motivators. Never take a new job for fewer motivators than you have in your present position.

Second, use motivation as an assessment tool as you interview candidates. PSP's Gary Williamson says one way to assess motivation is to take an inventory of what an individual already has achieved; people who are internally motivated usually have an established record of results. Depending on age and experience, these results could be in the workplace, in school, in competitive events or in other activities that demonstrate continuous improvement.

What to look for during interviews:

  • Do the individuals' experiences indicate they excel in a highly organized, team-intensive environment (structure) or did it occur in a stand-alone role (autonomy)?
  • Do the candidates focus on their own accomplishments (recognition) or do they involve others (influence/coaching)?

One way to affirm your interview conclusions may be through psychological testing. In the hands of a well-trained professional, validated and reliable psychological tests can help identify candidates who are motivated by the kind of rewards a particular employer has to offer. Beyond face-to-face interviews, references, etc., these instruments can assess a variety of internal drivers.

If a candidate has the necessary skills and aptitudes and their desired rewards align with the motivators available in the position, everyone wins. The candidate is likely to be a motivated, highly productive employee who will want to stay with your organization.

Additional Online Content

Here’s a sample of what they’ve learned:

Sales management candidates tend to be driven by:

  • Recognition (such as seeing the Top Performer plaques in the sales office)
  • Authority (via influence over others)
  • Autonomy (such as being independent–minded)
  • Money (not just because of what it can buy, but because it’s a score card)
Construction Management candidates tend to be driven by:
  • Authority (influence over others)
  • Structure (how else could they thrive in the world of construction schedules?)
  • Building or creating things (the very nature of what our industry is about)
  • Money

General Management (division manager and higher) candidates tend to be driven by:

  • Opportunity to make an impact
  • Opportunity to develop people (the Coach factor)
  • Autonomy
  • Mental challenges
  • Entrepreneurship (nurturing or growing something)
  • Money

Author Information
Rodney Hall is a senior partner with The Talon Group, a leading executive search firm specializing in the real-estate development and home building industries. He can be reached at



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