Employee motivation is a key driver of the company’s productivity. To maintain their best performers, company management must first evaluate individual motivation levers, and then offer tools to positively change motivation. How? We’ll give you a hint in this article. 

Work Motivation

There are two main opposing theories of motivation: content and behavioral processes.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Content-motivational approaches inspire people to embrace specific behaviors. An example of this is Maslow’s motivation pyramid, which illustrates five levels of needs in ascending importance: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization or personal development. 

According to Maslow, every person is motivated until they reach a certain level. Then,  a higher need arises, which becomes a new source of motivation.

Vroom’s Expectancy-Valence-Instrumentality Theory

Behavioral process motivational theories explain how individuals motivate themselves. V. Vroom’s theory of VIE (Valence-Instrumentality-Expectancy) is one of the most widely used theories for this concept. According to the VIE theory, individual motivation is determined by three interrelated factors:

  • Expectancy, which reflects the individual’s expectations regarding their own efforts
  • Instrumentality, which represents the probability or likelihood that individual efforts will bring reward
  • Valence, which represents the value of a reward in relation to efforts made.


The VIE model is useful for acting on individual motivation, engaging people in delegation or a new mission. This makes it possible to individually influence the motivation process, directly influencing the factor of deficiency in cases of demotivation.

The Reality of Work Motivation Crisis

The crisis of motivation at work can be explained by several reasons. Individual reasons reflect each person’s perception of work, while others are collective and exogenous, related to the current, relatively undefined economic context.

Then, employees may disengage from work due to a paradox: companies expect loyalty despite creating instability and job insecurity. At the same time, the labor market becomes more flexible.

Key Levers of Talent Motivation

Reward, salary, professional development, management, corporate culture, work-life balance are all the examples of the levers used to motivate employees. 


Reward, which used to be the primary motivation lever, is now often pushed back. Yet, it remains a motivating criteria for many employees, especially during the hiring process.

Reward meets Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at four levels:

  • Physiological needs are met by a sufficient salary.
  • Safety needs arise from a fixed salary that provides some financial stability.
  • Belonging needs are met by additional reward elements, such as profit-sharing or participation in profit, which also act on collective motivation.
  • Finally, applying variable rewards or bonuses meets the needs of esteem, especially when it comes to individual preferences.

Keep in mind that rewards are no longer sufficient to motivate employees to work. The search for meaning and the need for recognition are once again at the center of concern.


The need for recognition is the second to last level of Maslow’s pyramid: the need for esteem. The absence of recognition creates disappointment, stress, and contributes to psychosocial risks (burnout, boredom, absenteeism, etc.).

Recognition in a company takes various forms. This can be material recognition, mentioned above, which concerns rewards: individual bonuses, gift vouchers, benefits, etc., but also growth opportunities.

Recognition is first and foremost an important key to leadership: thanking employees, congratulating them on their success, or protecting them in case of a problem are simple actions that make employees feel recognized for their work.

The quality of leadership and work organization in which it operates directly affects employee motivation. The degree of initiative of each employee in the context of their work and the evaluation of individual achievements directly affect the level of motivation and dedication to work.

Feeling good at work — a source of motivation that cannot be ignored

With recent events in the world, the need for safety has returned to the base of Maslow’s pyramid right after physiological needs. Shifting the cursor of individual needs, especially during a crisis, shows that well-being at work remains an important lever not only for productivity but also for motivation. This concerns not only physical well-being (comfort, office and workspace planning) but also psychological (interest in tasks, autonomy, etc.).

The balance between work and personal life also plays an important role in motivation. This issue is the subject of quality of life at work, and many candidates highlight flexible working hours in their job selection criteria.

Personal development

The need for personal development occupies the top of Maslow’s pyramid. It’s a powerful motivational lever that can materialize within a company through career management. A concrete personal development plan and internal mobility allows the company to guarantee the development of the potential for each employee.

Proactive management of job positions and skills is also a lever for aligning the company’s needs for skills with individual employee expectations. In addition to internal mobility being a talent retention issue, it turns out to be a business problem for developing new opportunities offered by profiles with key and/or rare skills.

Work motivation

Depending on the age and experience of employees, there are differences in the factors that influence their motivation. The work atmosphere, communication with colleagues, and interest in the position are also determining factors in the motivation of employees who have recently entered the job market, and which companies must take into account.

We can help you find top IT specialists

    Let us know what you need to schedule a call