Posted: 19 Dec. 2022

What’s Your Favorite Kind of Carrot? Business Chemistry and Motivation

When your alarm wakes you in the morning, what makes you spring out of bed eager to get to work? If you can’t relate to that question, you’re not alone, but what do you think could make you feel that way? We asked almost 6,000 professionals what motivates them in their jobs.1 If you work with other people and are impacted by their level of motivation—and that’s most of us—our findings can helpfully shape how you lead, collaborate, and communicate at work.

Engaging work tops the list as the greatest motivator overall, followed by team success, opportunities for growth, building relationships, and personal accomplishment. These findings reinforce research we’ve conducted previously—for example, Dr. Suz shared in her last post that a feeling of accomplishment and doing work I enjoy are among the top career priorities for all Business Chemistry types. But this latest study goes beyond what we already knew and offers additional insights, which we’ll get to shortly. For now, we’ll offer that if you’re not addressing at least some of these factors in your efforts to build environments and shape interactions that motivate those you work with, you may be missing the mark.

Before we delve into some of the nuances around these findings, we’ll share what people did not select as their top motivators: customer satisfaction, customer impact, incentives, recognition, advancement, making my mark, hitting targets, and security. It’s informative that fewer than 20% of respondents selected these factors, which doesn’t mean they don’t matter (they may be important motivators for those who did select them) but does suggest that other elements matter more. While we’re talking about what people did not select, we’ll add the caveat that there are possible motivators we didn’t ask about. For example, purpose or meaning were not included as response options, and there may be motivators that are even more important than those that rose to the top here. But that possibility only strengthens our point that the factors that weren’t often selected are not likely to be as important overall. So, think back to last time you gave a pep talk to a team member or tried to rally the team as a whole. Did you emphasize the importance of hitting targets, talk about the potential for advancement, or highlight the impact on the customer? There’s nothing wrong with doing so, but consider whether your messages might be even more effective by integrating the things that most motivate people.

For us, these questions lead to other, more philosophical ones: As leaders and colleagues, should we try to shape what motivates people—for example, to convince people they should care more about customer impact—or simply use what we know to create environments and interactions they find motivating? If highlighting growth opportunities and personal accomplishments can get people going, is there anything wrong with putting your focus there? If people are doing a great job, ultimately having a positive impact on customers, does it matter why they’re doing it?

Regardless of your answers to those questions, Business Chemistry can help you get even more targeted in how you understand and influence those around you. While engaging work is the top motivator overall, it’s even more important for Pioneers, Dreamers, and Scientists, the three types that tend to be more imaginative, as compared to Guardians, Commanders, and Teamers, who tend to be more practical. While we all might have aspects of our jobs that are less than exciting, too much boring work might drain those more imaginative types, in particular.

Team success, the second most common motivator overall, also shows an interesting pattern, with the extroverted types (Pioneers, Commanders, and Teamers) finding it more motivating than the introverted types (Guardians, Dreamers, and Scientists). These differences suggest a one for all and all for one message may work better for extroverted team members than introverted ones. It’s interesting to us how closely this extrovert-introvert difference reflects a finding from our previous study on career aspirations, showing these same types are more likely to aspire to leadership. It makes a lot of sense that those who want to lead are also more motivated by the success of the team.

So, what else motivates introverts? For Guardians, it’s a sense of personal accomplishment, while for Scientists it’s opportunities for growth (which are equally valued by Commanders, their fellow Drivers). Both can be seen as forms of success, but more individualized. For Dreamers, it’s building relationships, which are also highly valued by Teamers (their fellow Integrators). While both team success and building relationships include other people, they differ in how many others are involved (relationships can be one on one, whereas teams usually have more than two members) and in the emphasis on winning (team success) versus connection (building relationships).

What does all of this mean? It suggests that efforts to rally the team could be more effective if they include a variety of angles. The old there’s no “I” in “TEAM” message may not work as well as one that integrates individual accomplishment and growth as well as success at the team level and connection as much as winning.

Finally, we learned that Business Chemistry isn’t the only aspect of who we are that influences what motivates us. Generation matters, too, and we’ve got news to share about what Gen Z wants. We can’t wait to tell you, so let’s meet back here in the new year!

1 During the period of June 2022 through September 2022, respondents who completed the online Business Chemistry assessment were asked about the factors that most motivate them in their job. More than 6,000 professionals from hundreds of organizations responded. Findings from this study are previously unpublished.

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Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Research Lead | Deloitte Greenhouse®

Dr. Suz is a social-personality psychologist and a leading practitioner of Deloitte’s Business Chemistry, which Deloitte uses to guide clients as they explore how their work is shaped by the mix of individuals who make up a team. Previously serving in Deloitte’s Talent organization, since 2014 she’s been coaching leaders and teams in creating cultures that enable each member to thrive and make their best contribution. Along with her Deloitte Greenhouse colleague Kim Christfort, Suzanne co-authored the book Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships as well as a Harvard Business Review cover feature on the same topic. She also leads the Deloitte Greenhouse research program focused on Business Chemistry and is the primary author of the Business Chemistry blog. An “unapologetic introvert” and Business Chemistry Guardian-Dreamer, you will never-the-less often find her in front of a room, a camera, or a podcast microphone speaking about Business Chemistry or Suzanne and Kim’s second book, The Breakthrough Manifesto: Ten Principles to Spark Transformative Innovation, which digs deep into methodologies and mindsets to help obliterate barriers to change and ignite a whole new level of creative problem-solving. Suzanne is a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate with an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a doctorate in Social-Personality Psychology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She is also a professional coach, certified by the International Coaching Federation. She has lectured at Rutgers Business School and several colleges in the CUNY system, and before joining Deloitte in 2009, she gained experience in the health care and consulting fields. A mom of two teenagers, she maintains her native Minnesota roots and currently resides in New Jersey, where she volunteers for several local organizations with a focus on hunger relief.