Motivation cannot be bought: 3 questions to ask to detect it

Motivation cannot be bought: 3 questions to ask to detect it


What do we know about motivation in 2016? If the topic is addressed for decades, it nevertheless remains a general principle still too abstract, which is “to inspire people to get involved”. This requires, according to traditional research, for compensation and recognition to an individual. Yet, when we look at recent psychology studies, this is not what we should remember to have the biggest impact on the commitment of working individuals. The key points of research about motivation regarded in the scientific community are:

#It is not possible to motivate anyone…

…. Not in the long term, at least. Deci and Ryan, two researchers, have had considerable input on motivation by demonstrating that humans are “self-determined”, that is to say, they cannot motivate themselves. Thus, they put forward factors of “intrinsic” motivation, specific to each individual, that generate a long term incentive (need for challenge, altruism, security, etc.). These differentiate from the “extrinsic” motivators, which come from external sources (salary, recognition, advancements, etc.) which produce effects in the short run. Why do we only talk of extrinsic factors when we discuss motivation, while these factors only have a superficial effect on it? Simply because they are the factors that we have control over, but this is not the most effective approach.

#Identifying the intrinsic motivation factors

However, it is quite possible to identify the intrinsic motivation factors of people. Universally, Deci and Ryan have highlighted 3 intrinsic motivation factors. These are the “need for competence” (feeling competent to manage the activities that we are asked to complete), the need for autonomy (to overcome the difficulties one encounters and ability to develop solutions), and the need for support (having the support of one’s professional colleagues, and receiving their help if needed). These needs will be expressed differently in each individual.

#Motivation is important while recruiting

Finally, it is not always necessary to make the most of one’s motivation, except for during recruitment. This is the best time to confirm that a candidate can access his/her motivation in the position that is offered. At this level, it is not whether or not the candidate is motivated, but by what in particular makes this candidate motivated. Thus, you will know if it can be found in the proposed context. To find this out, we must ask the following questions:

#The three questions to ask

Intrinsic motivation will speak at three levels: at the level of the job position, at the level of the work team (and especially of management), and at the level of the company.

  • For the candidate’s motivations at the job position: “What are the activities that produce the most enjoyment for you? Which ones are the most stressful for you?”
  • For the candidate’s motivations with the team: “What do you expect from a manager? Tell me of a person who best fits your expectations? How do you materialize these qualities?”
  • For the candidate’s motivations with the company: “In which setting do you like to work? Conversely, what setting bothers you?”





Chief Scientist Officer @AssessFirst



Brendan Dougherty

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