How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation

    How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation


    Shouldn’t a paycheck be enough motivation? It’s alarming how many leaders think this way. Actually, there’s a lot more to motivation than carrots on sticks.

    If your leaders don’t understand this, perhaps it’s also all-too common for you to see employees slumping in their chairs as soon as their leader disappears around the  corner, and clock-watching as the end of the day approaches.

    In his New York Times bestseller, Drive, Daniel H. Pink shatters the myth that rewards like money are the key to unlocking greatness. He asserts that actually, intrinsic motivation is the secret to high performance and satisfaction in every area of life. It’s our deeply human need to direct our own lives, learn and create new things, and do better by ourselves and our world.

    Every leader needs to learn just how company culture shapes employee motivation.


    Understanding The Foundations of Company Culture


    What Constitutes Company Culture?

    Think of it as an organization’s OS. The role of company culture is to guide functioning: behaviors, values, attitudes, practices, and ethical codes that shape the interactions of everyone within your walls. 


    How Does Culture Reflect Leadership?

    Hold up a mirror to culture and sure enough, it looks uncannily like its leaders. It’s because leaders are the architects and caretakers of creating and maintaining a healthy culture – it’s not something that sits on employee shoulders.

    Their behaviors, attitudes, communication style, and approach to problem-solving become the cultural compass shaping employee motivation. So, if leaders want the perfect employees, they need to start acting like them!


    How Company Culture Evolves Over Time 

    Company culture is akin to a living, breathing organism that continuously evolves and adapts over time, while protecting the core DNA principles. Leadership and company culture are in a delicate dance of preservation and progress. Employee feedback, shifting landscapes, and new team members with their own understandings all act as catalysts for growth.

    The past two years have been a rollercoaster, bringing seismic shifts in operations. So, leaders must serve as the guiding force, nurturing cultural growth and shaping employee motivation.


    The Direct Link Between Employee Motivation and Company Culture


    The Psychology of Motivation

    Motivation is one of the driving forces behind human behavior. It might be extrinsic; inspired by outside forces, such as other people or rewards. Or it might be intrinsic; with inspiration coming from within, such as the desire to improve at a certain activity or skill. Intrinsic motivation tends to give us more of a push, and the accomplishments are all the sweeter.

    One famous 2013 study paints a powerful picture of how company culture and motivation are linked. 2,500 employees analyzed medical images, in three groups: one with no context, one informed their work would be discarded, and one told they were labeling tumor cells for research. The latter "meaning group" earned 10% less because they spent more time analyzing each image but – mic drop– produced higher-quality work due to the meaningful nature of their task.


    Real-World Examples of Culture Driving Motivation 

    Elephants, Dead Fish, and Vomit. Hear us out... it’s an inspiring internal process that Airbnb developed:

    • Elephants: the big things that everyone notices but no one talks about. 
    • Dead Fish: past incidents that still affect the present.
    • Vomit: the things that employees desperately want to get out of their heads
      and discuss in groups.

    It helps to build a culture of transparency where nothing is hidden and every problem – big or small – is discussed.

    Because if you take your eye off leadership and company culture, people will create the culture for you. Integrating DX’s The CARE Experience ® as an anchor for leadership behaviors has helped Dober to improve existing efforts, and highlighted blind spots. They’re seeing incredible innovation, psychological safety is blossoming, and people are speaking up about what they want to see implemented.

    We also worked with The Oncology Institute. Now, company culture and motivation are their differentiators. “Culture is a very complex thing, and DX has helped to simplify it... It really does drive business results. People are happier. They're more engaged.”


    Strategies to Enhance Employee Motivation Through Culture


    Creating a High Performing Culture That Ensures Psychological Safety for Continuous Improvement 

    Have you ever been part of a culture where every step you took was over eggshells? Where you were scared to mess up, ask questions, speak your mind, share your ideas, or be honest about your feelings or concerns?

    We recently helped two teams who were fighting like cats and dogs. With zero psychological safety, no one felt able to authentically speak up about issues at hand.

    After implementing CARE, and learning how company culture shapes employee motivation, they saw:

    • 35% decrease in people scared of losing their job
    • 27% increase in trust on the teams
    • 14% increase in people collaborating effectively 
    • 26% rise in people embracing change

    When people feel valued and respected, it increases their sense of belonging and commitment to the team, and leads to more creativity and better problem-solving.


    Recognizing and Rewarding Intrinsic Motivation: Accountability is the Key

    Instead of laying on the pressure because the deadline says so, explain the impact of employees’ work. Create an empowering environment in which leadership and company culture encourages them to innovate and contribute to the decision-making process. What did they learn? What impact did they have this week? What do they want to learn next week?

    Up to 69% of employees have higher motivation if their efforts are recognized at their workplace (Officevibe). Be the cheerleader to the cheerleaders! Appreciate and reward those upholders of the core company values and goals.


    Having No Tolerance for Misaligned Values or Behaviour and Laying Down Consequences. 

    Inclusive and empathetic leaders know that turning a blind eye to out-of-sync actions can cause trust and camaraderie to crumble. They’re crystal clear about their expectations and have a no-nonsense policy for actions that stray from the bedrock

    It shouts a powerful message from the rooftops that everyone's input and well-being are valued. It ensures that leadership and company culture are working to create an environment of respect, equity, safety and support for all.

    Encouraging Open Communication and Ripping Out Silence 

    Is silence a part of your culture? Rip it out. No one wants to work in an office that resembles a graveyard, full of ghosts tapping away on projects just because they were told they have to. People should be sharing, collaborating, innovating. When leaders learn how company culture shapes employee motivation, they can exorcize that silence and inject some life back into the company and bring it back to the land
    of the living – and motivated.

    Encourage self-expression. Invite people to share their ideas and concerns. Create two-way feedback loops (the right way). A lot of organizations state that they’re ‘like a family’. For this to be true, everyone should feel valued, heard, and like they belong. 


    Navigating Challenges: Potential Pitfalls and How to Overcome Them


    Addressing Mismatches Values 

    Understanding the psychology of motivation doesn't require a psychology degree. 

    DX Learning's leadership training puts the spotlight on the effects of company culture on motivation. Leaders learn how to create a more open-minded, respectful, and empathetic culture. They learn to approach mismatches with understanding and clarity, rather than just barking orders and telling people how they should feel. 


    Adapting to Cultural Shifts and External Influences 

    With the world evolving so quickly, encouraging a culture of flexibility and learning is essential. Otherwise, what should bend, will snap.

    Our leadership training equips leaders with the tools to reassess and develop culture in response to evolving needs, like sculptors with blocks of marble. These soft skills are not only invaluable in shaping employee motivation, but also ensure that organizations remain relevant and resilient in a rapidly changing landscape. So, leaders can end up with a whole team of masterpieces.


    Key Takeaways 

    Take your eye off company culture for just a minute, and it can morph into a monster that eats away at employee motivation. The key to building and maintaining a psychologically safe and successful culture is to coach your leaders in exactly how company culture shapes employee motivation.

    Those leaders that do understand the effects of company culture on motivation are the ones who can transform disengaged teams into dream teams. Get in touch to learn more.




    Why is Understanding Company Culture Crucial for Leaders? 

    The role of company culture is to guide the functioning of the entire organization: behaviors, values, attitudes, practices, and ethical codes that shape the interactions of everyone within your walls.


    What Are The Signs of a Motivating Company Culture?

    Psychological safety, more ‘we’ than ‘me’, easing rifts, growing trust, more empathy, improved collaboration, open dialogue – and people propelled to higher performance!


    What recommendations does DX Learning have for leaders looking to improve their company's culture?

    If your leaders are struggling, offer them a hand! Inviting external perspectives – through The CARE Experience or one of our DX Habit Shifters – can bring a breath of fresh air to your internal environment.

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