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How Culture Drives Employee Motivation Levels

7 min read

Great Organizational Culture Is Often Thought Of As An Art Of A Magical Tool, The Spell Of Which Is Known Only To A Few.

Over the last few years, the discussion around the term culture is as hot as any technological breakthrough.

We all know how important a role culture plays in determining the success of an organization. We all have felt the positivity of vibrant cultures and also come under the attack of a fear-based culture in our work lives. It is a known fact now that the way we feel about our work, peers, bosses and work environment has a significant impact on our motivation and enthusiasm levels in general.

Depending on what the culture of a company is, employees will either remain motivated or demotivated. But how does one measure these levels?

There has been a lot of research done in this area. A significant one is that by Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor in their book, Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. In their book, they talk about how culture is actually scientific and can be measured based on a few parameters. They talk about how measuring levels of total motivation (ToMo) in employees can give organizations the tools to unlock the highest levels of performance in their people and company.

Employee motivation is a critical concept. On a larger scale, it answers the question – why we work. And why we work ultimately answers the question of how we work, or how much effort we actually put into what we do. There are five elements according to Doshi and McGregor that can determine the level of motivation:


Play refers to when one works for enjoyment. There is a thrill in doing what they do and they have a good time doing it. Play is one of the most powerful motivators as it does not reduce the work to a dead end job. It involves challenges, learning, and avenues for growth which keeps the employee motivated every single day.


Purpose is the end goal of the work or the value that gets created with one’s work. It is the outcome or impact that determines why the work is done. For example, introducing a new technology that helps saves lives in the medical world can serve as a great purpose for someone.


Potential refers to all those doors that work can open in the future. These are the future opportunities that align to personal goals, such as getting a big promotion in the next two years or landing in a great job. The job at hand enables the achievement of such a scenario in the future.

Emotional Pressure

Emotional pressure is when we work not because we want to do that job, but because of avoiding emotional outcomes such as fear, guilt, shame, disappointment etc. For example, doing a project and following up on it everyday because of fear of losing the job or getting yelled at by a boss.

Economic Pressure

This is the most common reason why most people do their jobs – getting a paycheck at the end of every month. There is no intrinsic motivation in such a case and the only reason why we work is because of financial perks.


Inertia is when we no longer know why we come in to work every day. We become a slave of monotony and we are absolutely clueless as to why we work.

Needless to say, the first three are positive factors that lead to an increase in motivation and the last three lead to a dip in motivation levels. The total motivation is an average of all the above types of motivation. Cultures are supreme when the top three elements score way higher than the bottom three.

This study found a strong link between motives and employee performance across industries and jobs. High performing organizations were found to have a positive total motivation. If culture is treated as the set of processes that affect motivation levels of employees, maybe we can stop concentrating on offering superficial things such as Yoga Thursdays or beer Fridays.

Every company needs to analyze the health of their organization and figure out ways to have positive levels of total motivation. The key needs to be to offer play, purpose and potential, and eliminate the factors that cause a dip in motivation levels. Organizations are coming up with unique ways of achieving this by offering more value to employees and offering due recognition. They are coming up with highly motivating roles that can challenge employees and keep them coming to work because they want to, and not because they have to.

For example, Toyota encourages play by giving their factory workers the opportunity to come up with and test new tools and ideas on the assembly line. Find what you can do to ensure play, purpose and potential are elements that are alive in your organizational culture.

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    A bunch of inspired, creative and ambitious youngsters- that’s Keka’s editorial team for you. We have a thirst to learn new subjects and curate diverse pieces for our readers. Our deep understanding and knowledge of Human Resources has enabled us to answer almost every question pertaining to this department. If not seen finding ways to simplify the HR world, they can be found striking conversations with anyone and everyone , petting dogs, obsessing over gadgets, or baking cakes.


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