How To Apply Self-Determination Theory To Your Workplace

Self Determination Theory identifies needs as universal necessities that are innate in workers, rather than learned. These needs include things such as:1

  • Competence – An individual’s passion toward controlling a task or a project’s outcome and their experience toward mastery of their work.
  • Relatedness — The universal desire to interact, be connected to, and experience the relational benefits of being part of something larger than one’s self.
  • Autonomy – A worker’s desire to be in control of one’s own work and act in harmony with one’s integrated self.

Rather than managers growing frustrated with a lack of improved engagement and motivation in workers, psychologists studying Self Determination Theory suggest that the workplace offers the potential to be more motivating and engaging.

Most managers just haven’t tapped into that potential, yet.

If a person’s inherent drivers are maximized due to positive consequences associated with leveraging those individual’s unique motivators and the varying importance of each motivator to each person on the team, the entire organization stands to maximize each worker’s optimal level of performance.

As a result, employees feel positive about their work and overall engagement increases, something human resources departments face the challenge to do as part of their ongoing responsibility.

Is Identifying Motivators Just Another Psychology Fad?

The insights identified by SDT psychologists have existed for years and were recently brought into mainstream corporate America by authors and speakers such as Daniel Pink.

However, the core theory of SDT has stood the test of time and has been thought to be key in driving motivation over the course of decades. Until now, however, this knowledge remained theoretical in nature, and no one has drilled the learning down to being practically applied in the workplace.2

How To Apply Self-Determination Theory And Other Motivational Theories To Your Workplace

While we know that some proper alignment of either more autonomy, more mastery, and/or more purpose would motivate our employees, until the Pollsify™ Motivational Assessment launched, we didn’t have a way of measuring how much people were motivated both personally and in their jobs according to all possible motivational elements.

As a result of lack of measurement, those managers keen to SDT and other motivational theories have been blindly encouraging a bit of each or simply getting lucky in that the job and the people hired to perform the job are aligned properly.

Keying in on what drives individual employees to perform is complex and takes years of working together to understand and identify – and that’s if a supervisor is open enough to intimately understand how people are motivated differently and is keen to learn more about the motivator’s of each member in his or her team.

The Pollsify™ Motivation Assessment aids in removing the responsibility of discovering each aspect of an employee’s motivators from supervisors and human resources departments and offers companies a scalable, easy-to-execute means for gathering that information. The findings and reports ultimately allow companies to leverage employees’ motivational drivers to increase engagement and overall, company-wide performance.

1. Deci, E. L.; Vansteenkiste, M. (2004). “Self-determination theory and basic need satisfaction: Understanding human development in positive psychology”. Ricerche di Psichologia 27: 17–34
2. Pritchard, R.; Campbell, K.; Campbell, D. (1977). “Effects of extrinsic financial rewards on intrinsic motivation”. Journal of Applied Psychology 62: 9–15. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.62.1.9