Employee motivation matters, and companies succeeding in today’s tough marketplace know it. Research shows that employees are more attracted to join companies having favorable reputations. Culture plays a huge role in building reputation, employee belief and motivation. This paper looks at the practices that build an engaging culture capable of inspiring employee confidence and motivation.

Back in 1959, Frederick Herzberg wrote a book called The Motivation to Work. He performed studies to determine which factors in an employee’s work environment caused satisfaction or dissatisfaction. He found that factors causing satisfaction and motivation differed from those causing job dissatisfaction. His motivation theory differentiated the dissatisfiers from the satisfiers. He argued that the mere absence of dissatisfiers do not motivate employees. Rather, it is the presence of motivating factors that build motivation to achieve. Here they are in order of importance to attitude:

Factors Affecting Job Attitudes-Factors Leading to Dissatisfaction:

  • Lack of or poorly articulated company policy
  • Lack of or poor quality Supervision
  • Poor Relationship with boss
  • Poor working conditions
  • A low salary level


Factors Leading to Employee Satisfaction and Motivation:

  • Achievement
  • Recognition
  • Work itself
  • Responsibility
  • Advancement

It appears that the factors that inspire employee attitude, motivation, and commitment are intrinsic things like a sense of achievement and the work itself. More recently, Daniel Pink has written a book, Drive, The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us, (2009) which shed more light on how to engage employee’s heads and hearts. He argues that the following three factors motivate employees far more than financial or extrinsic rewards, once the employee’s basic financial and work condition satisfiers are in place:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

So a compelling challenge with meaning will go farther to motivate than say, a bonus check, or keys to the executive washroom. This is great news for leader, managers, and supervisors who create job descriptions. Their challenge will be enrich jobs with sufficient challenge in order to utilize the full ability of the employee.


Culture Matters

Looking closer at the issue of purpose, think about your own work environment. Can you see or feel any evidence of “meaning” or “purpose” as you think about your organization? It is possible to think more deeply about your culture by thinking about the observable or tangible things that are evidenced in everyday behaviors. What are the shared norms, values, and assumptions that people hold?

Edgar Schein is a Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He investigates organizational culture, process consultation, research process, career dynamics, and organization learning and change. Schein has found that organizational culture is a result of the complex interaction between people and organizational strategies (Schein, 1990).

Shein talks about “observable artifacts” in a culture, things like the physical layout of an office, dress code, the way people interact and address each other and the emotions people bring to the table. These represent the observable “symptoms” of a culture. Beneath these, Schein asserts that it is the shared values and assumptions that create the more tangible artifacts.


Culture Self-Audit

From the key learning’s above, take a moment to reflect on the following questions:

  1. Think about your workplace. Consider how people operate on the inside of the organization and how they relate to clients or customers.
  2. What observable signs of shared values, beliefs or assumptions exist? List them.
  3. What aspects of your observable cultural artifacts drive employee well-being?
  4. What are the dissatisfiers or artifacts present that could destroy well-being? What are they?


Managing Cultural Change

John Kotter is emeritus professor at Harvard Business School and bestselling author of Leading Change and A Sense of Urgency, and founder of Kotter International.

Specifically, Kotter has found that there are eight essential steps to changing the culture of your organization. Creating urgency, developing a guiding coalition of people, developing a vision and strategies, communicating these effectively, removing barriers to change, producing short-term wins, continue to push until change is accomplished, and creating a new vision to make change stick are essential components of a successful change strategy.

According to Kotter, effective change requires a combination of both thinking and feeling. Both are found in successful organizations, but the heart of change is in understanding the emotional connection to change. Kotter proposes that the flow of “see-feel-change” is a useful way of thinking about how people change emotionally. It stands apart from the more common-sense approach of – analysis-think-change. These distinctions between seeing and analyzing, between feeling and thinking, are critical because, for the most part, Kotter asserts, we use the approach of analysis-think-change more frequently, more competently, and more comfortably than the see-fee-change model. So appealing to emotions is critical to helping change stick in your organization.


FISH! STICKS: Transforming Your Workplace-Find It, Live It, Coach It

Creating and sustaining change in your organization is incredibly complex and challenging. ChartHouse Learning ( has developed a useful approach to helping you manage culture change. The authors of the book, FISH! STICKS, note that organizational change is usually implemented with too much external fanfare having limited impact. The book offers a glimpse of a successful business change model, offering a case study as a way of learning more about how to implement change that actually sticks. The book posits that when employees understand and internalize the organization’s vision, repeatedly act on it, and communicate it regularly, the vision changes “stick”.

FISH! STICKS offers a philosophy -Find it, Live it, Coach it, which is a simple yet useful model for implementing culture change in your organization. As noted in the book, it is wise to remember that the time and energy put into creating and sharing a vision must be matched by the effort to sustain it. Helping employees find, live and coach others as change occurs can help them grapple successfully with the complexities and challenges that culture change brings.

This paper has reviewed what we know about organizational culture, employee motivation, and models for change. Find out more about how the Corporate Learning Institute can create change in your organization by visiting, or contacting Susan Cain at



Kotter, J. P., & Cohen, D. S. (2002). The heart of change: real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Lundin, S. C., Christensen, J., & Paul, H. (2003). Fish! sticks: a remarkable way to adapt to changing times and keep your work fresh. New York: Hyperion.

Pink, Daniel Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Schein, E. (1990) Organizational Culture. American Psychologist. Sloan Institute of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved from:

Shoura, M. M., & Singh, A. (2001). Determination of interrelationships between organizational system variables during implementation of change a study in the application of Hertzberg’s motivation theory. Honolulu, HI: Hawaii Dept. of Transportation;.

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