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Tip of the month: Progress is a powerful staff motivator

Tip of the month

Progress is a powerful staff motivator

Just when you think we understand our staff, their needs, and how to motivate them, someone comes along and has the nerve to tell us we are wrong. And not just a little bit wrong, but really wrong, way off base, totally out there, and that we completely missed the mark. 

A new study by Amabile and Kramer says it’s time to shift our mind-set and perception of what motivates staff.

The study of 12,000 workers from various industries revealed that recognition for a job well done is not the power tool we once thought it was. The No. 1 employee motivator revealed in this study was progress.

At the end of the work day when employees feel they received support to overcome obstacles, they describe those days as a “great work day.” 

The study authors say this is the driver for motivation. The study also revealed that the progress does not have to be huge; progress may be incremental and still be successful as a motivator.

But don’t toss your recognition modalities in the trash can; they remain effective tools for employee motivation. 

Use recognition to celebrate progress made toward achieving goals and other successes. After all, there will be nothing to recognize if people aren’t genuinely moving forward.



Amabile, T., and Kramer, S. (2010). “What really motivates workers.” Harvard Business Review 88(1): 44–45. 



Shelley Cohen, RN, BS, CEN, Health Resources Unlimited, Adapted with permission.