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Good Question: What Motivates Employees To Perform?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - The CEO of Amazon spoke out Monday in response to a Sunday New York Times article calling the company a "bruising" place to work that encourages employees to tear apart each other's ideas. In a letter to Amazon employees, CEO Jeff Bezos wrote, "I do not recognize this Amazon and very much hope you don't, either."

Whatever the company is doing, it's clearly getting results. So, what motivates employees to perform? Good Question.

It's a topic researchers have been studying since the 1950s. While the list has changed over time, researchers have found most employees need some things beyond a paycheck.

"There's not a No. 1 motivator out there, but there are several that are always in first, second or third place," said Mick Sheppeck, a professor of human resources at the University of St. Thomas School of Business.

He says the top three, in no particular order, are: 1) Is the employee being challenged? 2) Is he or she being given responsibilities? 3) Is there some autonomy and the ability to make one's own decisions?

Sheppeck also says money is generally on the Top 5 List when it comes to motivators.

"It's kind of foolish to think that isn't important," he said. "It isn't No. 1, but it's sitting on a lot of people's charts."

Career advancement opportunities and company's reputation can also play a huge role when it comes to motivating employees.

"Where can you go to work and say, 'I change people's lives every day'?" said Beth Ann Clevenger, who works for Minneapolis Foundation.

Directed, personal feedback or praise has also been known to motivate employees, but Sheppeck said it's not often put into place by bosses.

As for fear as a motivating factor, Sheppeck said it can work for a short period of time, but will eventually drive employees away.

"It starts to wear out pretty quickly and people start looking for, 'How am I going to get out of here?'" he said.

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