How to Measure Motivation in the Workplace and Why You Need to Improve It

February 17, 2023 Workhuman Editorial Team
boss and employee reviewing motivation levels

Highly motivated employees and teams are key to a successful organization. But how can you quantify the motivation of your employees? There are a number of tangible strategies you can put into place to measure the motivation — and the benefits that come with it — in your organization.

In this post, we’ll discuss how to measure motivation in the workplace, why it’s important, and most importantly, how you can improve it. 

Why is it important to measure employee motivation?

When HR professionals effectively measure employee motivation, they can save their organization from incurring huge costs. Companies can lose up to $550 billion annually due to unmotivated employees.

Think about it, how would an employee perform if they lack the driving force that empowers them to achieve work-related objectives? Beyond that, it raises questions like, is this employee satisfied or do they feel a sense of belonging to the company?

An absence of motivation requires an investigation into what drives your employees so that you can tailor solutions that help restore it. Simply put, this process reveals specific areas of the workplace that need improvement. Only then do HR professionals truly understand the state of their employees, and managers are able to take meaningful action.

Motivation is linked to major aspects of the workplace, such as productivity and engagement. Thus, achieving high levels of employee motivation is a stepping stone for improving overall performance.

A highly-motivated workforce results in higher levels of commitment and better work quality. As a result, absenteeism and turnover rates will go down. This saves the company money on costs associated with turnover, recruiting, training, and so on. You get the idea.

measuring job satisfaction at work

How to measure motivation in the workplace

We won’t sugarcoat it; measuring motivation can be tricky, but not impossible. The challenge stems from the qualitative nature of motivation. This necessitates using a diverse set of approaches when evaluating it.

Motivational researchers measure motivation through observable responses, which is exactly what we’ll do. Let’s look at the three interconnected steps that make up a successful motivation assessment:

Step 1: Analyze quantitative metrics

A good place to start is with tangible data, a.k.a the numbers. Examining the quantitative metrics set by the company can give you a decent overview of the current situation. This data can be obtained from the following:

  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • HR reports
  • Responses to previous surveys

KPIs differ greatly depending on the industry. Regardless, they all form an excellent evaluation resource. Start by comparing the results of employee KPIs over the past few months or to the organization’s benchmark.

Say you’re in the sales industry, you may notice that a sales rep’s number of signed contracts has decreased noticeably. That’s something to note for later verification by the other two steps outlined below.

HR reports, such as attendance and absence reports, also offer great insight. You may discover that an employee has an unusually high rate of absence with no apparent cause.

Finally, look into previous surveys that addressed motivation or related topics such as satisfaction or engagement. Search for quantitative questions to gather quick data. These questions are the ones that are answered with a yes or no, on a scale of 1-5, etc.

You may notice a few employees who said “no” when asked if they felt heard by management. This could be a clue as to why they’re unmotivated.

Motivational business meeting with happy employees

Step 2: Collect qualitative data

It’s time to put those numbers you extracted and analyzed to use in the real world. We’ll now see if that sales rep is currently struggling with their job or was simply preoccupied with another work-related project.

That’s why it’s vital to supplement quantitative data with qualitative data. Otherwise, it’ll lead to counterproductive or unfair results, as explained in a Forbes article on why companies shouldn’t depend heavily on metrics.

Simply looking for unmotivated behaviors in the workplace can supply you with a solid base of relevant qualitative data. Keep an eye out for the following five common behaviors:

  1. Exhibits work apathy (the “I don’t care/no one cares” attitude)
  2. Shows generally lower levels of productivity
  3. Initiates conflicts with colleagues and peers regularly
  4. Refuses to take any kind of initiative
  5. Demonstrates a lack of interest in discussions, corporate events, and so on

However, detecting the above behaviors is somewhat subjective. To clarify, an HR professional may believe that if an employee refuses to work extra hours, he lacks initiative. Another HR professional believes that an employee has the right to accept or decline such a request.

For a more objective perspective, survey employees to get a sense of what’s on their minds.

Step 3: Survey employee motivation

This is the final step in verifying the data you’ve gathered thus far. The moment of truth, if you will. A well-structured survey that addresses employee motivation goes a long way in the evaluation process.

In general, effective surveys are those that begin with asking genuine questions and end with delivering meaningful actions. They help strengthen the bond between workers and the organization. They also keep companies from wasting time and money by directing their efforts in the wrong direction.

Create a survey with pertinent questions to extract useful responses from employees. When you compare their responses to the data you’ve already gathered. You’ll get a sense of where motivation is and isn’t and what you need to focus on to improve it.

motivated and focused employee

Methods for monitoring and improving motivation

With the availability of pulse surveys, monitoring employee motivation levels is now easier than ever. Moodtracker® is a tool that provides an infinite number of pulse surveys to keep you updated on employees’ current state.

Check out this Guide to Employee Engagement Surveys to gain six tips for building, sending, and acting on employee pulse surveys.

 There are two types of motivation: extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Working on both types of motivation is the most effective way to improve it.

The first, extrinsic, is caused by external factors such as monetary rewards. The latter, intrinsic, comes from within, much like running a marathon just for the thrill of finishing it.

Here are three different approaches to increasing both types of employee motivation:

Develop an incentive program

Employee incentive programs are a fantastic way to reignite motivation. These programs may include bonuses, gifts, paid vacations, or whatever you believe will benefit your team the most. These incentives will address extrinsic motivation. 

Maintain achievable and meaningful objectives

Set attainable goals to raise intrinsic motivation in employees. The more specific and realistic the goals, the more likely they’ll feel motivated to complete them in order to feel accomplished.

These types of objectives will also encourage employees to work on them with greater confidence. 

Make sure that the goals are meaningful, too. It’s always preferable for employees to feel connected to and aware of the rationale behind company objectives. That gives them a sense of purpose in achieving them.

Show appreciation

One of the most powerful workplace motivators is recognition. When asked, 80% of employees say they would work harder if they felt appreciated. The thing about expressing gratitude is that it’s simple but often overlooked.

For this approach, use specialized tools such as Social Recognition®. This tool is designed to help you recognize employees in the most effective ways possible.



You’re now up to speed on how to measure motivation and how to improve it in the workplace.

It can be a long process to survey, analyze, and diagnose what lies underneath the levels of motivation in your company. But that time will be well spent when you have specific, actionable strategies to implement.

Remember to always stay on the pulse of your employees. Early diagnosis of amotivation (lack of motivation) increases your chances of turning things around much faster.