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

December 14, 2022
how to measure motivation in the workplace

Isn’t it fascinating that highly motivated teams help organizations increase profits by 21%? But how can you quantify the motivation of your employees? In this post we’ll look at how to measure motivation and how to boost it in the workplace.

Although there are numerous techniques for assessing motivation, three stand out. Continue reading for a more in-depth look at them!

Why is it important to measure employee motivation?

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

Think about it, how would an employee perform if he lacks the driving force that empowers him to achieve work-related objectives? Better yet, is this employee satisfied or feel a sense of belonging to the company? You see, being unmotivated raises a slew of questions about its root cause.

This is where assessing employees’ motivation comes into play. 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 other 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, etc. You get the idea.

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.

In other words, you can’t rely on a single strategy or source to gather information about employee motivation. By doing so, you’ll almost certainly end up with unreliable data.

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 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:

  • 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 the KPIs over the past few months or to the organization’s benchmark.

Assuming 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.

Step 2: Collect qualitative data

Motivational business meeting

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 his 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 one of Forbes‘ insightful articles 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, those that begin with genuine questions and end with meaningful actions, 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, a lot of things will start to make sense. It’ll become clear who’s truly unmotivated and who appears to be but isn’t.

Methods for monitoring and improving motivation

motivated and focused employee

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

Working on both types of motivation is the most effective way to improve it. In a nutshell, there are two types of motivation: extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. 

The first is caused by external factors such as monetary rewards. The latter 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:

  1. 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. Obviously, incentives will address extrinsic motivation. 

  1. 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.

Not only that, but these types of objectives will encourage employees to work on them with greater confidence. 

Make sure that the goals are also meaningful. 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.

job satisfaction
  1. Show appreciation

One of the most powerful workplace motivators is recognition. 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® by Workhuman. This tool is designed to help you in recognizing employees in the most effective ways possible, as well as offer pretty useful suggestions.


Q1: What are motivation indicators?

Employees are classified as motivated when five indicators are present:

  1. Takes initiative and is willing to accept additional responsibilities
  2. Low absenteeism rates
  3. Constantly seek feedback for self-improvement.
  4. Makes suggestions to management to improve the organization
  5. Provides support and assistance to team members whenever needed

Q2: Can motivation be measured quantitatively?

Yes, you can quantify motivation by analyzing observable behavior. In the workplace, this can be accomplished by evaluating employee performance and overall productivity. 

You can also look for signs or attitudes that indicate a lack of motivation. For example, high absenteeism, carelessness, lack of initiative, and so on.

Q3: What is the value of extrinsic motivation?

Extrinsic motivation can be extremely useful in promoting positive outcomes. In simple terms, it’s a reward-based behavior that motivates people to achieve specific goals. However, it’s critical to ensure that the individual is initially interested in the rewards being offered.


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

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of not skipping any of the three steps highlighted for assessing motivation. I know, they may take some time to complete, but in the end, you’ll have reliable data that promotes meaningful outcomes.

Finally, 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!