One of the hardest jobs as a manager is getting people to do their best work, even in trying circumstances and deciphering what motivates us as human beings. A study in neuroscience, biology and psychology has led more researchers to learn about the human brain and what emotional needs people are driven by. In this paper we will look at the four-basic emotional drives that underlie everything we do, and what actions a manager can take to satisfy these four-drives and increase employee motivation.
The Four Drive theory describes human motivation in terms of a set of dynamic, interacting needs that are a fundamental part of humankind’s makeup. The drives themselves are complete and elemental, offering a comprehensive explanation for human motivation that cannot be broken down into further basic elements. Each of the four drives (acquire, bond, learn, and defend) include features and components that influence interactions and outcomes in the workplace. By providing clear links between job performance and fulfillment with the four drive theory, it is recommended as a core component for building a satisfying job.
The Four-Drives and their Focus
Drive to Acquire
The drive to acquire consists of people who are driven to acquire goods that are either material (food, clothing and shelter etc.) or positional (for example social acknowledgement and recognition). The drive to acquire includes both material goods and status and can lead to both outstanding performance and unhealthy competition. The drive to acquire includes physical objects and wealth, relating to gathering the necessities for survival, and social relationships, status, accomplishments, and power. This drive to acquire can be moderated by the drive to bond to help dampen the unhealthy competition in an organization. We all have an inner drive to acquire more o0f something which is the instinctive push to obtain things necessary to ensure continuity and reproductive success.
Drive to Bond
The drive to bond demonstrates itself in our urge to connect and relate to our fellow human beings and engage in relationships of mutual caring. Research has repeatedly shown that we tend to bond with others of similar demographics and outlooks. Organizations can work to expand this natural inclination with a variety of human resource development programs. Once workers are successful in establishing individual relationships the connections can grow to include groups and work teams. This drive can be used to advantage by organizations that promote attachments to work groups, divisions, and the entire organization. The drive to bond leads to interactions of healthy support among work teams if supported with team-based rewards and professional goals. Drive to Learn
The drive to learn is satisfied by work environments that stimulate curiosity and allow for exploration and developing understanding, as human beings’ need to understand the world around them. It also relates to understanding one’s role in the firm and the significance of that role. A good example of the strength of this drive is the degree of job satisfaction that experienced knowledge workers derive from challenges in the workplace. The sense of stimulation and excitement from acquiring new skills can actually outweigh pay and benefits as a job satisfaction factor. The drive to learn can function well in a group context, interacting with the drive to bond.
Drive to Defend
While acquisition, bonding, and learning are active drives that humans seek to fulfill, the drive to defend is the desire to ensure that what is acquired is not lost and must be stimulated by a threat to become active.
Threats to the individual, their group, and the firm as a whole can trigger the drive to defend. The organization then can work to adjust this drive by eliminating or correcting information sources that communicate unintentional or misguided threats. It can also provide workers the means to respond to legitimate threats in the organization’s competitive or regulatory environment. If properly tempered and focused, the drive to defend can be a source of motivation and energy, but it is in nature and not beneficial if over-stimulated.
Four-Drive Theory and Motivating Employees
The four-drive theory describes human motivation in terms of a set of dynamic, interacting needs that are a fundamental part of humankind’s makeup. The drives themselves are complete and elemental, offering a comprehensive explanation for human motivation that cannot be broken down into further essential elements. Each of the four drives (acquire, bond, learn, and defend) include features and components that influence interactions and outcomes in the workplace. While companies typically focus on the drive to Acquire, the other three drives play an important part in fully motivating employees. Thus, the theory provides a model for employers to look at when they are trying to find ways to increase employee engagement and motivation. Overall motivation is focused on four commonly measured indicators, which include; engagement, satisfaction, commitment and intention to quit. Studies have shown that certain drives influence some of those motivational indicators.
Engagement is the energy, effort and initiative an employee brings to their job. Whereas, satisfaction is the extent to which the employee feels that the company meets their expectations at work and satisfies any contracts between them. The commitment indicator is the extent to which employees engage in the corporate culture of the company. With the intention to quit, the response to which an employee’s overall indicators are not being met and in turn is a company’s employee turnover. By fulfilling the drive to bond has the greatest effect on employee commitment, whereas meeting the drive to learn is linked to employee engagement. When all four-drives are satisfied, a company can improve its overall motivation of their employees. Each of the four drives is independent to each other and cannot be substituted one for the other. You cannot fulfill these drives by money or by achieving one but not the rest. An example would be by paying your employees a lot in wages and hoping they will feel happy and energetic about their work when the drive to bond is not nurtured. When the situation is vice-versa and you are helping bond a tight-knit team but under paying them while they work really hard but aren’t getting back what they feel they are worth. By addressing all four-drives you lessen the risk of losing your employees to other better potential jobs that come along.
Achieving the Four-Drive Theory in the Workplace
When conducting a team building session, it should no longer be just about having fun for a few hours, it should help a company’s employees positively build and enhance the bonds they have with their co-workers. The drive to learn highlights the fact that we perform better when we are not bored or “not challenged” on the job. Instead of trying to automate and simplify all work, leaders should look at how they can enhance or create challenges for employees and provide them opportunities to learn and grow. With this in mind, organizations must look at how they are structuring their jobs, their projects, and their incentives. Organizations do not typically think of the drive to defend when they are thinking about motivation; however the Four Drive model indicates that a company’s reputation, its moral bearing, the culture and what it does can all be significant factors in how motivated employees are.
The Reward System
In trying to achieve motivation within the workplace the reward system is an important piece of the puzzle. This system measures good and poor performers by tying rewards to the people who give the best of themselves into their work. In return they are rewarded for their performance and are given the opportunities for advancement. The reward system is a very important link to the drive to acquire and recognizing employees for their individual achievements. It has been proven that with recognition from your leaders, employee satisfaction and engagement improves. Creating Culture
The most effective way to fulfilling the drive to bond is through creating a culture that promotes teamwork, collaboration, openness and friendships that will bring people closer together. This type of atmosphere encourages people to open up and break old attachments and form new bonds. Creating a culture where your work environment feels like your family and you support system away from home shows that management cares about their employees and one another in which brings a sense of teamwork and belonging. Job Structure
Having a solid and stable job structure and design is what fulfills the drive to learn. By designing jobs that are meaningful, challenging and interesting, you are intriguing your employees to want to learn more and do better. A company that meets the drive to learn invests a significant amount of time training and developing their employees. This in return creates a commitment and investment from the employee and motivates them to want to make a difference for co-workers, customers and investors. Performance and Trust
Performance management and resource allocation help to meet peoples drive to defend. When the decision making within the company is fair, trustworthy and straightforward you gain the trust and respect needed from your employees. Building foundation of trust and creating a workplace that promotes justice, allows for people to express their ideas and opinions. A company that is geared toward improving their employees quality of life by offering benefits such as; 401k, health and medical benefits, vacation and paid time off, on-site childcare, an exercise facility and personal time to balance home life, create a sense of security and confidence within an employee. The drive to defend tells us about people’s resistance to change and how we naturally defend ourselves, our family and all our accomplishments against any external threats. This triggers aggressive or defensive behavior and by not fulfilling the drive to defend, it produces strong negative emotions such as fear and resentment.
Giving your employees that security of trust and caring for them strengthens their commitment and their bond within the company. A philosophy that supports this drive is “ to take care of your people first, and in return, they will take care of you and take care of your customers”. The four core human drives shape how people think and behave. Understanding these core drives helps us understand what people want, as well as find ways to help others fulfill them which is the central function of business. The more drives your offer appeals to, the more appealing it will be to your potential customers.
Employee motivation is clearly influenced by a very complex system of managerial and organizational factors. By fulfilling these fundamental needs and being aware of human behavior, creates a motivated workplace where you will get the most out of your employees. Leadership, which is essentially a kind of decision making, is as natural to human beings as flying is to birds. Although the potential for bad leadership is part of the human condition, with the given perspective that together with surveys and tests we can detect the potential for bad leadership, we need no longer tolerate such leadership in any practice. It is important to understand that these drives help us stay alive and in the good of other people. Without them, we would make decisions that wouldn’t serve us naturally and possibly do things that could jeopardize our survival, threaten our place in society, and reduce our chances of finding a stable career and all around good life. Any particular individual may have a greater or lesser developed need for one of these drives, but the drive is always there on some level.
Someone may seek to reduce the number of items they acquire, but they still must acquire enough to live. Each individual has their own distinctive blend of these four drives and typically displays them in a manner that reflects their unique culture and personal experiences in life. These drives must be reasonably satisfied and are independent of one another in the sense that fulfilling one does not contribute to the fulfillment of the others. All four drives evolved in humans because they all proved to be essential for survival. My thesis concluding the four-drives is by providing clear links between job performance and fulfillment with the four drive theory, it is a core component for building a satisfying and rewarding job.
Four Drive Model: New Theory on Employee Motivation
By June 20, 2009 by Kurt Nelson, PhD
http://www.leadersbeacon.com/four-drive-model-new-theory-on-employee-motivation/ Lawrence and Nohria’s Four-Drive Model of Motivation- (2001) book Driven By Drs. Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria
http://newtrendsinmanagement.wikispaces.com/Motivation Lawerence, P. & Norhira, N. (2001) Driven: The Four Drive Theory in the Workplace San Fransico, CA: Jossey-Bass. 2009
The “Drive Theory” of Leadership-A review of Driven to Lead, by Paul R. Lawrence http://www.strategy-business.com/article/11114b?gko=9c1c3 Bestselling Author, Independent Researcher, Learning and Skill Acquisition Expert- Josh Kaufman-Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices http://joshkaufman.net/driven/
Four Drive Model: “New Theory on Employee Motivation”
By thelanterngroup (June 2009)
“The Four Pillars That Support Effective Motivation Initiatives” By Michelle Pokorny and Russ Frey (January 2013)