The real story of motivation lies in human nature; people have an innate desire to learn, grow, enjoy, and excel at what they do; make contributions; build lasting relationships; and achieve a sense of wholeness. Whether they recognize it or not, what truly motivates them is having three core psychological needs met: autonomy, relatedness, and competence, collectively known as ARC.
1. Autonomy: People need to understand that they have choices and their actions are of their own volition. This can be seen at an early age (e.g., babies’ desire to feed themselves and not be fed) and is never lost. While employee empowerment may be considered cliché, studies confirm that productivity, performance, and well-being suffer when autonomy is not present.
2. Relatedness: People need to feel connected to others without fear of ulterior motives, and feel they are contributing to something greater than themselves. When people spend a majority of their waking hours connected to their work, it is vital that their relatedness needs are being met.
3. Competence: People must feel able to overcome challenges, take opportunities, increase their skills over time, and experience growth and achievement. When leaders immediately cut training programs when finances tighten or limit educational opportunities to higher-level employees, they send the message that they do not value employee competence.