Employee Motivation: Meet Three Basic Needs

Employee Motivation: Meet Three Basic Needs

employee motivation

Image: Brian Fitzgerald

As a manager, you have a better chance of improving employee motivation if you keep in mind the three basic needs of employees. These, incidentally, are motivators for managers as well.

The three basic needs can be summarized as follows:

  1. tell me what you expect of me
  2. give me the resources to do my job
  3. let me know how I’m going

Employee Motivation: Setting Expectations

Employees need to know your work expectations in terms of standards, timing and quality. Too often managers “assume they know” – expecting employees to second-guess them. If you take the time and effort to be very clear about expectations of your employees, you will improve employee motivation and productivity. 

If you ignore this aspect, employees will lose confidence and may even exit the organization. You can make sure your employees understand what is required by debriefing  with them after significant activities.

Employee Motivation: Supplying Resources

You may not always be able to supply the full set of resources because of budget restrictions but you need to find out what resources would best enable the employees to do their jobs. In having this conversation, you may identify creative ways to locate and/or share resources. 

At the very least, your employees will believe that you are seeking to enable them to do their work effectively. You will also gather the evidence needed to put forward submissions for improved resourcing of your staff.

Employee Motivation: Providing Feedback

Providing feedback to employees about how they are going against your expectations is absolutely critical. Feedback helps  to clarify your expectations, identifies areas for further development and enables reinforcement of desired behavior. The most consistent complaint selection committees receive is, “No one told me that I was not doing that well!”


You can go a long way to improving employee motivation if you clarify your work expectations, provide them with the resources they need and give timely, accurate feedback on work performance.

Challenge questions:

How well have you communicated your expectations to employees?  Was it done on the run, at the last minute?  What can you do to improve your managerial performance in this aspect?