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5 Motivation Strategies For Today’s life Science Manager

May 17, 2016

by admin


In a previous blog we highlighted the surprisingly low engagement levels of employees in the life sciences field, and gave some general suggestions on how leaders can build engagement.

In this article we will drill down a little further, with some proven strategies to motivate your team, from traditional financial incentives to more complex drivers such as a desire for autonomy and purpose.

What works to motivate employees?



1. Financial incentives vs Career development. There’s been some fascinating research (best outlined here by Daniel Pink) that shows that for mechanical tasks requiring no critical or creative thought, incentive and bonus schemes that reward employees financially tend to work very well. This is your ‘carrot and stick’ motivation approach, and for simple tasks it’s been shown that if you promise more money, you’ll get more effort. However (and this is a very big however), this type of incentive scheme generally stops being effective for more complex tasks, and can even prove counter-effective— with those promised more money returning worse results than those promised less. In a recent Deloitte report on Talent in the Life Science sector, the report showed that 55% of respondents said promotion would be the most likely incentive to motivate them to stay with their current employer. This compared to 42% of all other industry sectors. Promotion and job advancement was the highest ranked incentive for employees in the life science sector. Interestingly, financial incentives and additional compensation were ranked second.

2. A desire for autonomy. Simply put, most people want to have some control over their working lives. Being accorded a level of autonomy at work can have an electrifying effect on motivation levels. So many people in our industry work in virtual teams and so it would seem logical to think that team members naturally have a lot of autonomy. This could be a false assumption. The same Deloitte report identified that the second most significant factor that would cause a person to look for a new employer is ‘lack of challenge’. Perhaps this is suggesting that leaders are missing opportunities to delegate more and more complex tasks, allowing team member responsibility for certain parts of a project. However you choose to fulfil your employees’ deep need for autonomy at work, remember to ensure that your team are provided with the tools necessary for success.

3. A desire for mastery. Humans love to be good at things they consider important. Our desire for mastery is why we pursue hobbies-whether that’s music, writing or sport. After all, it’s probably time to face facts that we’re unlikely to become rock stars or fulfil our childhood dream of playing in the World Cup —so why do we spend our spare time trying to get better at these pastimes?



The truth is that it’s very easy to be motivated when we’re trying to master something you enjoy doing- whether that’s painstakingly learning guitar riffs or tricks with a soccer ball. The same principle exists at work- you’ll find your employees most motivated when they’re trying to master something they really enjoy doing. It makes developing new skills far easier than a manager telling you, ‘you have to attend a training course’ -which is one of the most de motivating ways to receive development!

4. A need for real purpose. Doing work that we consider meaningful is integral to human motivation. This realisation has come late to many organisations and leaders, who are now realising that they need to communicate a vision of the goal that the team members actually believe in. You need to frame the goal in a way that each individual responds to-and this is certainly a challenge for you to master as a leader! Other ways to fulfil a need for purpose is to get your team or company involved in social responsibility ventures such as charity appeals or local volunteering. It is a fact that by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be comprised of millennials (Gen Y). Collaboration and social contribution are rated as highly important to this generation and again will play a role if where individuals decide to continue to progress their careers.

5. Establishing the ‘why’. This is connected to the idea of purpose. It’s helpful for everyone in your team to look deeply into why they do the job they do.



For some people in life sciences, they may have lost sight of the fact that they got into it to improve people’s health or save lives. Some people may think it’s as simple as ‘I work because I need money’- but here it pays to ask the deeper question of ‘why do you I need the money from my job? What deeper needs does it fill? This brings people back to their true goals-whether that’s buying a house, getting security, or providing for their loved ones. Even the person who wanted the job to save lives can ask themselves the deeper question of why this is important to them. Which deep-held values of mine does saving lives fulfil? This deeper revelation of the importance of their jobs can often spark new or rejuvenated levels of motivation. Of course, as a manager this is a very personal question to ask your team members. Here is a question that while it seems an everyday question, it is linguistically designed to elicit our deepest motivations: our values. Ask, “what’s important to you about [add a context]”, this could be your job, your career, being involved in a project etc. It is important to ask it slower than you usually might talk and pause at the end. Give the person time to think. Even if you think you know your team well, it’s surprising what you will uncover.

As you’ll notice, the motivation strategies on this list are intrinsically driven- that is that they arise from a place deep within the self rather than coming from external sources. A great leader acknowledges that employee motivation is not as simple as just offering a monthly bonus, but rather something far more complex, far more effective, and far more rewarding.

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