4 Challenges to Motivation at Work and How to Overcome Them

4 Challenges to Motivation at Work and How to Overcome Them
Chris Beckenham

4 Challenges to Motivation at Work and How to Overcome Them

Chris Beckenham explores results from our latest candidate community survey and reveals strategic advice to overcome the hurdles and power motivation in the workplace.

Key findings:

Our survey found the following factors motivate scientists the most at work:

  • Appreciation and recognition (29%)
  • Salary and bonus package (27%)
  • Career development (21.7%)Workplace environment (21.3%)

While 62% of leaders today are shaping their business strategy around employee engagement, research shows that just 15% of the global workforce feels motivated at work. 

In June 2023, we surveyed over 500 members of our scientific community on the key factors that motivate them the most in the workplace to bridge this divide in understanding. 

Our findings show that even in today’s cost-conscious economy, scientific professionals are most motivated when their workplace values them.

In this article, we explore key barriers to our top motivational factors and provide actionable advice to help you stay motivated at work.

Key challenges to motivation at work 

Appreciation and recognition

While 29% of our scientific community agreed that appreciation and recognition motivated them the most in the workplace, the way this looks in the workplace will differ depending on individual preferences. 

Asking questions and taking the time to map out what it is that makes you feel appreciated and recognised at work before your interview is essential. Doing so will allow you to align the company’s initiatives with your own motivations to ensure that you choose the right job for you.

Salary and bonuses

27% of our respondents said they were most motivated by salary and bonuses at work. In the scientific industries, there has been a recent movement towards improving salaries – demonstrated by our latest findings in our STEM salary survey.

However, this can sometimes occur in an inequitable way, with certain minority groups, such as women and people from BAME backgrounds, not receiving the same opportunities for salary progression.

If you’re looking to understand what a competitive salary looks like in your industry, working with an expert scientific recruiter like SRG can be an effective and seamless way to unlock industry insights directly from those closest to the process. Working with a recruiter can also enable you to gain information on individual company bonus schemes, as well as offer the opportunity to ask any questions about bonus scheme initiatives that you have. Alternatively, you could scour job sites and look at your ideal positions to understand what sort of salaries companies are paying for those roles today.

Workplace environment

21.3% of our respondents said their workplace environment is the most motivating factor at work. Getting a good impression of what it’s like to work somewhere can be difficult as a candidate, particularly if the entire recruitment process is remote.

In the scientific industries, we’re seeing a much greater focus on having at least one interview in-person. This in-person interview is a key opportunity for candidates, just as much as it is clients, to understand what it’s really like to work in the company. If you’re offered a site tour, I recommend you take the chance and really immerse yourself in the environment while considering whether it’s somewhere you could see yourself working happily.

Another key barrier is having to work around out-of-hours for interviews to avoid taking annual leave. Doing this can limit your impression of the environment as, depending on the hour, there may be very few employees working around you. To combat this, I would recommend asking whether people will be on site when you request your interview time and work around your schedule wherever possible to facilitate being in a more active environment.

Career development

Understanding the next steps to develop your career, no matter where you are in your professional journey, can be challenging, particularly if you’ve taken a break from the industry or are moving to an alternative sector. Recruiters understand where people should and can be in a year’s time, and can help candidates understand where they’re at in their career and what their next steps could be.

For example, if you’re a lab technician with 2 years of experience who wants to progress onto a management role, as a recruitment consultant myself, I would work with you to find a senior lab technician position where you can gain the experience you need to get into a management role faster. Alternatively, I would link you with a client who has a set development pathway in place to enable lab techs to progress to becoming lab managers in under a year. 

Being ambitious is a fantastic asset in STEM, but recruiters can offer the knowledge you need to get to the next step and work with you to provide the guidance you need throughout.

How to find a workplace that aligns with your motivations

Step One – Design your questions

It’s important not only to ask questions but also to plan and align the questions you’re asking with what matters most to you at work.

Rather than trying to think of these on the spot, write a list of questions in advance along with your notes, and take the list to the interview with you. Tick off the questions as you get responses, and ensure you make notes on what your interviewer responds with for each so you don’t forget. 

One of the questions I always suggest my candidates prepare is, ‘What does career development look like in this organisation’, or ‘Where do you see me being after 12 months?’. Asking these questions means you get a direct understanding of whether there are structured internal career paths or skills development programmes in place that align with your long-term ambitions and motivations.

Step Two – Do your research

As part of your interview preparation, I’d advise you to research the company thoroughly.

The company website can be a great starting point, but after that, research their social media accounts and explore their presence on LinkedIn. Look at the posts they share and what sort of media and emerging topics employees engage most.

If you’re motivated by appreciation and recognition, I’d recommend paying special attention to whether there are appreciation awards, company trips, award ceremonies or team building activities being advertised on the company’s LinkedIn.

Step Three – Go in person

You can get a good insight into the feel of a place when you’re in person. If you’re offered a site tour, take the time to go through places like factory floors and laboratories and assess what the feelings are like amongst the workers and in the general environment.

If there’s ever an opportunity to speak to more than one person in the interview, talk to them. While directors and managers can provide excellent insight into company ideology, speaking to someone who works at your level in a similar role will give you a more direct insight into what you can expect from the job.

Looking for your next opportunity in STEM?

At SRG, we have over 30 years of experience helping candidates across the globe establish successful scientific careers across the wider STEM industries.

Use the quick job search tool below to find your next opportunity in STEM

About the author: Chris Beckenham specialises in finding scientists and technical talent for the chemicals and material industries, from R&D to analytical testing and manufacturing. Click here to connect with Chris on Linkedin.


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