How Leaders Can Increase Employee Well-Being And Motivation: 3 Steps – Forbes


The most common challenge I hear from leaders these days revolves around the ongoing struggle to support employee well-being and motivation during ongoing turbulence and change. Leaders must develop the capacity to understand, assess and take action that addresses their employees’ needs for well-being, motivation and performance. The good news is that there are practical things leaders can do to support the well-being and motivational needs of the people they lead.
Below are three steps leaders can take to establish relationships and build a culture that promotes employee motivation and well-being, even during difficult times.
Self-Determination Theory was developed by psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan in the mid-1980s and has been researched and refined by multiple scholars. This theory tells us that people have three innate psychological needs affecting well-being, motivation, and performance. These essential drivers for motivation and well-being are rooted in our most basic social needs as humans. We actively seek these powerful drivers because our brain recognizes them as a reward. If we feel that these universal needs are being taken away, our brain recognizes this as a threat, and immediately we want to react. These universal needs for motivation and well-being are Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence (ARC).
Universal Needs For Well-Being and Motivation
Employees Who Experience Autonomy:

Employees Who Experience Relatedness:

Employees Who Experience Competence:

Empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Research repeatedly shows that empathy is a critical element for leaders to tap into to exhibit emotional intelligence, design thinking, high performance, effective teamwork, healthy relationships and clear communication. Empathy is the cornerstone for leaders to create a working environment where employees feel motivated, valued and capable of doing their best work. The primary way that a leader demonstrates empathy to an employee is through asking quality questions and listening to their unique needs and perspectives.
Female employee experiencing well-being.
Quality questions promote thoughtful reflection about the issue at hand. These types of questions help others feel included, respected and safe. Leaders who regularly ask quality questions create an environment where employees feel valued, capable, and in control. The insights gained from these conversations enable managers to provide appropriate guidance and support for motivation, development and career growth. Below are examples of quality questions for better understanding how your employees feel their ARC needs are being met at work.



Developing an environment and relationships that foster employee motivation and well-being does not happen by accident. The best way leaders can serve their employees is by demonstrating behaviors that address the basic needs for employee well-being, motivation, and performance of those they lead. Below is a list of everyday activities that will help ensure your employees are feeling motivated despite the unique challenges and uncertainties they will constantly encounter at work.



Developing a culture that supports the universal needs of employees and teams does not happen by accident. Leaders must understand the principles of human motivation and well-being, regularly assess if those needs are being met, and engage in daily actions that enable their employees to experience Autonomy, Relatedness and Competence.
What are your leaders doing to create an environment that meets the needs for employee well-being, motivation, and performance?


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