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Revealed: Top factors that drive staff productivity

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Pay may have the biggest influence on an employee’s productivity but it’s not the only motivator at work, according to new research.

HR and payroll software provider Ciphr surveyed 265 UK-based CEOs and senior managers about what motivates their workforces to be more productive.

The study revealed that the majority of employers believe salary (40%) to be a key factor affecting their employees’ productivity levels, followed by bonuses and performance incentives (31%).

Given the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, it’s hardly surprising that financial reward should top the list. Yet, interestingly, many of the other motivational boosters ranked highly by employers – including flexible working (30%), a healthy working environment (29%), respectful and supportive management (28%), and positive feedback – can cost less and, potentially, have a wider organisational impact.

Prioritising positive workplace practices, such as these, are known to help employers promote an inclusive work culture and build a ‘good place to work’, while supporting their workers’ intrinsic (self) motivation to be successful in their roles.

Around a quarter of respondents also listed job enjoyment (26%), extra employee perks and rewards (26%), recognition and appreciation (26%), opportunities to learn new skills (25%), and meaningful work (25%) as useful ways to spur employee productivity.

The top 15 factors that motivate employees, according to their employers, are:

1             Pay / salary (40%)
2             Bonus / performance incentives (31%)
3             Flexible working (30%)
4             Healthy working environment (29%)
5             Respectful and supportive management (28%)
6             Positive feedback (27%)
7             Enjoying their job (26%)
8=           Extra employee perks and rewards (26%)
8=           Recognition and appreciation of their work (26%)
10=        Opportunities to learn new skills (25%)
10=        Meaningful work (25%)
12           Being listened to (24%)
13           Clear career path / development opportunities (24%)
14=        Being encouraged to succeed / encouragement (22%)
14=        Being part of a supportive team (22%)

Of course, factors that motivate one employee may have no influence on another. The narrow margin between many of the results in Ciphr’s poll highlights that there really is no one-size-fits-all approach to improving employee productivity and performance. Employers need to spend time listening to their own employees to understand their needs and priorities and then use a mix of motivators and engagement tools that work best for their people.

Commenting on the results, Claire Williams, chief people officer at Ciphr, says: “It’s not surprising to see pay at the top of the list in the current financial climate. However, this research is a good reminder to employers that there are lots of other factors that motivate employees that aren’t pay related, and are great ways to improve engagement and, ultimately, performance, while helping manage salary inflation.”

The results from Ciphr’s latest survey (conducted between 6-13 December 2022) are available to view at

Nearly half (45%) of the 265 business leaders and senior managers surveyed by Ciphr run or are employed by organisations with 1,001+ employees, two-fifths (41%) have 251 to 1,000 employees, and one in seven (14%) have 101 to 250 employees.

More than 600 organisations use Ciphr’s cloud-based HR and people management solutions to help manage, retain and engage staff more effectively – while reducing the admin burden on busy HR teams.

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