How to Motivate Knowledge Workers, Based on Our Newest Survey

August 2, 2017 Marcus Varner

With AI (artificial intelligence) becoming a reality in workplaces around the world, knowledge workers are becoming more common and more valuable.

As Steven ZoBell recently explained, mundane tasks are being given to robots (think ATMs and high-tech software), leading to a higher demand for knowledge workers, or employees whose main asset is their knowledge and critical thinking—something robots can't bring to the table.

Watch our video "Jay Baer at LEAP 2017: The Future of Work and Youtility" to learn more about managing knowledge workers.

With 60 million knowledge workers in the United States alone, the age-old problem of keeping employees motivated will apply to those who manage knowledge workers too. So, what's a manager to do?

In a recent survey, we asked 1,000 office workers in the United Kingdom what motivates them. Their responses bring to light some new, creative tips leaders can use as they strive to inspire their teams.

Some interesting findings include:

  • Most knowledge workers feel they are self-motivated, with 58% reporting they are "always self-motivated" and 39% saying they are "very motivated."
  • Praise from a boss or manager was the number-one external motivating factor with 37% of respondents. Self-satisfaction (36%) and achieving objectives (35%) came in second and third.
  • At 52%, flexi-time beat out bonus packages as the number-one motivational job perk.

If you work in an office, you know your environment plays a role in how motivated, productive, and satisfied you are. 

Our survey questions dug into the details to find out specifically what kinds of environmental factors motivate knowledge workers. Here's what we found:

  • A quarter, 25%, of respondents said they listen to R&B/soul music when they want to be more productive. Rock and alternative also topped the list, with jazz, metal, and gospel coming in last.
  • The vast majority, 95%, of respondents said that natural light is "very or quite important" to their level of productivity.
  • When it comes to the most productive location outside the office, 34% of respondents said working from home is their favorite.

For all the details on what motivates knowledge workers, check out the infographic below:


You can see more results from the survey in our SlideShare: "What Motivates UK Knowledge Workers."

About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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