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Boosting motivation in Thailand

Submitted by on Tuesday, 14 August 2012No Comment

One of the major challenges companies are facing today is how to get high motivation levels in their operations in Thailand and indeed across Asia. We’ve visited the motivators of engagement before here. Today we zero in on motivation itself.

Understanding Motivation

The first challenge is that most business leaders don’t understand motivation. Does money motivate? Yes, and no. For lower level (read ‘mindless’) tasks, money is an excellent motivator.

But for higher level tasks, a massive study undertaken by the US Federal Reserve in conjunction with MIT discovered that money actually demotivated people. This flies against received economic wisdom which says – pay people more, and they will be more motivated. Or, in the immortal words of Gordon Gekko, ‘greed is good.’

The Federal Reserve / MIT research into motivation is beautifully illustrated here. Take a look:



Understanding Motivation in Thailand and Asia

The video above identifies three core motivators to enhanced performance: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Here’s how you can put these to work in Thailand:


The reality of management in Asia is that it necessarily demands a lot of ‘directive’ behaviour from management. Many local professionals may lack initiative, technical and conceptual knowledge and this is often frustrating for expatriates trying to give their direct reports greater autonomy.

One way to ovecome that barrier is to create a framework in which you can better collaborate. So rather than complain about low autonomy / initiative etc., make it a focal point of your business.

Two excellent frameworks exist for this: Our employee engagement framework (on an organisational level) and The Leadership Challenge Five Practices framework on a team/individual one (the fourth practice is Enable Others to Act).


The challenge in achieving mastery is that many professionals in Asia don’t know what they’re best at. In other words, they don’t know their talents and strengths.

This may be due to an education system in all these countries that implements learning by rote and denies the opportunity for self-discovery, but, practically speaking, what can managers do to encourage greater mastery?

Here’s what we recommend:

1. Help your direct reports discover their talents empirically through the Highlands Ability Battery.

2. Create a Strengths Plan and Career Path.

3. Drill down to weekly and monthly talent opportunities and skills development.


As the video above illustrates, purpose is a key motivator for both individuals and companies.

This is no different in Asia.

The interesting phenomenon we have encountered is that there are extremely high levels of engagement among employees here and extremely low levels, with a more hollowed out ‘in-between’.

Extremely high levels of engagement tend to be achieved when the work an employee does seems to resonate with his or her perceived purpose.

How to discover that?

Again, research has showed that the key to promoting purpose and satisfaction at work is through discovering our talents.

A combination of talent and leadership

Bottom line, to be effective at motivating Thais, we need to be able to ‘spot talent’ (as Steve Jobs put it in this video) and delegate effectively in very focussed ways.

For more on how you can achieve both of these quickly, lastingly and effectively, feel free to contact us here. Oh, and if you liked this post, be sure to stay tuned here!


Talent Technologies :: Taking your Talent to a Higher Level


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