At Work, Men Are More Motivated By Their Own Success Than Women

October 25, 2016, 6:00 AM UTC
Photograph by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV AFP/Getty Images

For corporate leaders, a Holy Grail of company culture is employee engagement. Senior executives recognize that workers who are highly engaged can increase a company’s innovation, productivity, and bottom-line performance all while reducing costs related to hiring and retaining talent.

London-based analytics firm Peakon, whose software measures employee engagement and retention, released a report Tuesday that provides some insight into the coveted workplace trait, especially how engagement differs by gender. One key takeaway: A sense of accomplishment and personal growth are bigger factors in men’s workplace engagement than women’s.

Peakon obtained the data—based on feedback from 230,000 people—not via a one-time survey but through 39 of what it calls “pulse” questions, which it sent to users of its software from March through August of this year. Peakon sends the questions over a period of time that varies by client, but the typical duration is six to eight weeks.

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The report’s main finding identifies the strongest drivers of engagement among male and female employees. Peakon derived the importance of these factors by asking users to rate different statements, such as “I frequently feel a sense of achievement from my work,” on a scale of 0 to 10. Peakon then compared those responses against respondents’ overall level of engagement. It discovered that employees of both genders are motivated the most by strategy, but women more so than men. Women also extract more workplace drive from organizational fit and reward. But accomplishment and growth skew the other way; they are bigger factors in men’s engagement than women’s.


Note: ‘Driver coefficient’ on the y axis shows how strong an impact each aspect of one’s job (e.g. Reward) has on employee engagement


Peakon co-founder Dan Rogers, chalked those last points up to long-held cultural beliefs. “Historically, men have been more career driven,” he said. “There is a culture that pushes men more to be aggressive in succeeding in their careers.”

It’s important to note that the divergence between what drives men and women to engage at work may also be the result of employers treating the sexes differently. “To conclude that men and women are fundamentally different in their approach to work is to also ignore the unmistakable fact that there are large disparities in the treatment of men and women in the workplace,” according to the study.

Separately, the report also showed that a similar share of both men and women are unhappy with how much money they make. Forty-three percent of women and 39% of men reported being dissatisfied with their pay. That conclusion isn’t necessarily surprising, Rogers said. It’s “a perennial thing.”

The report was based on individual responses from more than 20 countries with 66% from Europe and 28% from North America.



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