Everyone Wants to Win
We all want to better ourselves, garner some advantage over our peers, and preserve or enhance the conditions for survival of our family unit. It's nothing to be ashamed of; it's simply the way we evolved.
The business environment is really just an odd human extension of the familial unit. It has leaders, associate leaders, subordinates, and minions. Ordinarily you don't have to concern yourself with leaders because they are pretty well self-directed, ambitious, and organized.
Subordinates and minions, on the other hand, may engage in activities detrimental to other group members (or themselves) if the way forward is not clearly marked. That's why it is incumbent upon us to invest (surprisingly little) time and money to make sure that employees understand which actions lead to rewards. You need a clearly defined corporate plan.
The Business Mindset
Of course the first thing that comes to mind is always money. It's the easiest (and laziest) answer to this question. Dollars & $ense don't always reconcile however, especially as you approach the upper echelons.
Once a wage reaches "adequate" other things begin to take priority. People seek more responsibility; more authority; recognition from their peers; impressive titles; and of course that "corner office" with the huge windows and the antique mahogany desk.
Size Isn't Important
The most important factor that contributes to employee motivation is simply progress. In every activity, from chess to bingo, you can see measurable advancement towards your objective. Each increment, no matter how small, urges you forward.
It might take the form of overcoming an obstacle, or it might be as simple as checking off an accomplishment on a list such as acquiring a new skill. It can literally be anything as long as they are moving forward.
Everybody needs a "Good Job!" once in a while from a peer or supervisor. It costs absolutely nothing, and used judiciously it acquires immense social value within the organization.
Consider the ego-stroking effect of providing your top sales team with unique gold-colored coffee cups emblazoned with a large "#1" for the month. It costs almost nothing, but people will strive for it.
Having a Plan
Provide clearly defined objectives and unambiguous rewards. Obtain certification “X”, get new responsibility, job title, and/or wage increase. Top salesperson gets Dinner-for-two at top-flight restaurant. Accomplish a specified task, get a financial bonus. Work for a length of time and acquire stock options.
All these things are simple, but more importantly, they are essential. In exit-interviews the second most common reason for leaving a job was "lack of opportunity for career growth.” Conversely, in stay-interviews, employees listed "professional growth" as one of their strongest motivators.
Ultimately the question is simple: How do your employees see you? Matching your business with the right employees is the first step to creating an environment that offers the property growth for their needs. Working with an IT staffing agency can help you select the best qualified employees for your working environment.