WIIFM Factor: What’s in it for me?

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Creating a culture of purpose in the work place and managing well your emotional bank accounts with your staff are two very important ways to create motivated team players. However people’s powerful sense of self-interest should never be underestimated and understanding the WIIFM – what’s in it in for me? – of your staff will be important to bringing out the very best in your team. WIIFM in the work place in its most basic form is what an individual is getting out of a situation, from: a decision, the success of a project or for getting past a challenge. WIIFM is where our minds often end up when we analyse our feelings about something we have done or something new we are about to face.

WIIFM is normally the ends point our minds arrive at when analyzing whether we believe something is good or bad.

Therefore when making decisions that effect our team members, whether directly or indirectly, we should be putting ourselves in their shoes and analyzing what are they getting out of this? What someone “needs” (see post needs over wants) out of a situation to address their WIIFM needs, may not necessary be a direct reward like a pay bonus or some physical prize, it could be something relationship building, like giving the staff member extra personal attention or mentoring them in professional development. What is important to understand and accept as a manager, is that WIIFM is a real influencing factor over how your team sees the decisions you make and thus as a consequence how much they believe in and contribute to team projects.

Great managers understand their staff’s WIIFM needs.

Getting a good sense for what WIIFM needs your team members have should be a goal for all great team leaders. First you will need to know your staff’s work personalities and ambitions: are they prone to think first and act later or vice versa? Do they struggle with stress? Are the seeking a promotion or pay rise? How important to them is their free time? Once you get to know your team member’s strengths and weaknesses at work, you will get a feeling for their emotional and practical need’s too.  Their personal life outside of work will also come into consideration. Staff with families will no doubt prize getting home on time whereas those single and young may prefer more flexibility with their starting work hour. Also of course you should ask staff themselves to outline how they wish for their work to be, not just right now but longer term, and from that you will get a good sense of their personal work needs, be them practical or emotional.

You should ask you staff for their vision on how they what their work to be, not just now but in the future.

When you have a good sense for each staff member’s personal WIIFMs, you can then make sure to address their emotional and practical needs at work and even use them to your favor as team leader. When you make decisions your team may not at first understand, you will often be able to get people on board not just by explaining the team purpose of the decision but by connecting that decision to a WIIFM need or, if not possible, through offering a WIIFM reward for trusting you and believing in your decision. For example to motivate a young ambitious staff member to work extra hours on a project you may get him to see the value of that extra work by promising to tutor him through the experience and saying it could stand him on firm ground for promotion in the future. Likewise a more experienced team player may be brought on board by offering to consult them through the process of implementing the change.

Use addressing WIIFM needs as a positive tool for implementing your work visions

Choosing the right WIIFMs to give a staff member is an important skill of a great manager. Addressing people’s work needs comes in many forms but whether these are direct rewards, like a pay bonus, or indirect ones like professional development, they are only a WIIFM that is interesting for you to give if it is motivates that staff member to believe more in their work. A great starting point for understanding work needs, and hence work purpose, is via understanding Maslow’s hierarchy of need.


When applied to the workplace, “basic needs” can be seen as a safe environment to work in and importantly job security i.e. being free from the fear of losing their work and income. The “psychological needs” are the sense of belonging, being understood and having work contribution recognized and appreciated.  “Self-fulfillment” is feeling that you are getting better and working towards your full potential and greatness, and feeling that your work is supportive of this.  Basic needs are a must in any productive environment but how well a manager deals with the psychological and self-fulfillment needs is where great management really lays.

So when deciding on what WIIFM to give staff, try to align staff wants to these needs and done well you will end up not only motivating your team but also gaining their appreciation and trust, adding to that all important emotional bank.

Addressing WIIFM is a great way to gain the trust and appreciation of your team.



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