Episode 15 – Season 2

Published: December 13, 2021

Kelly Mackin, Co- founder, Motives Met | What makes a work life well lived?

Kelly Mackin, Co- founder, Motives Met | What makes a work life well lived?

Kelly Mackin a Co-Founder of Motives Met who are hoping to answer the burning question, “what creates wellbeing at work?” or put another way, “what makes a work-life well-lived?”
Motives Met are a team of researchers that have discovered that real happiness, mental health and wellness at work only occurs when motives are met. So, in this edition of the workplace wellbeing podcast, I want to discuss the research Kelly and her team have done into motives, what they found and how to use it to improve wellbeing at your organisation.

Kelly and Ian Discuss:
– Why motives matter
– The impact they have on wellbeing
– Finding out about an individual’s motives circumplex
– How to make a difference one you know what someone’s motives are

Whats is Inspiring Kelly:
Dancing With Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering
Phillip Moffitt

How to contact Kelly:


Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast, the podcast for wellbeing professionals that looks at best practices in organisations that care about their people, and which keeps an eye on the growing number of suppliers in the wellbeing space.

The workplace wellbeing podcast is sponsored by fastPAYE a financial wellbeing solution that facilitates flexible salary advances. It also provides access to financial education, a benefits assessment calculator, and a host of other financial wellbeing tools. fastPAYE he is part of the work tech group that includes ShopWorks Workforce Solutions, and SolvedBy.Ai.

ShopWorks offers Scheduling and Time and Attendance tools that improve your workforce management processes. Whilst SolvedBy.Ai provides unique artificial intelligence products that deliver optimum staffing levels and improve employee retention.

Ian Hogg 00:58
Hi, and welcome to another edition of the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast. I’m Ian Hogg, Chairman of fastPAYE. Today I’m joined by Kelly Mackin, a Co-Founder of Motives Met. Motives Met are hoping to answer the burning question, what creates wellbeing at work? Or put another way, what makes a work life well lived? Motives Met a team of researchers that discovered that real happiness, mental health and wellness and wellness at work only occurs when motives are met. So, in this edition of the workplace will be in podcast on to discuss the research Kelly and her team have done into motives, what they found, and how and how to use it to improve well-being at your organisation. Hi, Kelly, thanks for joining us.

Kelly Mackin 01:39
Hi, thanks for having me.

Ian Hogg 01:42
No, listen, glad to have you and a good place to start, I think as always is why don’t you give the listeners a bit about your background? How you ended up founding Motives Met? And also I’d love to hear a bit more about the rest of your team?

Kelly Mackin 01:55
Sure. Well, my mom and I, who’s actually one of the other co-founders of Motives Met. You know, we really talked about this work world that we dreamed of, you know, the one that we believed would be possible, where we had real mental health and wellbeing and the relationship between the company and individual was really a two-way street. And this really stems from both of our backgrounds. My mom was Senior Vice President of Research at one of the largest global advertising agencies. She was one of the first women as VP so she was a real Trailblazer. And you know, to me, she just was the epitome of success. And I admired her so much. But what I saw growing up is while she was very fulfilled in her career for a long time, eventually, over time, her career ended up being a great source of ill being in her life. She was pulling all nighters for work, she was working every weekend. And that was just to kind of tread water and keep up. And even though I knew this isn’t how the work world should work, I followed right in her footsteps. And I ended up in a very similar situation of really, you know, my mental health, suffering, reaching complete burnout, and actually being physically ill from work. And so, I really took a step back, you know, it took a few years. But I reached that point where I realised I really wanted to create holistic well-being in my overall life. And I thought, what does this really mean for my work life. And of course, it means not being chronically stressed or burnt out. But beyond that, it means that the things that are important to me are healthy and in a good place. So that’s things like, you know, having leaders that I trust and admire doing work that felt really meaningful to me, or, you know, having a definition of success that really felt authentic and not like someone else’s. So, I changed my whole life. I moved from Chicago out to California, and decided that I wanted to really pursue wellbeing and reaching my potential and helping other people do the same. So, I dove into quantitative research on human behaviour, you know, why we do what we do, how to be happier in our overall life. And that researcher curiosity led me to want to understand things deeper. So, I went over to the psychological side of things and became a cognitive behavioural therapy practitioner, certified in cognitive coaching. And then I stumbled upon mindfulness and meditation. And that opened up a whole different area of kind of brain training and how to deal with stress and looking at how you know, our brain works. And so I opened up a coaching business and I started working with people really on their stress and anxiety, and work and career ended up being something that people talk to me a lot about is their greatest source of stress, or worry in their lives. So my mom and I were talking about how great it was that finally in our culture, We’re talking about mental health at work in a significant way. And that people deserve to be happy and healthy in their jobs. And currently, you know, the great resignation, people are realising they really deserve that wellbeing and they want to go pursue it in other areas of their career. But we want it to actually take action, and not just talk about this work world we dreamed of, but actually do something about it. So that’s where we really started on our research path of going what creates true wellbeing in our work lives in workplaces. And so, we dove into the quantitative research, to be able to answer those questions to help you know, people, leaders, and organisations better do that.

Ian Hogg 05:45
Okay, and how did that lead up to founding Motives Met? And is it just you and your mom as part of Motives Met team there?

Kelly Mackin 05:53
We have a bigger team, Josh McLean is, you know, he’s kind of our data guy and algorithm, he helped us develop a big part of the tool. We had some great content, content researchers and an amazing creative designer who helped us with branding. So we’ve had other people, you know, help us build this brand. But really, my mom and I were the core of you know, how this all started.

Ian Hogg 06:20
Okay, and give us a quick summary. So, what what’s Motives Met you know, sort of purpose and objective and, and what do you do day to day?

Kelly Mackin 06:30
Well, Motives Met our mission really, is to create a better work world. And we, you know, seek out helping companies and individuals do just that. So, we’re an entire work well being platform, as well as a data driven assessment tool. So, for people who’ve taken Strength Finders or Enneagram, or Myers Briggs, or disc, or any of those things, our assessment tool is somewhat similar to that, but for work well being in mental health at work.

Ian Hogg 06:58
Okay. And when we spoke earlier, you had some delightfully strong views about how wellbeing work, he’s sort of implemented or managed within the workplace. Yeah, I’d love to hear you take us through that again and expand on your sort of opinion of work workplace wellbeing, you know, as it as it’s certainly in America, but you know, as it is in the western economies, as you see it now.

Kelly Mackin 07:25
Well, there are three overarching issues that we found as we really started to get into the research. One is that work? Wellbeing in our culture can be a little bit fluffy or vague. You know, we can talk about it as work well being helps you thrive in your job and be happy. And you’re like, well, what does that really mean? Right? How do we do that? organisations can kind of view it as on the backburner, not that important. Luckily, today, that’s starting to change. But there are still a lot of organisations and cultures that don’t put it as a priority in their organisation. The other side of the coin, we can be very specific, and what we think work well being is. So, you know, we’ve all come across those research articles or TED Talks that, you know, say, hey, these are the 10 things you need to create wellbeing on your team. These are the five ways you can be happy at work, you know, that you must have purpose, to have meaning and be happy in your job. Or if you don’t create community on your team, you know, that’s the biggest loss. But what we found is there is no magic formula. There is no right recipe, or you know, these must have ingredients, what we found is that wellbeing is very personal, and individualistic and complex, which makes it tough, but that’s why we created motives met to help make it easier. Because you know, as you mentioned, on your intro, what we found is that wellbeing at work is when people’s motives are met. And motives are your psychological and emotional and social needs at work. They’re the things that are really important to you. And that is what is at the core of work well being.

Ian Hogg 09:06
For the listeners, could you give us an example of a couple of motifs, you know, that are relevant to the discussion?

Kelly Mackin 09:13
Sure, yeah. Through our research, we identified 28 primary work motives, and they fall into 10 Bigger overarching domains. And we have this great framework called our motive circumplex that if you look at our website makes it really easy to grasp. And when you take the assessment, you get your own custom circumplex. But for example, there’s the autonomy flexibility and free expression motive, and those are part of the Freedom domain. There’s the passion and purpose motive, which is part of the meaning domain. There’s manager support personal connection, funding community community, which are part of, you know, the pure connection domain. So, there are 28 primary needs and some of these motives can sometimes be put on a pedestal again, right a TED talk will say this is what you Have to have. And then some motives can be judged in the workplace or dismissed, or sometimes just overlooked.

Ian Hogg 10:08
I mean, what’s interesting about that you didn’t mention money or having a job as one. So, if you go back to this take the worst example of a badly managed organisation, you know, you can imagine the boss saying they’re lucky to have a job, you know, I pay them their salary. You write that? I’m sure. Financial work, you know, wellbeing is something where we believe in but you so there’s obviously some, you know, some element of the motive, but it’s definitely not the number one is it? You didn’t even mention it.

Kelly Mackin 10:38
Right? I mean, we looked really at these intrinsic motives, just because there is a lot of research that shows that financial incentives aren’t enough. And that actually more people are saying, I would take a salary cut to have these important needs met to have flexibility to have work life balance, to have a manager I like, so you know, that’s why when it came to our research, we really focused on these deeper needs that are more intrinsic to the individual.

Ian Hogg 11:09
Yeah, I think we see that one, I hear it a lot on the podcast, you know, for different approaches to exactly that same problem. But to what I’m seeing it more and more with my own team, where they would rather have an extra day off and not a pay rise. You know, they would make that change. We have people that say that, and just going back to the research. So, you know, what sort of research did you do into the into motives? Was it you know, reading other papers? Did you actually go out and do primary research? Is it done by interview you just by speaking to your, your clients and customers? What, what’s your work did you do to get that data together?

Kelly Mackin 11:50
Well, we started with secondary research to really think about, again, all you know, what are all of these needs, what other research has been done. So we use that as our jumping off point. But then we went and did our own primary quantitative analysis over about a two and a half year period. So 1000s, and 1000s, of interviews, and also some qualitative as well, in the beginning, just to really hear personal accounts of what people really found important at work. And what our research showed, is that when people’s top motives are met, when their most important needs are healthy, that that’s when they’re most healthy. And that’s when they really thrive. Because while all of these 28 motives, makeup work, well being, you know, if you’re a leader or a company, you need to care about all of them, we don’t need them to the same degree in the same way at the same point in time. So again, that really adds to the ugly truth of how messy work well being is, every individual is going to have motives that rise to the top for them in this season. And that’s really what our data showed is, you know, we only have so much time and attention. So let’s discover what needs we really need met right now. And as a manager, how can I support people in that, right? And as a company, how can we improve these motives, and our research show that if people’s motives are met, they’re much less likely to walk out the door, and that they really care about them well being of the company, and that they have a much better relationship with their company, and less stress and burnout at work. So, you know, our research really just showed time and time again, how much these motives matter in the workplace.

Ian Hogg 13:31
Yeah, and I think we, you know, do you find that there’s overlap between you mentioned, some of the other models, like sort of Briggs Myers, we, in our, in our team, we do colour assessments, you know, and yellows for the creatives green for the carers, red you know for sort of fairly dominant, sort of, you know, the sales types. And blue are the detail guys. And each one of those colours has different motives. So, the detail guys, you know, really want things nicely organised, and to work on problem solving normally, and the creative guys, you know, quite happy with a bit of chaos. But one a bit of freedom and a one the ability to, you know, create, create, create, you know, creative ideas. Do you find there’s overlap with those other models?

Kelly Mackin 14:17
We haven’t found specific overlap. You know, motives can rise to the top for different reasons. So, you know, a reason a motive can be so important to someone is because it is tied to their values. So, like you said, you know, if I’m an adventurous soul, maybe a creative person at heart, maybe I am more likely to have motives in the freedom domain and really want that autonomy and flexibility or the innovation motive, which is being able to kind of think outside the box and use my creative thinking. But motives can also rise to the top because they’re suffering. They’re under met right now, or it’s tied to a really specific goal I have, or it’s just a deal breaker and My work life because of what I know from my past. So given they can be tied to values and there can be then overlap from a personality standpoint with some of these other assessments. There can also be all these other reasons that motives rise to the top for someone, and that’s kind of a separate different thing.

Ian Hogg 15:17
Okay, and just moving on to, you know, I get it. I like the idea. I like the model I can, I can see how it makes a lot of sense, even without having read the research. What about the impact on on the workplace? Have you got, you know, have you worked with clients? Have you seen it in action? Have you seen where, you know, the change, you know, helping people find out what their motives are, and then meeting those motives, has improved workplace wellbeing, you know, if you’ve got any case studies you can talk to so,

Kelly Mackin 15:48
yeah, well, at a, you know, in a high level, what we say we do with motives met is that we help leaders and companies, you know, we empower them to better understand motives, be mindful of them, measure them, communicate them, and then ultimately meet them. So, when we work with a company, we really walk them through all of those things. It’s really important in organisations to get everybody on the same page of what wellbeing is and how you’re going to think about it. So that’s kind of the understanding piece as having everybody look at this framework and get that there’s motive diversity, and that, you know, all motives are created equal, and everybody’s different. And then the Be mindful of pieces using the assessment, right? And understanding what your greatest needs are, and hey, the people who work for me, you know, what are their greatest needs? And not just their top motives? But why right? What’s the story behind them? How do they feel about them? How can we better support them? And then what gets measured gets managed? Right? So, after the assessment, we send out a survey with the company that asked people how well met are these motives? You know, do you feel that your company has active ways that they’re trying to meet these things? And so, you know, they get a lot of meaningful data around wellbeing of their company, and then communicate? Oh, sorry, go ahead.

Ian Hogg 17:12
No, so just in terms of the mechanics of it, then for the listeners, so every individual in the organisation would do Motives Met survey to identify their personal motives. That’s sort of first step, and then the second step, I’m repeating what you’ve said, but just to clarify, for the listeners, the second step is, out of 10, how well these motives are met. Is that is that the process?

Kelly Mackin 17:41
Yes, yeah. And I mean, we customise the survey, right, because wellbeing is very personal. So, you know, we have a base, a base to work from, but then we can get into more specific questions and even have kind of open ends of why do you think this isn’t, as well met? Or what do you think you could personally do versus what your team could do? So, we use the assessment, but then we look at measurement, and then look at how you can use that as a benchmark to track over time, right, because this isn’t a one and done programme. And that’s, you know, I didn’t I didn’t get to talk about the third issue with wellbeing in the workplace. But a big issue is that, you know, companies are starting to have the best of intentions of wanting to create wellbeing, but it’s kind of a one off programme or self-care day, or a healthy lunch or meditation app or wellness, tech. And those things are all wonderful. But if people’s deeper needs aren’t met, they just don’t matter. Right? It needs to really be embedded in your culture, in something you track over time. So, there’s the measurement piece. And then a big part is the communication piece, because one of the biggest barriers to getting motives met, is that they’re often not talked about, right? We don’t really go up to one another and say, hey, what are your deeper needs? And why? And is a coworker? Do I help and as a manager, do I help these conversations just aren’t happening. And they can be intimidating. So, when you use the assessment, and then use the measurement and have workshops to go, Okay, what builds this motive, what blocks this motive? You’re getting these things out in the open and you’re, you’re providing this shared language, that makes it much easier for people to communicate about. And then coming from those workshops, it helps you put insights into action of okay, what are we gonna do now? Hey, this is a new initiative we’re gonna have we’re gonna have a committee on this. This is a new value we’re bringing into our culture. So, there are all these action items coming out of using the research and the assessment and the measurement piece.

Ian Hogg 19:47
Yeah, no, I get it. I what I do like about the approach is, you know, a lot of surveys that we do surveys at work, and we do the sort of Great Place to Work type surveys and you know, and then industry ones if you’ve got a problem we want to try and understand. But they all sort of assume if you just do a survey, they’ll assume that we know what it is that that would make you happy or that was, you know, do we communicate well as though communication is important? You know, they’re the sort of questions get asked, What I like about your approach is you start by asking what’s important to you? And then you say, do we meet it, rather than I make a load of assumptions about what’s important to you? And then I just ask if we’ve met my assumptions about what’s important to you. So I think it’s a good approach, and I can see how that quickly gets to it. What? Sorry, gone, I was gonna move into a quick question. So how, once you’ve done this, you’ve got all this data? Do you find that the grouping into you know if everybody’s got their own personal motives to be met? Okay. And I’ve got 4000 staff. Yeah, that sounds like for 1000s, you know, individual profiles, and I get it, everybody’s important, and nobody’s just a number. But how do you in practice make change when you’ve got 4000 different sets of motives?

Kelly Mackin 21:04
Well, a big part is starting with management and leadership, of people working with their individual teams, and coworkers, who work together, understanding each other better, it makes our difficult work relationships, that much easier. But then there also is change that often needs to happen again, at that cultural level, what are the beliefs and behaviours in our organisation that are problems, and what things are we also doing really well, that we need to celebrate, and that we need to share with people as we look to, you know, attract great people to our company. So it is about the individual level, but it’s also about that cultural level. And it can seem like a big undertaking, but you know, I love the story of the CEO of Chipotle, who literally went in met with every single one of his employees to understand them better, and what they need and what they care about. And so that is the reality that if you want real well being at work, meeting motives is personal. So, you are going to have to start caring about the individual, and on a granular level, you know, on the team level, and also giving them the resources to better meet their motives. Because work well being is something that is CO created, the degree of motive is going to be able to be met is going to be based on the individual as well as the people they work with, as well as the culture, the leadership at their company. So, in the results with your assessment, we give like 50 Plus pages of insights and information to help people meet those motives and to help managers and coworkers better support those motives. So, it’s starting to truly take the time to reflect on these things and work on these things. One company we actually worked with started a protocol where each month they’re focusing on a different domain of the circumplex. So, one month, they’re focusing on the balanced domain, one month, they’re going to focus on the significance domain, which is all about appreciation and self-esteem. So, you know, you can customise the programme based on you, but it is accepting the reality that it’s about an individualised approach, and not this big one size fits all approach.

Ian Hogg 23:23
And of the different motives, you know, you know, for the listeners, again, because it uses I’ve seen the circumplex on your on your website, you know, instead of them being new financial, like it’s not this, this stuff isn’t gonna cost me money as an employer is it? It’s, it’s the way I work with my colleagues, it’s the way I communicate with them, it’s the way I set their tasks out or manage them. Really, it’s a it’s a tool to adjust your leadership and management to to meet the Meet the motives, you know, is that a fair assessment?

Kelly Mackin 23:59
I think partially, you know, meeting motives can be very cognitive and behavioural. So, a big part can sometimes just be changing our mindset be changing our communication, processes of how we work with one another ways we evaluate performance at our company. So, all of those things, like you’re saying they cost nothing. But sometimes, you know, when it comes to the action in the behavioural piece, you know, for example, in the advancement domain, there are three, three motives, the challenge motive future success and growth motive. So, in one workshop with a company, there was a lot of interest on their team in the advancement domain, there was a great need for these motives to be met. So they talked about what are big conferences that their team wants to attend? What are different online courses they could do that would help them be better in their job that they were interested in? So things like that there will be $1 amount attached? Yeah. But you know, very worthwhile again, to keep your best employees and to create that wellbeing. So, you know, it can be both

Ian Hogg 25:05
no fair calling. And, you know, one sort of question on sort of implementation again, then. So, if I was, you know, I’ve recognised, you know, I like what I’m hearing on the podcast, I recognise that maybe we’ve got a problem in my business, you know, how, how would? How would an engagement with you with motives met? Look, you know, what, where would you start? Is it just with the assessment online? Or is there a step before that

Kelly Mackin 25:33
would depend on what you’re looking for, you know, we’ve made it really easy to go on and literally just purchase the assessment for your team. And we give you a customised dashboard, we give you a lot of free resources to run your own workshop. So we really tried to make this simple to use, you know, if I’m a manager with five people on my team, and I just want to start the process, I can go do that. But if I want to reach out and have a consultation, you can work with us. And we can customise a whole solution for you, we can come in and help you run a workshop. And again, run a training or help your managers understand this. So then they can go implement it with their teams. So we try to make it flexible based on what your specific needs for your businesses.

Ian Hogg 26:15
Okay, now, listen, that’s excellent. I think that’s a, I think we’ve covered it well, I think, you know, I think it’s a great concept. I love the approach to the sort of survey and the assessment. I think that that will, I believe that will flush out quite a quite a lot of personal, you know, motives and ways to work better with someone. But before we go, there’s one question I asked everyone. And you know, I’m going to get you as well, what, what book or media is giving you most inspiration at the moment? And why?

Kelly Mackin 26:49
You know, I started reading this book called Dancing with life with Philip Moffat. I’m not finished with it yet. But it is a very Mindfulness Based book. And it’s very inspiring, because it’s very modern, real-world approach to dealing with things like uncertainty and stress, and just wanting to grow into better versions of ourselves. So even though that’s not super work related, that’s kind of what’s inspiring me at the moment. Okay,

Ian Hogg 27:17
well listen, I will make sure as well as your contact details and your website. In the programme notes. I’ll make sure that the link to that book in there as well Kelly. This has been great having you on. You know good luck with Motives Met, and thank you very much for you know for your great insight.

Kelly Mackin 27:34
Thank you for having me. This has been great

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