The modern economy is very complex due to the worlwide nature of business. Employees constantly compare themselves to their colleagues in, not only other businessses, but other countries and set the measure of motivation based on a very broad spectrum.
Some employees do not consider the various factors that exist within the organization in which they work (such as size of business and number of employees, local, global, management style, location,etc) which may affect the structure within which they operate. They see others who get better salaries, better perks, more holidays, a gym on the premises, childcare, etc and think they are hard done by.
Big city employers tend to provide more 'flashy' means of motivation - even a dentist and a hairdresser sometimes. The down side of this - distances travelled to work, peak traffic, parking difficulties, lift schemes with unreliable people, erratic buses and trains, etc. is often overlooked by small town employees who do not realize that spending 2 hours per day just to get to work and back has serious implications for family life and creates a unique type of stress.
There is always a 'trade-off' and employees only see what they miss out on. After a while the big city employees who were overawed at first with all the facilities become disheartened. They begin to take these flashy perks for granted and so their motivation suffers. Sitting in traffic for hours can do that to even the most reasonable person!!
Ultimately all employees want job satisfaction and that does not come from more money, a gym or hairdresser or pension plans and other lifestyle perks (medical, etc). These are all great motivators at first and they do sometimes ensure employees never leave - "I can't get a medical plan like this anywhere else" - but they can never replace the feeling of achievement that comes with job satisfaction.
Employees are also affected by trends and when the economy suffers, so do employees. A worker who worries that he may be retrenched soon cannot focus on his daily tasks effectively. He and many like him will suffer from
complacency, declining morale, and widespread discouragement.
A poor management style negatively affects employees. A manager or owner who does not see the importance of ownership of a task, feedback on performance and recognition for a job well done will not have motivated employees.
Buzzwords include "empowerment," "quality circles," and "teamwork."
When these factors are missing, employees do not remain motivated.
Communication is also a hugely overlooked factor. Employees who know where the company is going and that they are contributing to it are far more motivated to remain loyal and more committed even when the business suffers for one reason or another.
Even when businesses are small and resources restrict perks, the basic tenets of motivation and employee involvement should never be overlooked.
Although pleasing most of the employees most of the time may work for a while, the personal touch - after all it is a personal contribution that each person makes - makes a person feel valued which has endless positive results for any company.