Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: How to Use Them to Grow Your Employees

Your staff will be more productive and more engaged (according to Deloitte research), and your organization’s turnover rate will be lower when you have both types of motivation in play.

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Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: How to Use Them to Grow Your Employees

Here's what you need to know about extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation: how to use them to grow your employees:

  • Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are essential in the workplace.
  • Using Maslow's heirarchy of needs as a model, we can see how different motivational approaches are beneficial.
  • The greater the responsibility of the individual, the more they will be motivated and develop.

Part of being a good manager means being able to grow your employees. And one of the fundamental ways a manager does this is by motivating them. That means that, as a manager, you need to ponder questions about your employees:

  • How do I motivate my employees?
  • What kind of motivation do I need to use?
  • When should you use it?
  • How do I approach my employees about their growth?

All of these questions and many more will be answered in this article. We’ll start with defining the two basic types of motivation.

What are the two main types of motivation?

There’s been a lot of scientific research conducted about the topic of motivation – especially motivation at work. The leading work on motivation has been by Abraham Maslow and documented in his hierarchy (pyramid) of needs.

The hierarchy of needs has five distinct levels:

  • Physiological needs such as air, food, water, and reproduction.
  • Safety needs including personal security, resources, property, and general health.
  • Love/belonging needs such as family ties, friendship, a sense of belonging, and intimacy.
  • Self-esteem needs including status, recognition, mastery (an accomplishment in an area), and self-respect.
  • Self-actualization needs such as the need to become the best the person can be, morality, creativity, and growth.

As we go from the basic needs at the pyramid’s base to the higher levels of needs at the top, we can see how different motivational approaches are beneficial.

Two types of motivation

There are two types of motivation that people respond to.

Extrinsic motivation is everything that motivates the team members externally. Elements such as praise, financial bonuses, perks, and position are all types of external motivation. They come from outside the individual, and thus, they’re a part of external motivation.

Then, there’s intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is everything that motivates the team member internally. They are internal elements such as:

  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Personal values
  • Vision for the future
  • Causes the person’s fighting for

This type of motivation is specific to the individual and comes from within.

How to grow employees with extrinsic motivation

There are four basic ways you can grow your employee with extrinsic motivation.

Salary

This is the most fundamental type of extrinsic motivation — a salary. All employees want to receive good compensation for their work. Employees in different companies, cultures, and positions expect different kinds of payment types. But one thing is certain; all of them want to be fairly compensated for their work.

One way you can grow your employees is by ensuring they have a good salary which they can reinvest in themselves and new skills. It’s hard to invest in oneself if there’s a struggle even to pay rent.

Position of responsibility

A person who seeks responsibility will be the person who grows from that responsibility. The bigger the responsibility of the individual, the more they will be motivated and develop. One thing that employees want more than a position of responsibility is the title that follows that.

One thing that employees want more than a position of responsibility is the title that follows that.

Make sure that their work is connected with the job title they’re holding. Nobody wants to be the sole person responsible for doing the work without also having the respect that accompanies the title behind that work.

Public recognition

Praise, praise, and praise. This can come in multiple forms, but one of the easiest is the employee of the month – a public display of recognition to the person who did the best in a specific period.

Externally motivating the employee means acknowledging their excellent work in front of others, and it’s in your best interest to find many ways (and opportunities) to do so.

Social status

Sometimes, you can’t give your employees the job title/role they already deserve for various reasons. Even so, that doesn’t mean that you should treat them the same. You can give certain employees who have shown a lot of potential and provided good results the social status admired by others.

These employees will enjoy their elevated social status with their peers even if their job title isn’t any different from others.

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How to grow employees with intrinsic motivation

Daniel Pink’s extensive research showed us three main ways to grow employees with intrinsic motivation.

Sense of autonomy

One of the most significant internal drives for an employee isn’t autonomy; it’s having a sense of freedom. Employees want to have a sense of independence over how they do things and when they do their work. They need to feel like they’re in control of how they structure their day even if, in most cases, they’re not.

The easiest way you can do so, if your business allows, is to provide the employee the option to work remotely. This way, your employees can choose where they want to work on their tasks.

Mastery of a skill

People intrinsically want to be good at the things that they do. They want to see how far they can take their skills and how much more they can grow. As an employee, you should provide your employees with many opportunities to develop their skills. Particularly those that provide additional business benefits for your organization.

Consider the different types of education you can provide your employees, allowing them to improve their skills. This will grow their skills and keep them in the organization. They will recognize that there are many opportunities for them to grow there.

Purpose

Nobody wants to feel like a cog in a wheel — people want their work to matter. They want purpose behind the actions that they’re performing daily at work. The best way to provide purpose behind your employees’ activities is to provide them with practical experience of how their work matters to others.

If they’re:

  • Making sales, bring in the people who have been satisfied with their service and have them say a few words
  • Construction workers, show them the happy families living in the buildings they helped build
  • A product designer for a SaaS company, take a tour with them into a business where their product makes a difference

How to combine motivations for the most gain

The point behind these two motivations isn’t that you should pick one or the other — you need to integrate both into your workplace. The employees operate at their best when their intrinsic and extrinsic needs are satisfied.

If your company is fulfilling more extrinsic than intrinsic motivations (like in the banking sector), look for ways you can incorporate more intrinsic motivation into your workplace.

If your company is fulfilling more intrinsic motivations than extrinsic motivations (like in the nonprofit sector), consider how you can include more extrinsic motivation in your workplace.

The point behind these two motivations isn’t that you should pick one or the other — you need to integrate both into your workplace.

Conduct a pulse survey with your employees. Determine which areas are lacking the most and then work to correct that. You may be surprised by your employees’ answers, but ultimately, they’re the ones you should listen to.

Once you have both motivations in play, you will increase the satisfaction of your employees. They will be more productive and more engaged (according to Deloitte research), and your organization’s turnover rate will be lower.

Integration is the key

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are essential in the workplace. You should have elements from both types of inspiration in your workplace to have highly productive and effective employees.

If you need more information about motivating your employees, read Why You Can’t Seem to Motivate Your Employees — and How to Change That in our blog section.

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