Motivating employees is no longer a quick fix of a pay increase or title change. If every employee is a unique individual, then motivating them requires adjustable techniques. Recent studies show us that leaders who succeed at motivating employees do so with a dynamic approach – tapping into both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators – using whichever tool is best at that time.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivators: What’s The Difference?
The important thing to remember about motivation is that it’s a combination of two motivators – intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivators encourage you to participate in an activity for the pure joy of it, without obvious external motivators. You play violin because you love it. You write because it fills you with purpose.
Extrinsic motivators are the pressures to earn a reward or avoid a punishment. Bonuses and warnings are perfect examples of extrinsic motivators. And they work well – at least at first.
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Which One Motivates Your Employees Better?
In his best-selling book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink explains that, believe it or not, the extrinsic motivator of money is not the best. While employers need to pay enough to take money off the list of worries, it’s power to motivate stops there. Pink recommends a combination of motivators that drive employees to succeed far greater than money.
For complex tasks, we require three essential intrinsic drivers to be truly motivated:
- Autonomy —”the desire to direct our own lives”
- Mastery —”the urge to make progress and get better at something that matters”
- Purpose —”the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves”
We need personal buy-in.
How Can You Use Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivators?
Even though intrinsic motivators tend to produce better results, they both have their place. The best way to enhance your motivational tools is to use a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.
For example, provide your employees with enough pay and benefits to inspire a feeling of security and worth (extrinsic) and then give them space to work creatively with others (intrinsic). Ask them what they would like to work on (intrinsic) and connect that idea to a business-critical project (extrinsic). Recognize them in front of their colleagues (extrinsic) after they present a self-generated idea in a meeting (intrinsic).
Extrinsic motivators are our first line of attack in the battle of motivating employees.
They can inspire an employee to be initially interested in an activity that they were not originally (or intrinsically, even) interested in. They can also motivate an employee to learn a new skill or gain new knowledge.
Eventually, the impact of extrinsic motivators fades. Skills become acquired, or the positive/negative feedback of an extrinsic motivator becomes accepted and absorbed. That’s where intrinsic motivators come in. They keep the momentum of the extrinsic motivators going.
Intrinsic motivators tie to our need for autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
It is why we stay in certain jobs and why we work to complete certain projects. Intrinsically, we are tied to them. They become a part of us. We want to do the work and we take pride in our success.
A little extrinsic motivation, a lot of intrinsic motivation. You will find the sweet spot by asking your employees what inspires them to drive results and meeting them there.
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