Employee Motivation

Why you should identify your employees’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivators

New generations entering the workforce have unique perspectives and expectations about meaningful work and motivating rewards. Savvy employers understand the difference between intrinsic and external (extrinsic) motivators and develop engagement programs that recognize and reward employees for exercising the right behaviors and aligning with company goals.

Outside in: intrinsic versus external motivators

A motivated employee is more likely to go beyond minimum work expectations, deliver high-quality work, and seek out new challenges. Motivation is a quality that energizes and guides behavior, and each of your employees has different motivators:

External (extrinsic) motivators: An employee motivated by external rewards performs work to specifically earn a reward meted out by the employer. The rewards are tangible and often monetary, like pay increases, new benefits, bonuses, or promotions.

Intrinsic motivators: Employees motivated by intrinsic rewards complete work because it is personally rewarding. These are psychological motivators, and they typically fall into four reward categories: meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress.

You need to understand the different sources of employee motivation so that you can train managers to match the right rewards and recognition styles to the right employee. If you don’t understand what motivates the multigenerational workforce, you might start losing talent. As the economy picks up, many workers are no longer satisfied staying in jobs that don’t feel rewarding most of the time.

Motivating at all ages

The workforce is now composed of four generations of employees: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y (millennials).

Traditionalists typically get satisfaction from doing a good job, and so are considered self-motivated. They’ve also worked for decades for organizations that rewarded strictly through salary increases and anniversary awards, so they tend to expect less praise and fewer spot bonuses.

Baby Boomers tend to be more motivated than the Traditionalists by work-life balance. They are loyal to their organizations and enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience. Baby Boomers often appreciate more traditional rewards, like items with monetary value, and recognition that they are balancing external duties in their personal lives.

Gen Xers typically have a more individualistic perspective about work. People in this group are after the traditional trappings of success, such as promotions, corner offices, and financial benefits that will help them support their families.

Millennials usually appreciate rewards that let them control their work time, enjoy personal activities, and support their passion for charities, the environment, and social causes. They often prioritize work flexibility over salary and monetary rewards. Millennials also tend to crave feedback, so they can be motivated well by pats on the back and public praise.

Developing an impactful reward system

Salary increases and annual bonuses alone are not the answer to raising levels of employee engagement. A review of 120 years of research found a weak link between salary and job satisfaction, and this is true globally. Salary is important at the point of hiring but becomes less important once an employee is on board. Global employers, in particular, are challenged with engaging and motivating a geographically dispersed workforce. How do you:

  • Understand and address each employee’s motivators
  • Engage the workforce as a whole
  • Align workforce performance across the organization
  • Develop an impactful and fair reward system that includes both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives

Single platform for multiple results

The answer is found in technology. Reward & recognition platforms (like the Achievers Employee Success Platform™), allow employees to earn a mix of public praise and appreciation (which taps into those intrinsic motivators), as well as redeemable points (which tap into extrinsic, monetary motivators).

When you provide employees with a marketplace of items they can shop for with the points they’ve earned, you’re providing a truly tailored experience for each person. Employees are empowered to select the item that’s most meaningful to them, whether it’s plane tickets for a dream vacation, a designer bag, charitable donations, or a Visa® prepaid card they can use for daily expenses.

Forget hierarchy and status

The single platform as a reward system has two important advantages. You can collect global performance data at every level of the organization, and employees can pick the rewards that mean the most to them. The rewards are not tied to an employee’s tenure or their status in a hierarchy, like most traditional reward systems.

You can continue to link the remuneration to your employee’s role, but any reward system should be flexible enough to acknowledge external motivations and the four groups that comprise opportunities for intrinsic motivation. Attract, engage, and align employees, and give them the rewards they want for exhibiting the right behaviors. It’s the formula for a successful employee engagement strategy.

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