Employee Motivation: How to Stimulate Intrinsic Motivation for Enhanced Engagement

Employee engagement and employee motivation. What’s the difference? 

Engagement is the agreement, for example, to perform a task. Motivation is the will to perform that task. You could say engagement is somewhat physical, and motivation emotional. Engagement is the ‘what’ and motivation the ‘why’. An employee can be physically engaged in a task (the what), but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re motivated. If they lack motivation (the why) they’ll be more prone to underperforming, prone to errors and more likely to procrastinate, to name a few. 

Employee engagement and motivation work so closely together that they’re almost one of the same. When we speak of employee engagement we are also speaking of motivation. As mentioned, engagement is to an extent, the ‘physical’, and motivation the ‘emotional’, which is why we focus on measuring emotion. We cover all bases and so should you. 

Many employee engagement experts fail to successfully improve engagement because they’re focussed entirely on the physical aspect of engagement: getting employees to do, and forget that for employees to feel willingly engaged and therefore sustain their level of engagement, there’s an emotional aspect that needs stimulating, which is of course motivation, or the ‘why’. Emotion plays a fundamental role in driving engagement.

The two types of employee motivation

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is when external factors are relied upon to stimulate motivation in employees. These include increases in pay, special benefits, bonuses, awards, etc. Some employees respond better to these incentives and are therefore extrinsically motivated.

Intrinsic Motivation 

Intrinsic motivation is internal and based on feeling, such as a desire to achieve results, a need to feel important to the team etc. Intrinsically motivated people are essentially self-motivated. 

Every employee is different, and are therefore motivated by different things in different ways. It’s always great if an employee is intrinsically motivated because their level of motivation rarely subsides; they typically always feel a desire to do and be better (they motivate themselves), whereas with extrinsic motivation, these types of employees rely on external incentives. In many cases, unfortunately, once their need is met they quickly become unmotivated again.

How to Motivate your people 

1. Find out what motivates them 

People are motivated by different things because people have different needs. One cannot assume the needs of another, and so cannot assume they know what motivates them. Leaders need to ask their people what they need and what they feel most motivated by. This is where pulse surveys come in. Leaders can easily acquire this data, for better decision making, and if like Inpulse surveys they place a unique focus on employee emotion, leaders will uncover dominant and underlying emotions, for enhanced understanding of their people’s needs and motivators. 

2. Understand their personalities 

While needs play a huge part in motivation, personalities do too. A-type personalities for example are typically more self-motivated. They have a strong sense of competitiveness and a great desire to achieve. Generally speaking, B-type personalities are less self-motivated. It’s not that they lack the desire to achieve, it’s just that their desire is evoked by extrinsic motivators rather than intrinsic. Our pulse surveys also tap into personality types, and instead of placing people into one of two boxes (A-type or B-type), our surveys uncover intricate emotions and personality traits for advanced understanding. 

3. Consider their career objectives 

An employees with career objectives is an employee with an intrinsic need. This intrinsic need translates into motivation because they want to meet goals they’ve created for themselves. Not all employees have career objectives, some don’t know how to set such goals for themselves because they can’t see the bigger picture and simply struggle to develop a vision for their careers. Leaders can help employees like these to develop career objectives. In doing this, they’ll stimulate intrinsic needs and intrinsic motivation amongst their people, which truly is the goal. But to do this, leaders need to communicate with their people individually, and remind them of their vision, the organisation’s vision and their part in achieving it. 

4. Invest in learning and development 

Employee education is a great way to motivate your people. Employees who don’t feel like they’re growing or learning, will struggle to believe there’s more for them. Education doesn’t only stimulate one’s mind and strengthen one’s skills, but it opens one’s eyes to new opportunities and possibilities. Employees whose skills are being nurtured, will begin to believe they can achieve more, because they’re equipped to do so. 

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