Understanding the Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations Talentoday

Understanding the Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations

When it comes to motivating employees, one size does not fit all. For some people, the thrill of competition for hitting or exceeding key metrics, like number of sales per quarter, gets them excited. For others, discovering the best way to complete a given task, such as finding the most efficient solution for cold calling, might be a source of inspiration. No matter how it happens, employers recognize that maintaining employee motivation is key for sustaining success - especially in hybrid and remote work environments. 

Before launching new programs aimed at motivating a workforce, it’s important to first understand the nature and types of motivations that exist. Then, tailor those available options to meet the unique needs of each employee.

Why is Motivation Essential? 

Obviously, employing and supporting a motivated workforce should be a priority for all organizations. However, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have shown us just how valuable it is to have a varied approach to motivation. 

For example, a recent survey from Jostle of 400 employees who shifted to remote work in the past year revealed that a whopping 83 percent of individuals reported feeling disconnected from their workplace culture. While productivity may not have dipped in the short term, the fact that a majority of respondents also noted feeling less supported by managers during this time makes it clear that these results in output are not sustainable over the long-term. 

As the way we work changes, so too must the way that managers motivate their teams. As organizations embrace a hybrid approach to work, combining virtual and in-person elements, it’s time to look at motivational practices in the same way. 

To get to the heart of the motivation question, here is the first question every manager must ask: Are my employees driven by intrinsic or extrinsic motivations? 

Intrinsic or Extrinsic Motivations

To start, the concept of separating out intrinsic and extrinsic motivations is a fairly straightforward - yet essential - exercise. According to Psychology Today, “intrinsic motivation refers to those activities you do because you enjoy the activity itself,” whereas extrinsic motivations refer to anything we do because of reasons outside of the work. Extrinsic motivators include salary, job perks/benefits, status and work conditions. Intrinsic motivators include things like recognition, challenging work, purposeful work, achievement and opportunities for personal growth.

Consider the examples mentioned at the start of this piece. A sales team competing for top spot on the quarterly metrics tracker would be a textbook example of an extrinsic motivation. Even though making sales might be related to the job at hand, taking first place in this competition is a motivation tied to results, not the tasks of the job itself. On the other hand, an employee might find joy in the actual process of selling. For example, the step-by-step journey of finding the best times to make outreach and most effective scripts might be exciting in its own right. 

For those motivated intrinsically or extrinsically, there are a variety of ways employers can meet their needs with tailored solutions. Here are the forms of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations identified by the MyPrint soft skills assessment: 

Intrinsic 

  • Responsibility: This motivation dimension refers to the extent that a person seeks to feel accountable. While some individuals find joy in making big decisions for their teams, others would like to share that responsibility with others.
  • Influence: This motivation dimension refers to the extent that a person seeks to influence others’ opinions and intentions. Those that are highly motivated by influence enjoy swaying others’ opinions, while those that are lower on this motivation dimension are happiest when they can stay open-minded to different points of view.
  • Belonging: This motivation dimension refers to the extent to which a person wishes to be part of a group. Individuals who are highly motivated by belonging seek to find common interests and hobbies with their coworkers to create a team feeling, whereas other individuals like to keep their interests or opinions independent from the rest of the group.
  • Challenge: This motivation dimension refers to the extent that a person seeks to get out of their comfort zone. Those that are highly motivated by challenge will always try to outperform their previous goals and achievements, whereas those that are not as motivated by challenge are content working towards attainable goals.
  • Recognition (Intrinsic enjoyment): Those that are on the lower end of the recognition dimension are seeking intrinsic enjoyment. They seek out projects and tasks that they enjoy doing, even if they are not receiving any external recognition for their work.
  • Reward (Need to contribute to society): Those that are on the lower end of the reward dimension seek to work on projects that have an impact on society. They need to understand the greater impact of their work, regardless of the tangible benefits they might receive.

Extrinsic

  • Autonomy: This motivation dimension refers to the extent to which one wishes to control their circumstances. Those that are highly motivated by autonomy like to set their own goals and schedule, whereas those who are lower on the autonomy dimension prefer to consult with others before setting their goals.
  • Competition: This motivation dimension refers to the extent that an individual will seek to outperform others. Those that are highly motivated by competition like environments that encourage public performance metrics, whereas those that are lower on the competition scale will seek to share their knowledge to help work towards group goals.
  • Relation: This motivation dimension refers to the extent to which an individual seeks to have multiple social contacts. Those that are high on this motivation dimension seek out opportunities to socialize as frequently as they can, whereas those who are lower on this dimension desire privacy in their work environment.
  • Recognition (External acknowledgement): Those who are high on the recognition dimension seek positive feedback and compliments for a job well done. The external recognition is enough to keep them motivated, even if they do not necessarily enjoy the work they are doing.
  • Reward (Tangible benefits): Those who are high on the reward dimension are motivated by having their performance rewarded by material benefits. They will often be encouraged to work harder when there are opportunities available.
  • Excitement: This motivation dimension refers to the extent to which an individual is motivated by thrill. Those who are highly motivated by unpredictable environments and the opportunity to take risks, whereas those on the lower end of the excitement dimension prefer safe and predictable environments.
  • Variety: This motivation dimension refers to the extent to which an individual seeks out new experiences. While some individuals seek out diverse experiences, projects, and skills, others prefer to stick to familiar routines and work methods.

Motivating and Moving Forward

Gone are the days of ordering pizza into the office to celebrate a job well done and calling it a day. In the changing world of work, managers need to become more nuanced in the ways they motivate employees. To start reshaping these practices on a case-by-case basis, it’s important to identify whether an individual is driven by intrinsic or extrinsic motivations. Only then can managers determine which particular path is right for each employee. 

Are you ready to identify what motivates your employees? Experience how MyPrint can uncover what makes you and your team unique by clicking here!


In Pursuit of Happiness My Lesson in the Importance of Measuring Motivation Talentoday 1

In Pursuit of Happiness: My Lesson in the Importance of Measuring Motivation

For as long as I can remember, I have had an insatiable urge to maximize my potential for achieving a meaningful and happy life. My mom will recount stories of gritting through the parent-teacher conferences of my adolescence with my teachers cautioning her to put “less pressure” on me due to the intensity I brought to spelling tests and class projects. My mom would assure them that there was no pressure; it was all driven by a little fourth grader with an intense motivation for personal achievement. 

Over the years, the devotion to fulfillment of potential never waned. I found myself driven by achievement, influence and responsibility, and I had successfully scouted out professional and educational opportunities to satisfy that. However, I approached a pivotal point in my personal growth when I was by all appearances in the prime of my career, building a life in the United States with a wonderful partner and our loving, loyal pets, leading teams of brilliant people while also pursuing a graduate degree to deepen my business acumen. Yet, somehow, something was missing. As I reached a point along the path I had been going down for years that was supposed to open me up to more in life - more opportunities, more success, more joy, it hit me. 

I had been misdiagnosing my motivation. Somehow during the years of chasing personal achievement, my motivational needs evolved. With unique perspectives and education in my toolkit, my new driving force was combating complacency, seeking out new challenges and adventures. My previous solutions for happiness and fulfillment were no longer going to suffice. The cure was taking a hard look at not only who I was, but who I had become, and who I might become next, to truly identify the drivers and motivations that would lead me to a content and happy life.

Defining Motivation

Motivations are often defined as the desires and needs that help determine how an individual behaves. Examples of motivations can include external things, like receiving recognition for your work, or internal factors, such as working on projects that challenge you. When these different needs are met, we become more engaged. This leads to more energy, commitment and creativity, as well as higher levels of productivity and satisfaction.

Motivation is most often discussed in professional settings, and with good reason; companies are always searching for new ways to encourage their employees to achieve more. However, recent research from Gallup indicates that about 80 percent of the global workforce is not engaged in their work. The cost of this mass malaise goes well beyond dollars and cents, with effects that touch our lives outside of the workplace, as well.

In Pursuit of Happiness My Lesson in the Importance of Measuring Motivation Talentoday 2

Motivations Mean Something Different for Each of Us

In the spring of 2019, I had just finished earning my executive MBA and was ready for a new challenge. After more than a decade spent building my reputation as a detail-oriented marketing professional, I needed to add some variety and excitement to my career. The previous summer, Medix, the U.S.-based workforce solutions company I had spent my entire career with up until that point, had acquired Talentoday, a science-driven people analytics company headquartered in Paris, France. It was a bold step forward for a company I thought I knew like the back of my hand. Was this new opportunity the spark I had been searching for? Ready to take on a new adventure, my husband and I packed up our bags and our pets and made the move from Chicago, Illinois to Paris. 

Throwing caution to the wind to cross the Atlantic was energizing and fulfilling for my need for personal challenge. Working with individuals who had different backgrounds than my own and taking on obstacles that I had never faced was by definition challenging, but thrilling at the same time. 

At that time, I also came to the realization that this wouldn’t have been the case for everyone in this same scenario. Another professional who was instead motivated by consistency in procedures, attainable goals or predictable environments might have struggled with such a dramatic career change. To me, the lesson was clear. If most companies give employees frequent recognition, bonuses or other types of incentives, then why are the majority of us not engaged at work? This is where things get personal. In order to properly motivate someone, you need to know what it is that inspires them! 

Share Your Motivations!

Whether you are setting professional or personal goals, there are the standard questions that are covered on a regular basis. How much do I need to earn to live comfortably? How hard do I need to train to hit my fitness goals? What’s my five-year plan?

Unfortunately, we very rarely ask ourselves direct questions about whether we are feeling fulfilled and, if not, what the factors are that are discouraging us. Only after identifying our core motivations can we turn this attention outward in order to inspire and encourage those around us.

Being transparent about our differences in motivations is an essential first step to better engaging with those around you on their own terms. Sharing individual needs and making that a regular part of the conversation is going to not only help your colleagues and loved ones feel seen and heard, but it’s a practice that promotes wellbeing in every facet of life. 

People Change, and So Do Motivations

When I first moved to Paris, I was invigorated by my new environment. I was taking on a new industry in a new country with a new team. However, within a few months, I started to experience that feeling again that something was missing, that something was holding me back from true happiness. I knew I couldn’t give my best effort to those counting on me without figuring out what needs weren’t being met to ensure personal fulfillment. 

Working at Talentoday, I thankfully was surrounded by resources dedicated precisely to this mission. I had access to an assessment built on the science of psychometrics designed to unearth insights on your personality, motivations and behaviors as an individual. When I had first stepped into my new role, I had taken the assessment to get a better sense of our product offering. To my surprise, I actually ended up learning a lot about myself along the way. After retaking it, I learned something new - people change, and so do our motivations.

While I was once motivated by change, my heart and science were telling me these needs had evolved. With a major life and career shift satisfying my previous need for challenge and excitement, my need for a sense of belonging grew. When I was back home in the U.S., it was effortless for me to pick up the phone to check in with my mom or grab lunch with a friend. Now, with an ocean between us, that was no longer possible. Once I realized what was missing for me in France, I focused on creating that sense of family I was longing for with my new teammates and put more effort into regularly keeping in touch with my loved ones back home. 

Human beings are constantly evolving with their environment, and the same goes for our motivations. This is why it is important to continuously check in with ourselves, the people we work with and those who are with us at our most vulnerable moments to ensure that we are adjusting along with these evolutions. Changes in perspective can also lead to changes in priorities. Once you’re cognizant of this and make a point of keeping your finger on the pulse of these motivations, you’ll be more successful in regulating your environment, activities and life to achieve true happiness and fulfillment.

This article originally appeared on the Bonjour Sophy blog. Bonjour Sophy, a Talentoday partner, is a program that helps individuals discover their life mission. Learn more by clicking here