5 Ways to Inspire Intrinsic Engagement in Employees [Guest Blog]

5 Ways to Inspire Intrinsic Engagement in Employees [Guest Blog]

5 Ways to Inspire Intrinsic Engagement in Employees [Guest Blog]

Intrinsic motivation is best understood in contrast to extrinsic motivation.

In the context of work, intrinsic motivation refers to intangible rewards that employees get from the work itself.

Extrinsic motivation comes from rewards that are tangible and external to the work—and an employer or manager controls them.

An example of an intrinsic motivation could be seen in someone who writes music because it is enjoyable to listen to. An extrinsic motivation, in contrast, would be if that person were to start to write music to make money.

Unfortunately, our ideas of workplace motivation come from earlier decades when work was more repetitive and less intrinsically motivating.

Today, though, staff engagement is increased by intrinsic factors, such as whether the work is interesting and challenging.

Leaders, then, need to tap into the intrinsic motivations that employees already have—such as the five below—and help employees use them.

1. Recognition

This can involve cash prizes, vacation days, and other tangible rewards, which at first glance appear to be extrinsic motivation. But for some employees, this taps into their intrinsic need to feel proud of their work.

They have their own personal goals at their job, and being recognised for accomplishing those goals feels good; they enjoy that other people can share their triumph with them.

So, recognition can be a public declaration of the achievement of a private goal. And the external reward simply represents the intrinsic, intangible reward.

2. Accomplishment

Many employees feel satisfaction in serving people and solving their problems. For example, a car rental agent might feel just as good as a nurse when helping customers.

So, to engage employees, leaders can draw their attention to the fact that they are really making a difference to people and that they enjoy it—and hopefully motivate them to want to continue doing good work for customers.

Thanking an employee personally for specific accomplishments can contribute to employee loyalty and motivation.

Some employees enjoy reading a list of specific accomplishments by specific employees in a newsletter or employee website.

3. Pursuit of knowledge

Some people just want to keep on learning, especially about a favourite subject.

Picture an IT specialist who simply enjoys learning everything she can about how employees use computer networks. She has a deep enjoyment in learning this specific information.

Leaders can encourage employees who are motivated by knowledge.

For example, they could offer the IT specialist additional training, advancement opportunities to positions that take advantage of that interest, or help attending college courses.

4. Responsibility

Although leadership roles often pay better, some employees desire them for intrinsic reasons, not money.

A driven, talented employee may be intrinsically motivated in his or her daily work by the desire to rise to a leadership position.

And the idea of being a leader may be a desire to have a say in the future of the company. Or he or she may want to be remembered, to leave a legacy, or to improve the workplace for everyone.

5. Leaders’ focus on meaningfulness

Employees with intrinsic motivation have committed to a meaningful purpose and chosen the best way to fulfil that purpose.

Then, they keep checking themselves to make sure that their work is competent and that they’re moving toward their meaningful purpose. So, if leaders know this, they need to talk to employees about meaning, choice, competence, and progress regularly.

Leaders need to show that they care about and support employees’ intrinsic motivation, development as people, engagement, happiness, and more.

All leaders in a company should consistently encourage employees to care about “doing work that matters and doing it well.” Keep at it, until employees can trust that this is truly important to management and isn’t going away. Then, talk about it some more.


Thanks Brooke!

A lot of people aren’t actually aware of the different types of motivation, and in fact think that trying to motivate their employees will cost them a fortune.

It doesn’t always have to, though, and this blog speaks for itself in that sense.

By taking the time to work out whether your employees thrive on extrinsic or intrinsic motivation, you’ll be able to push for better engagement.

If you’d like to read more about employee engagement, recruitment and leadership in general, feel free to subscribe to our weekly blog, here.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments