Peter Abraham

Incentivising employees with intrinsic motivators

Does your company know how to create a successful incentive and motivation scheme? Everyone loves a good reward structure to encourage them to do hard work. Being rewarded for the effort and time you put into work can boost morale and even make you more productive, so why hasn’t it for most companies? The reality is, for a lot of larger businesses, it is common practice to follow a bad rewarding scheme that doesn’t really motivate their staff to do anything more than just be at work. They do this by following an extrinsic motivation scheme that doesn’t really have a lasting impact on work performance. It’s the temporary high of a rewarding scheme where employees are rewarded for being at a company for long periods of time; a fruit basket and some wine after 10 years of service, maybe a new fancy watch after 20. While it’s great to show appreciation for your employees with gifts every now and then, the better method is to give them regular intrinsic motivators for their hard work.

What is intrinsic motivation?

‘Intrinsic motivation refers to behaviour that is driven by internal rewards’. When someone feels motivated to engage in a task, this feeling arises from within the individual because it is internally and mentally rewarding, it gives the person a real sense of reward and self-actualisation. For example, if you are painting a picture because you have a genuine interest in art and wish to improve at the subject, then you are doing so based on intrinsic motivation. But if you are painting because it’s required of you to get graded in an art class, then this is extrinsic motivation. The bottom line is that the intrinsic motivator compared to extrinsic motivator will have a much more significant impact on your workforce than the base rewards of materialistic goods, and you will be able to save a lot of money for your business in the long run. Reward your employees on their performance, not for simply showing up to work every day and keeping the seat warm.

There are businesses that still follow the out dated rewarding systems, and while some have started to adopt the recognition rewarding scheme, they practice only this scheme and only annually or every 5-10 years. Recognition shouldn’t be an annual practice; it shouldn’t even be a weekly practice. A healthy and successful recognition scheme should be a daily thing. If your current HR and employment team is focussed on long service award strategies, then is your business really getting a return on your investments? More importantly, do your employees even care about performing well? Or are they just idling by doing the bare minimum until the next reward they receive for just being there?

Researchers have found that only rewarding employees with gifts for doing a simple task or minimal work can hugely influence how fulfilled and motivated an individual feels in their role. Furthermore, rewarding employees with external gifts for doing something they already enjoy can have a negative impact and can actually make the activity less internally rewarding; this is known as the over-justification effect. Experts say that in a work environment, extrinsic rewards such as a bonus or small gift vouchers can be used to help increase productivity; this kind of reward is great for getting more people involved in a task, but the quality of the work performed will be influenced intrinsic factors. If an employee is undertaking tasks that are exciting and challenging, they are more likely to come up with creative ideas and produce better quality work.

How do you increase intrinsic motivation?

Recognition: Employees enjoy having their hard work acknowledged and praised. This is can significantly motivate to produce high quality work, as well as provide job satisfaction in their role.

Challenge: Generally, people are more motivated when they have set goals to follow; they enjoy doing a task that correlates to their sense of self-competence and link back to their personal skills. Regular performance feedback is important when tackling a challenging task.

Knowledge: When something is viewed as fun, captivating and enjoyable, it grabs our attention. This then stimulates our cognitive curiosity to want to learn more about the subject or activity, increasing the intrinsic motivator.

Cooperation: People often feel intrinsic motivation when they are helping others because this provides a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction.

Competition: Comparing one’s own performance to other can promote self-confidence through participation. When performing well against others in a friendly competitive manner, employees can motivate one another to perform better.

If a business is to boost its productivity and quality of performance then it’s important that these factors are considered. A good balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation will not only increase staff performance, but also result in measurable return on investments. If you need help designing a cost effective incentive scheme it is best to consult a HR and employment support service, this will give you the opportunity to update your incentives programme in line with your workplace policies.

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