This is part two of a two-post series on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
In a previous post, I discussed the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation [part 1], concluding that extrinsic motivations can only be considered successful if they trigger an intrinsic motivation – behavior driven by the employees themselves. Let’s dig into intrinsic motivation a bit more and look at three ways to turn extrinsic motivation into intrinsic motivation.
In his bestselling book “Drive,” Dan Pink, an author and journalist, classifies intrinsic motivation in three buckets:
- Autonomy. Employees desire to be self-directed, to pursue their own interests or ways of doing things. As an example, Pink describes a software company that lets its developers work on anything they want for 24 hours once a quarter. The result is a number of new product ideas and improvements to existing products that might not have come about if the employees hadn’t been free to explore their own interests.
- Mastery. A sense of progress in improving skills and abilities is crucial to keeping employees motivated. Pink notes that this is why people play musical instruments in their spare time — they enjoy it and they get better at it over time.
- Purpose. When employees know that their efforts contribute to some greater mission or good, they are more likely to perform their best. Perhaps the best example of this is Steve Jobs’ proclamation that he wanted to “put a ding in the universe” — a purpose that helped drive Apple’s product development.
While Pink is opposed to extrinsic motivations in favor of their more effective intrinsic counterparts, managers can build and reinforce employees’ sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose through extrinsic rewards. Here are three ways:
- Social recognition. The software company that sets its developers loose once a quarter to work on pet projects has one stipulation: when the 24-hour period has ended, everyone has to present the results to the rest of the company at an office party. This social recognition adds extrinsic motivation to the employee’s own intrinsically driven development work through friendly competition and peer validation.
- Mapping progress. Extrinsic rewards that honor certain milestones can help reinforce an employee’s own sense of mastery of a particular skill or accomplishment. When an employee climbs to the top of a sales leader board, for example, the validation can help accelerate the natural competitiveness of not only the sales leader, but everyone else on the list.
- Revealing culture. The manner in which employees are extrinsically rewarded can incrementally shift them toward your company’s culture and purpose. Companies like Southwest Airlines, Apple, and the Four Seasons all work to bring their corporate culture into focus by motivating small changes in employee behavior.
It’s important to recognize that extrinsic motivation is just the start and that the primary goal of any reward or incentive should be to create an intrinsically motivated behavior. By designing extrinsic rewards that play into and fuel autonomy, mastery, and purpose among your employees, you can create a self-sustaining loop of motivation that will keep your team — and your customers — happy.