How does motivation function in a business environment? And what is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation? We believe understanding motivation is integral to achieving sustainable business success. There are plenty of theories about motivation, and exploring their reasoning will help us become better leaders and team members. Below we’ve highlighted how motivation works and how you can use specific types of inspiration to produce better results. 

What is motivation? 

Motivation is an energizing force that directs behavior toward a goal-oriented task or action. Work motivation is a hot topic within the social sciences. Several studies have been done to understand the psychological processes that cause arousal, direction, and desire to complete a work-based task.

There are generally thought to be two types of motivation: Intrinsic & Extrinsic.

Intrinsic Motivation 

Intrinsic motivation is about the experience rather than the results of that experience. It is about doing an activity for its inherent satisfaction. Are you deriving positivity and a feeling of accomplishment from merely undertaking your work tasks? If so, you may have a strong sense of intrinsic motivation. 

Intrinsic motivators include recognition, a sense of belonging, enjoying the challenge, problem-solving, and curiosity. This side of motivation is about internal satisfaction. 

There are several components to intrinsic motivation: 

  • A sense of meaningfulness. Does the purpose or objective of the task matter? Is the result worth your time and energy? 
  • A sense of progress. Are you moving towards your goals? Are you accomplishing something worthwhile? 
  • A sense of choice. Do you have a choice in the activities and tasks you complete? Are you free to use your judgment? 
  • A sense of competence. Do you feel skillful? Are you improving your skills? 

Extrinsic motivation 

In contrast, extrinsic motivation is about doing something for the results and being motivated by the external rewards or encouragement you’ll receive by completing the tasks. Extrinsic motivators can include financial rewards, e.g., bonuses, promotions, benefits, salary bumps. However, it can also have non-financial factors such as the type of work, job security, opportunities for career development, or recognition by your organization.

Research shows intrinsic motivation produces better results.

In general, people want more from their jobs than extrinsic compensation. Temporarily the security and excitement that comes with extrinsic motivators like bonuses, competition, and praise may suffice. Still, ultimately intrinsic motivation has been proven to be the more sustainable and effective option.

According to McClelland’s ‘Need Theory,’ intrinsic factors proved to be more influential than extrinsic ones like salary, rewards, and compensations. For example, people want a pleasant work environment, an atmosphere of mutual respect, and to feel like they belong to an organization that aligns with their values and goals. These intrinsic motivators play a vital role in building long-term work relationships and organizational commitment.

Further, according to Self-Determination Theory, individuals are more motivated to complete tasks when they fulfill the basic needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Independence is concerned with the amount of control they have over a job—the more freedom of choice, the higher motivation. Competence involves the feeling of mastery, where motivation is increased through high self-efficacy. Finally, relatedness concerns the sense of interconnectivity, where one is more driven to complete a task when they feel supported and when working toward a larger organizational goal.

Increased motivation leads to increased knowledge retention.

Research shows that when your employees have a high degree of intrinsic motivation, their learning will be more effective, and their knowledge retention will improve. Furthermore, it has been verified through several studies that the relationship observed between intrinsic motivation and knowledge transfer is significant and positive. In contrast, extrinsic motivation has shown little in similar results.

If an individual is intrinsically motivated by a sense of personal curiosity or a willingness to solve practical problems, studies have shown they will find it easier to enhance their skills and knowledge. Intrinsic motivation has been heavily tied to persistent self-directed workers and learners. Intrinsic motivation has also been shown to improve the way teams work together towards a common goal. Employees are more likely to share information, bounce off each other, and develop creative solutions if they have intrinsic solid motivations. 

How to promote intrinsic motivation:

So how can we promote intrinsic motivation? We believe there are four key areas where businesses can implement change:

  • Give employees some control over their learning. Employees want to feel they have a say in education and when/how they complete learning modules. This sense of responsibility and autonomy is essential when promoting intrinsic motivation. Therefore, encourage employees to take control of their learning, offer structured learning paths with suggested self-study options, include interactive elements designed to personalize the learning experience, and create opportunities for individuals to complete tasks and projects aligned with their newly acquired knowledge and skills.
  • Keep employees on their toes. Constantly challenge and provide employees with opportunities for professional growth. When goals being pursued are out of one’s comfort zone, they become more meaningful and have a greater associated sense of accomplishment, thus motivating one to follow them more intensely. Challenging learning also promotes increased communication around novel ideas and tasks, leading to career development and increased employee engagement.
  • Offer collaborative and social opportunities. Let employees compete and collaborate in situations where they can learn from each other and help each other overcome challenges. Not only does increased discussion improve learning and help learners persist longer on complex subjects, but healthy competition among employees can push them to achieve their individual goals further.
  • Establish the relevance of training and learning. Show employees how their knowledge and experience can be used in real-world applications. Use simulations or decision-based scenarios to show employees how their knowledge and skills may be applied outside the virtual classroom. This helps to develop an internal sense of meaning and purpose.

At Radiant Digital, we can create personalized training content suited to your employee and company needs. Contact us today to learn more about our service and see how to take your employee learning to the next level.