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3 min read

When you were in elementary school, you probably had a teacher who used some kind of sticker reward chart (I know I did). The concept was simple: The better behaved I was, the more stickers I saw go up. The more stickers I had, the closer I got to picking that something special (and colourful, let's face it) out of that reward box. 

This simple strategy of offering a reward — or, on the other-hand, punishment for bad behaviour (which *never* happened) —is called extrinsic motivation.

Many businesses have and continue to inspire their employees using this technique. While extrinsic motivators can offer benefits, they are not without their downfalls.

Companies that solely rely on this type of motivation often create toxic work environments that bring on stress and burnout, causing employees to buckle under the (colourful stationary) pressure, resulting in under-performance.

Extrinsic motivation is also problematic because it is short-lived and very costly.

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As a sales leader, I have used extrinsic motivators in the past and, Luke, I have most definitely seen the dark side...

  • The contests that are seen as unfair, rigged and unachievable...Now the “carrot” actually becomes a demotivator.
  • The rep that “quits” as soon as the goal is hit. "Why do more, I'll save that for next quarter..." they think. 
  • What about the bad tactics to get to the top of the leaderboard? "Please, Luke, No..." 

These are just a few examples but you can see how a friendly “contest” can quickly deliver an incredibly negative sales culture and, ultimately, impact company results negatively, too. An extrinsic-only approach to employee motivation is often ineffective.

Download our eBook to learn how employee recognition can help  improve intrinsic motivation » 

Did you know that more than 70% of employees don’t feel motivated at work? And, as you may know, non-motivated workers are less productive, and produce a poor quality of work. So, how do we better motivate people?

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Fortunately, many innovative companies are implementing a longer-term and a more sustainable approach to improving employee motivation. They are supplementing the “stick-and-carrot” extrinsic model with a culture that helps employees achieve personal satisfaction. This type of strategy is called “intrinsic motivation,” and it’s based on motivating employees through their own interests, skills and goals.

An employee’s internal drive and happiness is at the root of intrinsic motivation.

This intriguing approach to motivation is being used by successful tech giants like Google, and the model is working. As one psychologist points out, “When you pursue an activity for the pure enjoyment of it, you are doing so because you are intrinsically motivated. Your motivations for engaging in the behaviour arise entirely from within rather than out of a desire to gain some type of external rewards such as prizes, money, or acclaim.” - Great source right here.

And I see examples of it on my team, every day. 

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So, the burning question is then, what is the best way to encourage employees to self-motivate and achieve satisfaction at work? In two words: Recognise them. Make a big deal of their achievements, praise them for their personal skills and celebrate them, for being them. 

Your employees want to be appreciated for their hard work, even more so by the people they appreciate - You. 

Toni Whitehouse

Toni manages a team of employee engagement specialists, coaching them to spread the word on how to make the world a better place to work. A former recruiter, Toni is a natural people person!

UK Head of Sales Development

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