I run a company with over 50 people working. I try to motivate my staff with high bonuses and incentives but none of that is working in delivering the results I am looking for. I find it hard to motivate my entire staff. I have used several ‘reward’ and ‘punishment’ motivation techniques but it is not working on my people. What is the real motivation that really works? What really motivates people? Are there other ways of motivating your staff apart from reward and punishment model?


     Motivation is the real ‘why’ behind ‘what’ we do. Motivation provides insight into why we may behave the way we do as well.  Motivation is an internal process that reflects the desire to achieve certain goals, tasks or objectives.  

     Motivating employees is not an easy task, due to the fact that what motivates employees seems to change overtime. To say, different employees are motivated in different ways according to their needs. For example, one employee will be motivated to do his task by way of responsibility, while on the other hand another employee will be motivated by monetary rewards. 

    Motivation can be divided into two basic types:  intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. What you have been trying on your staff is extrinsic motivation. Some are extrinsically motivated and some are intrinsically motivated. Some people are driven by desperation while others by inspiration.

    Extrinsic motivation reflects the desire to do something because of external rewards such as awards, money, bonuses, incentives, and praise.  People who are extrinsically motivated may not enjoy certain activities.  They may only wish to engage in certain activities because they wish to receive some external reward. This is the old ‘carrots and sticks’ practice to motivation. This is the most popular mechanistic motivation methodology used in most of the organizations. But this does not work for everyone. Today; large and small companies have realized the importance of intrinsic motivation. 

    Intrinsic motivation reflects the desire to do something because it is enjoyable and interesting.  If we are intrinsically motivated, we would not be worried about external rewards such as praise or awards.  If we are intrinsically motivated, the enjoyment we experience would be sufficient for us to want to perform the activity in the future. 

     An employee who tends to be intrinsically motivated could be motivated by internal factors such as recognition, responsibility, growth and advancement. If an employee is to be motivated by intrinsic rewards, then this means that what the employee really wants is a job that interests him, a challenging work environment along with a supporting team, and the responsibility to perform the task etc in order to motivate him. For example, an intrinsically motivated person will perform a task given to him willingly, either because he might find the task challenging or else interesting and satisfied with completing it. They are not focused on the external rewards. They are driven by the mental satisfaction and the joy their work provides. As a result, intrinsic motivation tends to be very much effective in the long run as the employees perform the tasks willingly because it interests them, rather than trying to escape from it once the job is done.

        Intrinsic motivation revolves around three major dynamics of human needs

1) The need to be autonomous and significant: Autonomy is the urge to direct our own lives. This is self directed behavior of employees to contribute because they love to. Google is a successful organization that has given a sense and practice of ‘autonomy and significance’ to their employees by giving 20% working time of an employee that can be used for doing anything they want. Engineers at Google can use their team, techniques and 20% time to bring out the productivity they want. Their creativity is put into use. Every year half of the Google products are created in this 20% intrinsic motivated time. Google products like Orkut, Google news and Google talk are the result of an intrinsic motivation model.

      Another example is the ROWE (Result-Only-Work-Environment) method where employees do not have schedules to keep and they can work from anywhere they want. They just have to get the work done. Here the activity (work) does not matter but only results matters. This gives so much of freedom to employees and a sense of pride and purpose in their significant achievements.

2)The need for mastery: Mastery is the desire to get better every time you do some thing that matters. This is the desire to learn and grow. A sense of mastery is the kind of perfection employees seek in their job. They get to do the job every time with all the challenges it presents and it gives them a sense of mastery in due course of time. They experience growth both personally and professionally and this sense of mastery gives them the joy they derive from work.

 3) The need to be purposeful. Purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

       Activity or work does not motivate by itself unless there is a purpose behind everything we do. The importance of a task can not be justified unless there are reasons why it should be done in a certain frame of time. Purpose gives motivation. Always reasons come first and answers come second. When employees realize the purpose behind their work and the contribution they make to the mankind; they are motivated to contribute even more.

      Having looked at both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, it could be said that intrinsic motivation is far stronger than extrinsic motivation when it comes to motivate employees in the long run. This is because the intrinsically motivated employees will continue to perform better day after day as long they find the work interesting and satisfied.  It doesn’t mean that extrinsic motivation should not be used at all. Both motivation methods actually work but it does not work for everyone. You must know what motivates a person and not the entire crowd.

– Author of the blog hereby grants the permission to publish the information provided in this blog converted in to print editions as articles in magazines, dailies, periodicals or journals and also translation of the content to any foreign languages. Please use the original author’s name (Paul Robinson) and website info (www.robinsonpaul.info) while you reproduce this content in print only.

Thank you for all the earlier comments. I could not retain all the previous valuable comments due to this site’s reconstruction.

Be Sociable, Share!


Comments are closed.