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The Value of Intrinsic Motivation Within a Team

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Dakota Murphey

Motivation is essential to running a successful business, but it’s a topic that’s more complex than many people realize. There are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. When most businesses think of motivation, they settle on extrinsic, which is focused on title, rewards, status and power. But, intrinsic motivation is related to meaning and purpose, learning and growth, and it’s this type of motivation that mid to top level leaders should be prioritizing for the best results within teams for the benefit of every employee. 

Here, we examine what intrinsic motivation is, how it differs from extrinsic motivation and why it offers true value when it comes to building an aligned and proactive team. 

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is the method of encouraging people to change their behavior or adopt new ways of working due to personal satisfaction or finding meaning in what they do every day. It’s the incentive to engage a team to complete tasks or give their all everyday to their work, without necessarily having a tangible reward at the end of it all, such as money or a similar perk. 

When someone is intrinsically motivated, they derive enjoyment or fulfillment from the task, rather than only doing it for the reward at the end, and that can be incredibly powerful for businesses as it offers long-term benefits. Intrinsic motivation is valuable for both individuals and wider teams, because when people engage in activities that provide them with inherent satisfaction, it enhances wellbeing and boosts morale, creating a culture of productivity.

Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Motivation

There’s no denying that extrinsic motivation has its place and can be a great driver for people. These perks are certainly beneficial but extrinsic rewards are short-lived and after a while, they lose their appeal. In fact, workplaces today are finding that staff are less motivated by the likes of pay or perks – they want an inclusive work culture, more flexibility in their roles and appreciation for what they do every day. Someone who is intrinsically motivated may be eager to master more skills related to their role and build their learning, for example, rather than simply getting a bonus once a year. 

We know that pay and other fringe benefits are essential, but research has shown that the presence of these factors has no long-range motivational effects. However, those that do have long-term effects include a sense of achievement, participation, challenges, growth and recognition of a job well done. When employees identify with the goals and vision of the business, they feel more motivated to work hard because they understand where they fit into the bigger picture. Fostering a culture of intrinsic motivation builds trust within the team, because it shows they are being listened to and will be supported in the areas where they want to flourish. 

Putting it Into Practice

So, what does intrinsic motivation look like in practice? There are various ways that leaders can motivate teams to do more and do better. While leadership styles can vary, it’s important for all leaders and senior members of the team to remember that intrinsic motivators create a more positive and engaged working environment for the long run, rather than a temporary fix. 

Some ways that businesses can motivate their team include participating in team building games that are fun and foster better relationships at work, without them being seen as a reward that’s only given after a certain milestone is achieved. This also gives people the chance to collaborate with team members on projects because they want to, rather than it being a requirement of their role. 

Education and skill building can also be a highly effective form of intrinsic motivation, with leaders enabling staff to learn new skills, build their knowledge and earn certifications that will give them more job satisfaction and confidence. It keeps staff engaged and that’s a huge motivator in itself, and helps businesses to create a team of skilled, multifaceted employees who are passionate about building their skills. 

To encourage a team through intrinsic motivation, employees should be granted more autonomy and responsibility over their own work. Building trust offers benefits for all parties, because workers feel free to work in the ways that suit them best to achieve the best results, and leaders can feel confident that their team are being productive and hitting targets without needing to be micromanaged. 

Similarly, praising employees, motivating a team and letting them know that the work they’re doing is valuable and makes a difference, allows each employee greater pride in what they do. This shouldn’t just come from leaders though, as encouraging employees to highlight the work of their colleagues, helps to create a workplace culture that’s positive, encouraging and an enjoyable place to be part of. Employees often cite regular, genuine praise and recognition as being a valuable motivator, far more than physical rewards because it makes them feel valued and appreciated. 

Intrinsic motivation offers so many benefits for businesses and teams of all sizes. It keeps staff engaged, proud of their work and productive, which in turn helps businesses achieve their goals. Staff are no longer happy to settle for a bonus or additional perks. These features of a role are nice to have, but they’re not conducive to long-term motivation. Motivating a team with things they have a natural desire to do, whether to achieve more in their career, or simply for the intrinsic satisfaction of doing so, can be so beneficial in creating a culture of curiosity. This will positively result in employees being driven by their love of the job, rather than simply showing up for a paycheck. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Dakota Murphey is a freelance writer based in the UK, specializing in Digital Trends in Business, Marketing, PR, Branding, Cybersecurity, Entrepreneurial Skills, and Company Growth. Having successfully contributed to a number of authoritative online resources, she has secured a platform to share her voice with like-minded professionals.


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Unemployment: Why Won’t Congress Talk About It!?

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Change to WinAn interesting look at the unemployment rate. “What is currently a temporary long-term unemployment problem runs the risk of morphing into a permanent and costly increase in the unemployment rate” unless Congress takes action to create jobs. 

Why the Unemployment Rate Is So High – New York Times

Unemployment claims have increased slightly. “The Labor Department says applications rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 371,000, the most in five weeks.”

Unemployment claims rise slightly in latest week – USA Today

“We need to avoid a lost generation of young people who will be playing economic catch-up their whole lives. We cannot stop pressing our leaders to help struggling poor and middle-class Americans.”

Crowdsourcing our economic recovery – CNN 

Even though the economy is improving, we need to do more to ensure the long term unemployed get back on their feet. Long term unemployment makes it harder and harder to provide for one’s family, and causes dramatic increases in mental illness. It’s time Washington gets busy putting people back to work. 

Long-Term Unemployed Winning Jobs Or Giving Up? – Huffington Post

This article was originally posted by ChangeToWin on January 11, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Change to Win is an organization created by over 5.5 million workers – if corporations can join together to hire an army of lobbyists, working and middle class Americans must also band together and restore balance by making sure we have a strong voice and a seat at the table again.

(Colleen Gartner is an intern at Workplace Fairness.)


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Workers Cheer Living Wage Victory in Austin

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Barbara DohertyConstruction workers and others in the Austin, Texas, area are celebrating a coalition victory this week after Travis County commissioners approved a first-ever economic development policy that includes a living wage requirement.

The policy requires contractors asking for tax incentives to move into the county to pay all employees at least $11 per hour. It’s a significant improvement over the prevailing construction hourly wage of $7.50.

On the same day the county provision passed, a subcommittee of the Austin City Council passed a similar policy, which will come to the full council in the coming months. As reported in the Austin American-Statesman, both the city and county have been criticized about generous tax incentives offered in recent years to major companies such as Apple and Marriott.

Along with faith-based and student organizations, the Texas Building and Construction Trades Council, the Laborers (LIUNA), the Electrical Workers (IBEW), AFSCME Local 1624, Education Austin (AFT) and Texas State Employees Union (TSEU)/CWA Local 6186 participated in the yearlong campaign spearheaded by the Austin-based Workers Defense Project (WDP). The 1,000-member WDP has worked for 10 years on wage theft and other workers’ rights issues.

Austin Interfaith and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) were among others that supported the campaign.

“Really, what this means is construction workers are starting to have a say in their working conditions and their pay,” WDP organizer Greg Casar told a celebratory crowd after the county commissioners voted.

This post was originally posted on November 30, 2012 at AFL-CIO NOW. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Barbara Doherty: My dad drove a laundry delivery truck in San Francisco and I came to appreciate unions sitting in the waiting room at the Teamsters vision center there. More than 30 years ago, I joined the international SEIU publications staff (under the union’s legendary, feisty president, George Hardy). Living in California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., over the years, I have contributed countless news and feature articles, as well as editing, to the publications and websites of unions in the public and private sectors and the construction trades.


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Sharing Information or Cheating, You Decide

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Image: Bob RosnerI read an article about a school in Washington State that allows students to search the Internet during tests.

Yes, you read that correctly. Students at Mill Creek Middle School can go online during tests to search for information. But some schools don’t stop there; they even allow students to beam or IM information to other students during a test.

Beyond wishing that we had such tools when we were in middle school, this raises a great question about the essence of education. Is the goal to cram information in our heads, or should the goal be the know how to get the information that you need?

Let’s not forget that a student can burn a lot of time searching for information on the web. Or information that is beamed to them by a fellow student could be wrong. Rather than seeing this sharing of information as cheating, I believe that it is creating a generation of students who are more discerning about information—where to get it, how to evaluate it and how to use it.

What does this have to do with business? Plenty.

As more of us find our interactions with coworkers limited to three sentence emails, we are rapidly moving from organizations with many brains to constellations of individuals who are increasingly flying by the seat of their pants as they go through their work day.

Think about it. When was the last time that you brainstormed with a colleague over coffee or lunch? When was the last time that you networked or checked in with a colleague that you hadn’t seen in a while? Heck, when was the last time you didn’t eat lunch at your desk?

Technology was supposed to bring us all together. Yet, the connections between people are at an all time low.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a 40 hour a week coffee klatch. But I do believe that each one of us should all institute a policy where we follow up ten emails with a phone call and twenty with an actual face-to-face conversation. (Remember those?)

Organizations talk a great deal about team work. That people are the greatest asset. Yet, when it comes to paying people, recognition and priorities, it’s all about individual effort.

Great teamwork isn’t cheating. But to achieve it organizations need to do a much better job of cultivating it, rewarding it and encouraging it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our organizations truly became the sum of their parts?

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Also check out his newly revised best-seller “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.


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