Intrinsic employee motivation is the fire inside. Steven Covey once said, “Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly.” Research and scientific data suggest that this fire burns stronger when we address the fundamental drivers of intrinsic motivation. Ken Thomas, in Intrinsic Motivation in the Workplace, revealed his extensive research showing there are four intrinsic motivators, or drivers: a sense of meaningfulness, a sense of choice, a sense of competence, and a sense of progress. As leaders, we need to find the keys to lighting the “fire within” for our associates.
Long-Term or Short?
While profit is imperative, long-term, sustainable financial results are best achieved by driving intrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivation releases us from the need to have someone with a whip over our staff; instead, it equips us and our associates to find energy from within. This allows our associates to release discretionary energy toward achieving our organization’s purpose. Study after study by organizations like the Harvard Business Review and Gallup show that when you get intrinsic motivation right, your financial metrics will outperform organizations that focused only on the income statement or financial results.
What Folks Really Want
Profitability is a perk of employee engagement, and while profit is good and not a four letter word, something more important and new will show up in your corporate culture; engaged management and workforces are flat out more fun. Really who doesn’t want to have fun! Recently in an article on happiness what was discovered income actually plateaus, people want to be happy, Simon Sinek and Daniel Pink talk about purpose-driven organizations. I’ve even had executives who have confessed to me in coaching sessions, “I don’t even want to get out of bed in the morning.” Whew, I wouldn’t want to work at a place like that either, but if a workplace is fun and challenging, others want in on it. “We’re growing, we’re connecting with something bigger”—well then, I want to get up for that–that’s true employee motivation
So OK, the cynic may choose to raise engagement for greater profitability, and it will deliver, but you know what, let them because everyone else will find it easier too. To be engaged we must “contribute discretionary energy,” as my friend Bruce Vincent, a colleague of Ken Thomas, first told me many years ago. His words changed my work life and direction.
Test It Today
Try it today—find someone and connect them with a sense of meaning, progress, choice, or competence. You’ll both be glad you did. And oh yeah, don’t stop the pats on the back either. Just move beyond that and see what magic happens.