Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation: An Individual and Multi-Generational Lens
By Ally Smit
You’ve probably heard it before. Perhaps from a friend, when interviewing a candidate, or maybe it has even come out of your own mouth – “I don’t need to make a lot of money to feel happy, I just want to feel good about the work that I do.”
If you relate to this statement, then your motivation does not revolve around earning a high salary. Perhaps you’ve worked for companies in the past where your salary was high but your spirits low, or you’ve discovered your passion within an organization, and you are naturally motivated to achieve high results. On the other hand, perhaps this statement surprises you because, for you, a higher salary is a key motivator to achieving higher results as it provides flexibility and opportunity to save for the things you love doing outside of work.
As an employer, you may have noticed these differences amongst your staff. Perhaps one employee is more motivated when provided with opportunities to work from home, and another is more enticed by an increase in vacation allotment than a raise. The key is to determine what motivates each of your employees, and how best to use this information to drive effective results.
An Individual Lens
In general, motivation is made up of two different factors – intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation, driven by internal rewards and feelings of satisfaction, is the motivation that comes from within an individual. There are many reasons why individuals may feel satisfied for completing a certain job, such as the opportunity for growth or achievement of personal goals. Extrinsic motivation is what we typically imagine motivates individuals – it is the motivation that is driven by external forces, monetary or non-monetary. Examples of extrinsic motivation can be bonuses, benefit packages, or awards for a job well done.
In order to initially understand what motivates your staff, it is important to consider that everyone is motivated by different levels of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. No employee is solely motivated by intrinsic or extrinsic motivation; instead it is likely that individuals have different levels of each. In order to achieve high levels of motivation across all employees, you will need to take the time to strategize a system that includes both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation factors.
A Multi-Generational Lens
Levels of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation will also be impacted by overall trends that exist across various generations in the workforce. Each generation has different expectations regarding compensation and variables that impact their motivation level. Although there is no guarantee that every individual within a generation will have similar motivating factors and compensation expectations, considering the generational trends that exist can at least provide you with a guideline of comparison.
As an employer, there are many ways that you can motivate your employees to achieve superior results within your own team. Below are some strategies to increase motivation using an individual and multi-generational lens.
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1963)
Due to the years they have spent growing their careers in the workforce, Baby Boomers may be most focused on retirement and may be motivated by factors that allow them to plan for a smooth transition out of the workforce. Impactful extrinsic motivational factors may include a raise to generate more savings for retirement or flexible working hours to ease into retirement. Intrinsic motivational factors may include appreciating the employee’s dedication to the company through a company newsletter or meeting.
Generation X (born 1965-1980)
For some Generation Xers, providing opportunities to advance their careers and meet the busy demands of their lifestyles may be ideal. Effective extrinsic motivational factors may include a promotion to increase career growth or the opportunity to work remotely to further ensure ease of work/life balance. Intrinsic motivational factors may revolve around the added responsibility of a new job or remote working.
Millennials (born 1981-1998)
Due to their interest in educational advancement, millennials may be attracted to opportunities that allow them to grow their skills and advance their careers. Strategic extrinsic motivational factors may include tuition reimbursements or job shadowing within the organization. Intrinsic motivation may revolve around the achievement of learning goals and the opportunity to learn and master a new skill.
Gen Z (born after 1997)
As a result of their socially conscious and tech-savvy preferences, Gen Z’ers may be motivated by opportunities to impact the environment around them. Effective extrinsic motivational factors may include offering days off to volunteer or the opportunity to work remotely. Intrinsic motivational factors may include the opportunity to work with like-minded people on a team and building relationships with others working towards a common goal.
Everyone is motivated in different ways and taking the time to find out what motivates each employee can be challenging. By utilizing trends and considerations on generational and individual preferences, you can gain a better idea of how to motivate various individuals within your organization and how best to use this information to drive effective results.