How to Effectively Motivate Your Employees

As a leader, do you ever want to know how to motivate your employees so they perform better and you no longer see members of your team lack motivation at all? Then this article will help you.

What do you need to do to motivate your employees? As a leader, you actually impact your employees’ motivation far more than you probably realise. You may be of the mentality that you always need to give them more money, because cash rules the world, right? Actually, that isn’t a very good solution, unless you pay significantly higher than average pay.

Studies have shown that although money is good and we all need it, that it actually doesn’t have much of an effect on employee commitment or motivation at all. If you give out a raise, the employee will notice their change in circumstance for about a month and then get used to it.

Two types of motivation

We know that there are two different kinds of personal motivation. That is extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Say you hold a carrot to a horse’s nose. That’s extrinsic motivation. By doing so, you would motivate the horse to continue walking.

Applied to a business, this means simply replacing the carrot with financial enticement, such as a promotion or bonus. Now you’re on your way to extrinsically motivate one of your team. Frank, if you work really hard over the next few days to get this project finished by Friday, then I will give you a $500 bonus.

Alternatively, if you threaten Frank with some form of punishment, then you are also extrinsically motivating him. Frank, if you don’t start showing up at work on time every day, then I will fire you.

So, it doesn’t matter if it’s a reward or a punishment. Extrinsic motivations involve actions that are initiated from the outside. The extrinsically motivated employee will do the work, because they have to. If someone does the work the best they can without this reward or threat, then they are intrinsically motivated and committed to their work.

They simply enjoy the work, or they believe it is worth doing or represents an interesting challenge for the employee. An intrinsically motivated employee thinks “I’m doing this because I want to”. They aren’t swayed by human resources software, or motivational posters or the like.

So the question is what kind of motivation do you need? Well, let’s compare both of them.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation will only motivate and be useful if routine tasks need to be performed by simple rules, or a clear-cut objective is set and achieving it can be easily done.

A classic example for this is work on an assembly line. It’s quite possible to extrinsically motivate employees to do such work, however extrinsic motivation will not work with any task. It will not work if the way to the solution isn’t clear and it will not work for tasks that call for any form of creativity.

The anticipation of a reward or threat of punishment will cause the employee to focus strictly on this reward or punishment, rather than any creativity or passion for their work. In the modern workplace, many routine activities are now being performed by machines and not by humans.

Intrinsic motivation

What we actually need are employees who are intrinsically motivated because we need their creativity, and we want them to take ownership of their role and their work. We want them to act and think proactively and show responsibility.

Intrinsically motivated people have three characteristics. Firstly, the desire for self-determination. They want to work independently on a task with the greatest possible elbowroom. This means for your employees, tell them about the goal however give them the freedom to decide how they will reach it.

Secondly, they strive for excellence. Intrinsically motivated people want to grow with the work, and continue improving themselves with skills or on issues they feel are important to them. This means good leaders should help their employees become better in what they are doing, and help them with regular feedback and offer them training.

Number three is purpose. The things they do must have a purpose. By performing a task, they want to be part of something larger than themselves. They talk about the company vision, talk about the why, such as why are you doing what you do, why is your company doing what they’re doing, why should they – your employees – care to work for you? Well, if you take care about these three points you’re going into the right direction.

The funny thing with intrinsic motivation, is that your employees are motivated at least when they start working for your company, and what happens mostly is that people get demotivated over time because of a range of factors, such as bad management or bureaucracy.


As we’ve now discovered, there are two types of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic, and we want to try and encourage our employees to be intrinsically motivated. Your task as a leader is not to motivate your employees, but rather tell them about the vision and the why and take care that you don’t de-motivate your employees. All the best of luck!

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