Ways of working

When money isn’t enough: how to instil intrinsic motivation

Reading time:  3 Minutes

Money isn’t everything, and we have the stats to prove it. Companies and institutions like Glassdoor in the UK, Oxford Academic in Taiwan, and Princeton in the US (to name but a few) have all conducted research that proves it too. According to their findings, extrinsic motivation – in other words, pay and money incentives – only motivates employees so far.

There’s a whole range of other incentives out there that employers and businesses can tap into to get the best work out of their staff. These could include anything from having the right company values to playing a part in fulfilling career goals.

So how do you as a company discover and provide for these deeper needs and instil intrinsic motivation? We have a few ideas.

Align your values

Scientists and business leaders agree that companies can’t just be about making money any more: they need a mission statement. This needs to be an ideal that the company and its employees strive towards.

Around 60% of financial service CEOs told PwC that, by 2020, top talent will want to work for organisations whose values match their own. Equally, a 2015 study by Deloitte found that businesses with a distinctive culture that employees connect with and aspire towards were more successful – by up to $2,400 of profit per employee per year.

To achieve this, you must be clear about your mission and communicate it effectively to your staff. What’s more, the mission needs to be integrated into your organisation. That could mean showing your environmental credentials with recycling facilities and special events, or exploring your commitment to collaboration and creativity with an open plan office and separate breakout areas.

The key is making sure your organisation visibly lives out these values in its office and management structures, and that it shares them with workers.

Provide real freedom

Over and above money incentives, more and more workers are looking for a happy work-life balance that offers them freedom and flexibility. Our research shows that over the past two years, global business people have seen even more consultants (30%), freelance workers (29%) and part-timers (22%) in their industries.

However, giving your workforce the option of flexible working hours isn’t quite the same as providing them with career freedom. Research shows that employees increasingly need to feel empowered to achieve their goals. That means providing transparent, achievable targets that can be clearly linked to overall company performance.

Your teams need to be less hierarchical and more adaptable to change. Your managers need to be on board with providing plenty of communication to their staff as well as flexibility when giving out deadlines and strategies. Giving people more choice about when and where they work is all part of this incentivising new work structure.

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Offer the right rewards

It’s still important to create tangible benefits and advantages to motivate your employees, but these rewards don’t need to be financial. Instead they should connect to your company’s values so that your employee feels like they’re achieving something both for themselves personally, and for the company on a larger scale.

While this will naturally vary between businesses, there are plenty of ideas that can be adapted to many situations. For example, Singaporean startup LunchClick encourages collaboration and team spirit by letting employees reward one another with Purple Coins, which can be exchanged for treats and bonuses. Numerous companies including tech giant Google provide nap pods for employees to rest, and fresh fruit for them to snack on, showing they value a healthy work-life balance.

Whatever approach you choose to boost motivation, the central pillar has to be engagement. 80% of executives told Deloitte that employee experience is important to the success of their business. The only way you can connect to that experience is by understanding how your initiatives affect them, and listening to their feedback.