Friday, October 05, 2007

Intrinsic versus Extrinsic

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the topic of intrinsic motivation vs extrinsic motivation at work. I’ve found some particularly interesting blogs recently about the topic, particularly Incentive Intelligence and The HR Capitalist, both of which I’d recommend highly to go into your feed reader (more on that below).

My take on it (briefly though as it is a subject I can talk about at length) is that it seems obvious to say that intrinsic motivation, (i.e. your staff naturally want to work for the organisation because they like it, feel it aligns with their values etc) is the best type of motivation. Extrinsic, (i.e. salaries, bonuses, perks etc) is clearly the more fleeting option. It goes without saying that anybody who is only motivated to work for you by monetary rewards can quite easily, one would imagine, be poached by your competitors and their higher basic salary.

Yet in some ways this, I feel, is used as an excuse not to reward people well for the work they do. Just because you have managed to engender a culture where people work for you loyally and diligently because they agree with the companies mission for example and indeed they would even work for you for less than they could make elsewhere because of this intrinsic motivation, doesn’t mean you should pay them less! Indeed perhaps even you should pay them more! Intrinsic motivation is a rare thing indeed and at all costs you should aim to keep those individuals who have it. A bit of extrinsic motivation on top therefore may well do no harm at all.

Rewarding your star performers and creating an environment where people feel valued and well-compensated for the work they do seems, in the popular American parlance, a ‘no-brainer’. Yet I see countless organisations (particularly in recruitment but in no way limited to that sector) who feel that their employees are trying to 'screw them' for more and more money. I know managers who hate the idea of regular appraisals and performance reviews because they think it gives people the chance to ask for a pay rise!

When it comes to it I try and encourage people to apply this methodology: if a star performer at your company feels that she deserves a pay rise, she does. People inherently (particularly those star performers that are loyal to the organisation) aren’t in work to rip their employers off; if they value the job they do, their colleagues and the organisation as a whole they will act decently, honestly and fairly in all matters, monetary or otherwise. So strive to engender that intrinsic motivation. Make people proud to work for you and keen to see the organisation prosper. But don’t forget about the money too.


[Note: if you’re not reading the blogs you like through a feed reader I’d highly recommend it. I use Google Reader and wouldn’t change now, just to avoid the hassle of moving all my feeds really. I understand that Bloglines have recently added some nice new features though, so might be worth checking out too if you’re shopping around.]

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