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Extrinsic Motivation in the Workplace: 5 Strategies & Examples to Motivate Employees

Cassandra Rose, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Employ­ee moti­va­tion is one of the most crit­i­cal com­po­nents of a suc­cess­ful orga­ni­za­tion. In fact, a stag­ger­ing 68% of employ­ees report active dis­en­gage­ment from their work, and 50% of employ­ees are leav­ing their cur­rent jobs due to burnout.

Focus­ing on employ­ee moti­va­tion has nev­er been more critical.

It’s not enough to just dou­ble down on qual­i­ty recruit­ment or offer com­pet­i­tive wages. Employ­ee moti­va­tion is a com­plex and tricky endeav­or, and employ­ers must think out­side the box to inspire their teams.

Extrinsic Motivation vs. Intrinsic Motivation

There are two types of moti­va­tion: intrin­sic and extrin­sic. Intrin­sic moti­va­tion refers to actions or behav­ior dri­ven by inter­nal rewards. Extrin­sic moti­va­tion refers to actions or behav­ior dri­ven by exter­nal rewards. Here’s an example:

A stu­dent has a Physics midterm com­ing up, so they study all night in the hopes that they get a high score. In this sit­u­a­tion, the desire for a high grade, pass­ing the class and praise from the pro­fes­sor are all exam­ples of extrin­sic moti­va­tion. The stu­dent is study­ing in the hopes of receiv­ing exter­nal rewards.

If that same stu­dent just loved the study of mat­ter, ener­gy and motion in rela­tion to time and space, and fre­quent­ly pulled all-nighters learn­ing as much as they could on the sub­ject, it would be con­sid­ered intrin­sic moti­va­tion. Learn­ing about some­thing they deeply love is reward­ing enough. The high grades and praise are just a bonus.

Why Should Organizations Embrace Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrin­sic moti­va­tion is essen­tial because there are usu­al­ly aspects of almost every job that aren’t intrin­si­cal­ly moti­vat­ing. Some peo­ple may not always want to fill out reports, orga­nize their desks, attend a meet­ing or make a sales call.

That’s not to paint an employ­ee or job in a neg­a­tive light. Some­times, work just isn’t fun or excit­ing, but it doesn’t change the fact that those things must get done. Extrin­sic incen­tives and rewards moti­vate peo­ple when their brains and hearts won’t.

5 Extrinsic Motivation Examples in the Workplace

Get­ting paid is an exam­ple of extrin­sic moti­va­tion, but it often takes more than that to moti­vate and excite employ­ees about their work. Finan­cial com­pen­sa­tion only goes so far. Here are five strate­gies and exam­ples of extrin­sic moti­va­tion in the work­place that every employ­er should know.

1. Set Expectations and Be Consistent

Set­ting expec­ta­tions and con­sis­ten­cy may seem obvi­ous, but the best strate­gies always do. Employ­ees need to know and under­stand the para­me­ters of their work and what’s expect­ed of them.

What’s the bot­tom line? What is the lev­el of per­for­mance that elic­its a ​“job well done” or pos­i­tive recog­ni­tion? Often, doing their job well and receiv­ing pos­i­tive feed­back is moti­vat­ing enough.

Beyond that, if an employ­ee wants to exceed expec­ta­tions, they must know what those expec­ta­tions are, to begin with. If the bar is con­stant­ly being moved and expec­ta­tions are obscure, team mem­bers will floun­der in that obscu­ri­ty. Give employ­ees the oppor­tu­ni­ty to prove them­selves, and they will.

2. Offer Cash Bonuses and Financial Incentives

Admit­ting that salaries and com­pet­i­tive pay aren’t enough to moti­vate employ­ees isn’t meant to dis­suade employ­ers from doing those things — just the oppo­site. Mon­ey is a pow­er­ful moti­va­tor. Use it.

High salaries, peri­od­ic pay rais­es, pro­mo­tions and cash bonus­es are great ways to extrin­si­cal­ly moti­vate employ­ees. Cre­ate dai­ly, week­ly and month­ly goals, and at the end of every year, reward top earn­ers and team mem­bers who con­sis­tent­ly exceed expec­ta­tions. Once the bar is set, the best employ­ees will rise to meet it.

3. Offer Unconventional Incentives

Of course, mon­ey isn’t the only incen­tive that can moti­vate a hard-work­ing team. Expe­ri­en­tial incen­tives can inspire just as much pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and excite­ment as mon­ey, if not more.

Instead of offer­ing a cash bonus, why not cre­ate uncon­ven­tion­al incen­tives? For example:

  • A gift card to their favorite bistro
  • Lunch on the com­pa­ny dime when they reach a goal
  • Extra vaca­tion days to spend with their friends or family
  • Tick­ets to a con­cert or sport­ing event

For these types of incen­tives, it’s impor­tant to tai­lor them to the indi­vid­ual employ­ee, so be flex­i­ble. For instance, instead of buy­ing tick­ets to a spe­cif­ic con­cert, set a con­cert spend­ing lim­it. Instead of buy­ing a gift card for a par­tic­u­lar restau­rant, offer a gift card ​“for the restau­rant of your choice.” That way, all team mem­bers receive the same type of reward, not just those who like that spe­cif­ic artist or place.

4. Reward Hard Work With Positive Recognition

Employ­ees val­ue com­mu­ni­ca­tion and crave feed­back. They want to be chal­lenged. They want to know that their employ­ers sin­cere­ly val­ue their hard work and respect them as peo­ple, so open com­mu­ni­ca­tion can be a sig­nif­i­cant source of extrin­sic motivation.

When an employ­ee exceeds expec­ta­tions, reach­es a goal or hits a mile­stone, super­vi­sors should use it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to show­er them with praise. Depend­ing on the indi­vid­ual employ­ee, this might mean a pri­vate email or one-on-one con­ver­sa­tion, a shoutout on social media or an announce­ment in the mid­dle of the office. No mat­ter which method super­vi­sors choose, great work deserves to be recognized.

5. Offer Personalized, Lifestyle Benefits

Peo­ple are alter­ing the way they think about the most impor­tant employ­ee ben­e­fits. Com­pa­nies that offer dif­fer­ent types of employ­ee ben­e­fits are embrac­ing the trans­for­ma­tion. With Fringe’s cus­tomiz­able plat­form, employ­ers can offer extrin­sic moti­va­tion in the form of lifestyle benefits.

How does Fringe work? Once employ­ees access their Fringe account, they are allot­ted a cer­tain num­ber of points that can be used for bonus­es, gift cards, tick­ets to events, sub­scrip­tions, mem­ber­ships and more. There are over 100 dif­fer­ent options for them to choose from.

To help moti­vate their employ­ees, employ­ers can sim­ply log in and award team mem­bers extra points when they reach a goal or mile­stone. This is an excel­lent way to offer per­son­al­ized incen­tiviza­tion and extrin­sic moti­va­tion in one easy-to-use, robust plat­form.

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