12 Types of Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation Techniques to Use in the WorkPlace

There are key differences between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and these forms of motivation explain why people do the things they do. What is it that drives our behaviors? While both these forms of motivation are important, it is important to understand what each form is and how it works for the individual. When we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity to earn a reward or avoid punishment, this is extrinsic motivation. When we engage in a behavior because it is personally rewarding, performing an activity for its own sake, this is intrinsic motivation. The following are examples of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation techniques to use in the workplace.

Extrinsic Motivation

1. Competing in Sports and Games for Trophies
Whether you are an athlete going for a gold medal, or a restaurant owner going for a Michelin Star, awards of any kind are powerful motivators. Not only a status symbol but also a way of reinforcing a sense of accomplishment, awards like trophies remind workers of how hard they worked to get that accomplishment. Getting awards like trophies also make workers feel more positive about extracurricular activities, and just having the ability to compete makes them feel like they are a part of the workplace to begin with.

2. Getting a Promotion
An obvious motivator for any hard worker is the expectation that he or she will eventually be promoted in the company. No one who desires to reach high and lofty goals in their life wants to keep working at the same level day in and day out. Employees view promotions as powerful incentives to keep working hard, improving their skills, and contributing to a company so that they can progress as employees and as people. Promotions bring an elevated status and financial growth to the table, which is enough to keep talented professionals in a company.

3. Receiving Money
By far the most tangible and widespread extrinsic motivator, money is the main reason employees continue to function in the workplace. Without getting paid money for the hard work an employee puts in, there would be no point in working that particular job. Whether one has to pay bills, pay off a mortgage, or college debt, an employee makes money to keep going in life. If you work in a big name business, knowing that your illustrations, marketing ideas, or sales techniques will earn you cash can keep you inspired to perform well. Depending on how much money you get paid, your levels of motivation in the workplace will vary.

4. Freebies and Deals
On the same road as money, being offered discounts, bonuses, or other prizes can help motivate you as an employee to keep working at a high level. While businesses mainly use this technique to entice customers to buy their products, employees will feel a weight get lifted off their shoulders if they are given a free item and a discount occasionally. Depending on what level of the company an employee is working on, deals such as free dinners or an extra day off in the week become more available to them compared to other employees.

5. Establishing Partnerships
If you ever go to networking events, you will realize that they are either fun or tiresome, depending on your personality. However, these events are great extrinsic motivators. Forming alliances and partnerships is important for everyone in the workplace. At some point in time, we all need support from other people to be successful. People invite their co-workers to lunch and make an effort to remember every name at an important meeting because they see an opportunity to establish a business partnership with someone. If an employee has a co-worker helping him or her out, that employee will keep the motivation to continue working.

6. Obtaining Experience
The only reason people work so hard if they know they don’t get money for it is that they obtain experience. The opportunity to demonstrate to a company what you can do carries significant value, and even if you perform a volunteering kind of service, if the work ends up benefiting the company, you will be remembered. The chances of you obtaining more experience with that company, and on a more permanent basis, improve and you end up feeling good about yourself. Simply being given the opportunity to work on any level motivates you to put your best foot forward.

Intrinsic Motivation

1. Providing Meaningful Challenges
Employees want jobs they are going to care about, and they want to know that their effort makes a real difference to their co-workers, bosses, and companies. Employees are motivated when they pursue goals that have personal meaning and when attaining the goal is possible but not necessarily guaranteed. Managers should take the time out to explain thoroughly to employees what the company’s mission is and how each individual’s efforts will contribute to the company’s overall success. These goals may also relate to an employee’s self-esteem when performance feedback is available.

2. Independence
People want control over themselves and their work environments, and they want to determine what they pursue. While employees appreciate the help they receive from their co-workers, they also want to have their own personal space from others. Employees are motivated to do their work because they have the freedom to express themselves while they work. As a boss, if you give your employees time for themselves and allow them to solve problems by themselves, you and your company can be rewarded greatly. Assign specific periods of time where your employees can work in their individual offices without any distractions. Let their time be their time.

3. Promoting the Sense of Discovery
Whenever an employee makes a sudden discovery about an issue that needs to be addressed, it should never be discouraged in the workplace. As a boss, you want to bring out the best of your employees, and if they discover valuable things that you otherwise wouldn’t discover, they should be rewarded. Allow them to fill out a list of discoveries they have made throughout the day, and ask what their thoughts are on these discoveries. For example, if your company builds gas-powered lawnmowers but one of your employees finds out a way to make a solar-powered lawnmower, you should allow this discovery to be discussed. Making discoveries is part of the rewarding experience that is intrinsically motivating.

4. Enabling Creativity
A company that remains strict to a set of rules isn’t always a bad thing, but there has to be an understanding of what the employees need to be productive. If a certain set of rules isn’t working for a team of employees, then changes should be considered. Employees that are given the freedom to express themselves while they work make for happy employees. When you allow employees to be creative in how they perform for the day and how they present their finished work, your company will become more productive. Simple tweaks such as allowing color-coded paper files, painted pictures to illustrate messages, and short poems as opening headlines for business reports are examples of creativity.

5. Make Fair Rules for Everyone
Sometimes a strict set of rules for a company is really helpful, as long as they can be clearly understood by everyone. Deeply rooted in intrinsic motivation for an employee are two powerful components; honor and order. A company’s set of rules that are made fair for all employees need to be honored, and the team needs to be ethical when they work with those rules. There is also the need to be organized and to have an ordered structure in the workplace. Employees must know just who is making the rules, and why they are in place. When employees understand the rules, they can play by them.

6. Giving Recognition
When a job is performed correctly by an employee, it should be recognized. One fundamental human need is recognition. When you acknowledge an employee’s outstanding work, it motivates them to increase their productivity, which leads to job satisfaction. Employees need to feel that the decisions they make, especially good decisions, are accepted by bosses and co-workers alike. As a boss when you have conversations with other employees or bosses of other companies, make it a point to verbally endorse the employee who has been very loyal to you and who has been very successful. In public speaking events, mention the hard work of that employee. When employees feel important they are driven to keep working hard.


Different types of employees are going to be driven to do better in their work by different types of motivation. To have true success in using the above-mentioned tools in your company, a good mix of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators should be used.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.