Posted By Vicky Walker

Posted on2nd January 2019

What is intrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is when you take part in an activity purely for the enjoyment of it. What you gain from the activity comes from within, rather than being motivated by external rewards such as prizes, money or accreditation.

When we are intrinsically motivated we may see the activity as an opportunity to learn, explore and realise our potential. Intrinsic motivations create positive emotions, and can give us a sense of meaning.

How does it apply to the workplace?

When employees are intrinsically motivated, it means they are doing their job because they enjoy it and are able to focus on internal drivers as the main reason for completing a task. It may be that they gain a sense of progress when they see that their work is achieving positive outcomes, or competence as they develop their skills.

Employers can use an employee’s intrinsic motivations to create a productive and engaged workforce, and help individual employees to reach their personal and career development goals. Intrinsic motivators in the workplace increase when people feel challenged, competent, valued, and genuinely enjoy their jobs.

It’s important to recognise this within your HR strategy, as it’s clear that external rewards aren’t the only way to reward employees. Often, it can be the intrinsic motivations that engage your workforce the most.

Below we’ve outlined 5 intrinsic motivators you should be taking into account to help your people reach their potential:


Expanding knowledge can be one of the top motivations for an employee. Often, an individual will be driven by learning as much as possible about their area of work to build their expertise and achieve their goals. You can encourage the pursuit of knowledge by offering employees more training opportunities or offering tuition assistance towards higher education.


Employees who are faced with positive challenges become intrinsically motivated to perform to the best of their ability. By providing challenging projects, you are giving your employees scope to make decisions on their approach to the task, offering them a sense of control. Setting challenges means that employees are motivated to succeed through stepping up to the challenge.


Recognition programmes may include rewards such as extra days holiday or cash prizes as part of being recognised as a valued employee. However, for some employees, they may find pride in simply seeing their name in an announcement acknowledging them as a high performer. They feel that their hard work has paid off and helped them to achieve recognition, so it’s important to remember that it’s not always about offering materialistic rewards to motivate your people.


Employees who feel that they have a successful professional future ahead are much more intrinsically motivated than those who feel that they are stuck in a job that doesn’t inspire them. You should make your employees aware of the goals and ambitions of the organisation, and how they can contribute and progress to help achieve these goals. Employees who can see a clear path towards career progression have a vested interest in the organisation and are motivated to contribute towards its success as well as their own.

Decision Making

Employees who are involved and engaged with decision making within your organisation are intrinsically motivated because they have a stake in the company’s success. By involving your people in the organisational decision making process, you are reinforcing that they are valued members of the team and that their hard work and input doesn’t go unnoticed and is appreciated.

Being able to recognise the intrinsic motivations of your employees’ means that you are better placed to reward them accordingly, improving their engagement, increasing productivity and performance and most importantly contributing towards their overall health and wellbeing.

For more information, our free Health & Wellbeing Toolkit contains all the information you need to start creating your company’s health and wellbeing strategy, featuring help and advice on everything from building the business case and exploring supplier options, to implementing and evaluating the process.

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