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10 Intrinsic Motivators (And Why They Even Matter)

10 Intrinsic Motivators (And Why They Even Matter)

November 22, 2023

You put absolutely everything into your business. You want to see it thrive and evolve. You have a five-year plan and you know exactly what you need to do to get there — but in order for these plans to materialise, your ship needs to be manned by an equally passionate crew. And that’s exactly the problem for so many companies up and down the country.

Time and again, the question presents itself — how can you motivate your team to perform and excel? How do you boost levels of discretionary effort and truly engage your workforce? As a recruitment agency, we focus largely on finding the right talent for the right position. But the other side of the coin is retention. We want to help organisations keep hold of the performers we source, and one surefire way of doing so is by finding the right way to motivate them.

A lot has been said about extrinsic motivators and their importance — this includes good salaries, cash bonuses and perks such as gift cards, company lunches or your birthday off. These motivators are undoubtedly important, but if you want to retain top talent, you can’t ignore intrinsic motivation. 

Intrinsic motivation comes from inside you — it’s internally rewarding and results in a real sense of personal satisfaction. Research has found that intrinsic motivation usually results in the best outcomes and creates higher levels of employee engagement. Intrinsic motivation allows us to perform at our very best

There are three main elements of intrinsic motivation — autonomy, purpose and mastery. Create a company culture that allows for all three, and you have a great recipe for productivity and employee satisfaction.

But what are some real-world examples we can look to and learn from? Our experience in interviewing job seekers and qualified professionals has taught us that the following intrinsic motivators are the most effective (and desired), regardless of sector or experience.

Related: 12 Simple Ways to Increase Motivation in the Workplace

10 Intrinsic Motivators (And Why They Even Matter) CMD Recruitment

1. A genuine sense of autonomy

It’s tempting to want to manage every aspect of your company — you’re invested in its success, after all, and you are ultimately accountable for its fate. But micromanaging your employees is incredibly counterproductive and could result in frustrated, disengaged employees who will take any opportunity to jump ship.

You want to fill your ranks full of dedicated, driven and independent-minded employees. So allow them space to flourish. Employees generally want the freedom to make their own decisions, and they crave a degree of control over their own work. This can be a powerful intrinsic motivator. When employees have autonomy over their work, they have a sense of ownership and responsibility — they’re ultimately more invested, which will boost productivity and job satisfaction. In fact, Harvard Business Review has claimed that autonomy might even be more of a motivator for employees than flexibility.

2. Skill mastery

Did you know the vast majority (an incredible 83%) of employees see learning and development as a ‘vital factor’ behind their choice of employer? Employees don’t want to show up to work and do the same thing day after day for years on end. They want to improve and learn — mastery in itself can be a really strong motivator. As recruitment experts, we’ve found that when companies provide employees with regular training opportunities, talent sticks around for longer. It’s simple — the pursuit of mastery can lead to a greater sense of achievement. And it’s good news for employers, too. Employees who are able to develop are more skilled and, as a result, more of an asset.

10 Intrinsic Motivators (And Why They Even Matter) CMD Recruitment

3. A sense of purpose

A sense of purpose is a huge determining factor when it comes to employee engagement levels. More often than not, people are deeply motivated by a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. For most employees these days, work is about more than just a paycheck. We spend a lot of our time at work — we want it to mean something. We want it to matter. We want it to align with our values. 

When employees understand how their role aligns with the company’s overall mission and values, they are more likely to feel connected to their work and committed to the organisation — and committed employees generally go above and beyond.

4. Recognition and feedback

The power of regular, honest feedback can’t be overstated. Imagine the following scenario — you work solidly for days and months on end. You are putting your all into your work. You are genuinely trying your best for your company and you’re exceeding all your assigned objectives. But all you get from your higher-ups is silence. It’s easy to see how you might get disillusioned, frustrated and demotivated in the long run. After all, we like to know that the work we’re doing matters — and that it’s being seen.

Positive feedback and recognition for a job well done can be a powerful intrinsic motivator. But it’s not just positive feedback that employees crave. They also want to know where they are going wrong, to highlight areas for improvement and training opportunities. As long as you are communicating feedback regularly and authentically, while respecting your employees, you really can’t go wrong — but here’s some great advice on how to give feedback to employees.

10 Intrinsic Motivators (And Why They Even Matter) CMD Recruitment

5. Challenging work

The thing about great employees is that they like to be challenged. We touched on this previously when discussing training and development — truly determined employees aren’t good at remaining stagnant. They want to excel. They want a role that is challenging but attainable — attainable being the key word. You don’t want to set unrealistic standards or expectations. 

It’s tricky to get the balance right — when tasks are too easy, boredom can set in, and when they are too difficult, frustration may arise. However, when you strike the right balance by providing challenging work that matches an employee’s skills and abilities, you will be able to keep them incredibly motivated and engaged.

6. Inclusivity and teamwork

We’re at work more than we’re at home. When you consider that alongside the fact that human beings are tribal creatures, it’s understandable that employees seek a sense of community and belonging at work.

The most forward-thinking companies make great efforts to create workspaces that aren’t all about work. They’re also about team building and collaboration. They’re about social bonds and camaraderie. Creating such a culture provides great intrinsic motivation for the average employee.

10 Intrinsic Motivators (And Why They Even Matter) CMD Recruitment

7. Flexibility

Offering flexibility in work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours, can be a significant intrinsic motivator, and one we had to mention in this list. We all have lives, and while work is an important part of our identity, we have other commitments that we need to accommodate. Companies who keep this in mind generally reap the best rewards and see increased levels of morale and engagement.

8. Career development

You want to hire the best — but this type of person isn’t going to want to remain in the same position year after year. If we’re realistic, they’ll be looking for the next opportunity within a few years, and if they don’t find it with you, they will more than likely look elsewhere. 

Providing opportunities for career growth and advancement within the organisation is a powerful intrinsic motivator. When employees see a clear path for career progression, they are more likely to stay with the company and invest in their own development. Take the time to outline routes of progression for your employees — be honest and give them concrete steps that must be taken to proceed and, if possible, give time frames.

10 Intrinsic Motivators (And Why They Even Matter) CMD Recruitment

9. Innovation and creativity

Encouraging employees to think creatively and contribute innovative ideas can be hugely motivating. When employees are given the freedom to innovate, it stimulates their creativity and problem-solving skills — and did you know that creative insights can actually activate the pleasure centres of our brains? The well-known rewards of innovation are the reason why some companies, including Apple and LinkedIn, provide employees with allocated work time to pursue innovative projects outside their normal responsibilities.

10. Work-life balance

It should go without saying, but supporting a healthy work-life balance is a crucial intrinsic motivator. Employees who feel that their organisation values their well-being and supports their personal lives are more likely to remain loyal to the company. We want to be more than just a cog in a machine, and most employees respect companies who show that they know that work is far from the be-all-end-all.

Understanding and making use of the power of intrinsic motivation can make all the difference in attracting and retaining top employees while giving them just what they need to go above and beyond. Whether it’s a flexible work schedule or dedicated training time, honouring autonomy, mastery and purpose can really provide the catalyst to improved performance and a more dedicated workforce.

Are you looking to fill a vacancy? CMD Recruitment are experienced, driven recruitment specialists who will work with you to find just the right candidate for you. Get in touch today to see how we can help you.

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