How to Motivate Your Teams With Intrinsic Rewards

What would you do if you had to convince people to work with you, without getting a paycheck? Yes, explaining purpose—how their work contributes to the bigger picture—is a good start, but it may not be enough. Individuals respond differently to different forms of motivation, and part of your role as leader is to figure out the right mix for your team.

“Accept the fact that we have to treat almost anybody as a volunteer.”

— Peter Drucker

We’ve been researching crowdsourcing lately, and we noticed a lot of parallels between contributing to a crowdsourcing platform and contributing to a team. A paycheck, for instance, is a type of extrinsic motivation, or external reward. We’ve all got bills to pay, but money shouldn’t be the only reason your team shows up. In fact, if you use payment, it could even reduce intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic rewards include:

  • The fun of problem-solving, or the opportunity to be creative
  • The chance to learn a new skill
  • The community interaction (people who have a best friend at work are more focused and less likely to job hop)
  • The “addictive” environment—constant comments, feedback, and input keep people coming back for more

We’re not saying that you should pay your employees (or even interns) like they’re volunteers. But what other reasons are you giving people to get excited and engage in their work? You may have to experiment, but here are a few ideas to keep people motivated in these dog days of summer:

  1. Give people feedback in 1:1s or conduct team retrospectives. What projects did they like most? What did they learn the most on? Identify some projects that will give them new opportunities to learn or work with people they enjoy.
  2. Start an event that encourages creativity. Hyatt set up an internal culinary competition to encourage their kitchen staff to show off their skills, invent new dishes, and win free nights at hotels.
  3. Create exclusive events where they get to interact with other top talent. Apple organizes a yearly “Top 100” retreat, in which the top 100 performers get together and learn about the company’s top secret projects.
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How to Motivate Your Teams With Intrinsic Rewards
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