Gamification Blog

Five Intrinsic Motivators and How They Impact Employee Engagement

Molly Kittle

06/28/2016

Vice President, Strategic Services
@MolKittle

Every manager craves a highly committed, motivated workforce. When workers are engaged, business performance is better, customer satisfaction scores rise and ultimately, revenues increase.

But keeping employees engaged isn’t easy – particularly in today’s distracted and fragmented workplace. You have to tap into your employees' intrinsic motivators. Boilerplate training programs and dated motivational techniques (contests, SPIFFs, etc.) are expensive, time-intensive and hard to measure. In fact, they do little to keep employees inspired for the long-term – and worse yet, they often have the opposite effect: demoralization. And then motivation sags, productivity lags and the downward spiral picks up momentum from there.

What can you do to turn things around?

First off, if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. And yes, that includes gamification programs. When based on a sound strategy, gamification provides impressive results.  But, too often, it’s approached as a “stunt” or “quick fix” – and applying meaningless game mechanics to a program is not going to fool anyone. You can’t trick people into being motivated with a meaningless trophy.    

And many of these so-called “out of the box” solutions don’t want you to know this. They want you to believe that all employees out there will respond to the same set of basic, boilerplate mechanics. They seem to think that what makes your company and employees tick can be easily distilled down to a handful of badges. Yes, it’s easy to launch a program like this, and you might even see a little spike initially, but don’t expect much long term. If you want to see sustained engagement, you need to create a thoughtful program, and that’s where proven gamification strategy comes in (check out our white paper, Using Gamification to Engage Employees for some real-world examples).

You need to begin by partnering with a provider that understands the distinct motivators of your employees – and how those link to your business success. And this starts with understanding a few fundamentals of human motivation.

Employees become focused when they’re presented with:

  1. a clearly defined goal
  2. a system of measurable progress toward that goal
  3. a notion of increased status when the goal is reached and
  4. meaningful rewards for achieving the goal

These four factors provide the right balance of reinforcement to induce interest and promote participation. They lay the foundation for a successful program because while they leverage extrinsic tactics, they tap into intrinsic motivation – the internal, emotional fuel that drives humans to engage in  an activity for its own sake, because it is personally rewarding.

At Bunchball, we’ve taken it even further. We know that there are five specific intrinsic motivators that have the most impact. These intrinsic motivators are:

  • Autonomy: “I control.” Autonomy in the workplace exists on a continuum – from jobs where employees have none and are told exactly what to do, to jobs where employees have all the autonomy they want, whenever they want it, as long as the work gets done – and everywhere in between.
  • Mastery: “I improve.” Getting better at things is satisfying on a number of fronts. For some employees, it means the job gets easier. For others, it brings the psychic and possibly financial rewards that come from doing something that 1) couldn’t be done before and 2) not everyone else can do.
  • Purpose: “I make a difference.” Every employee needs to feel like they’re making a difference and that their efforts and accomplishments have meaning.
  • Progress: “I achieve.” People respond well when they see that they are making progress on something they care about, whether in the workplace or in life.
  • Social Interaction: “I connect with others.” Humans are innately social creatures, and we want to connect, interact, affiliate, care and share. We also want to be recognized, and we want to understand and be understood.

Unfortunately, intrinsic motivators like these are seldom integrated into the workplace. That’s why employees disengage.

When intrinsic motivators are introduced employees start to see their work as more meaningful, and so they become eager and willing to learn and contribute. As a result, business performance improves, measurably and fast.

Essentially, an effective gamification platform combines three components: 1) what we know about intrinsic motivation, 2) big data analytics and 3) capabilities to scale and sustain. By integrating these factors you can inspire your employees to take action that matters to the business –and you can do it in a way that provides continual motivation, performance gains and business insights. That’s much more powerful than having employees who are passive performing tasks to win a contest or because someone told them to.

How are you motivating your employees? Could gamification help you change your workplace dynamic from “I have to” to “I want to?” Would employees who “want to” help you drive more revenue?

To learn more about how gamification can help you motivate your workforce, including real world results from Bunchball customers, please download our new white paper, Using Gamification to Engage Employees.

First posted on 11/17/2014, updated 6/28/2016

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