top of page
  • Writer's pictureLaura Atkinson

Unveiling the Driving Forces: What Motivates People at Work?

Motivated woman on pier at sunset

In today's workplaces, it’s more important than ever for organisations to recognise what motivates individuals to perform at their best.  

Motivation serves as the engine that propels employees toward achieving their goals. It drives innovation and fosters a positive culture.

However, the factors that fuel motivation can vary widely from person to person. These factors are influenced by a variety of internal and external dynamics.

Identifying these motivations within your team will inevitably boost overall engagement with your organisation.

But how are motivations identified and understood with so much variety in play? Dan Pink talks about the puzzle of motivation, and what the key areas of consideration are.

Intrinsic Motivation: The Power Within

At the core of intrinsic motivation lies the inherent desire to engage in activities that are inherently rewarding and fulfilling. People are driven by a sense of purpose, mastery, and autonomy in their work.

They derive satisfaction from the value of their tasks, the opportunity to learn and grow, and the freedom to make meaningful contributions.

1. Purpose and Meaning

People are motivated when they perceive their work as meaningful and aligned with their values, beliefs, and aspirations. Understanding how their contributions positively impact the organisation, society, or the world at large fosters a deep sense of purpose and fulfilment.

2. Mastery and Growth

The pursuit of mastery and personal development fuels intrinsic motivation. People are motivated by opportunities to expand their skills, knowledge, and expertise, challenging themselves to reach new heights of proficiency and excellence.

3. Autonomy and Control

Empowering individuals with autonomy and control over their work cultivates a sense of ownership and accountability. When individuals have the freedom to make decisions, set priorities, and shape their workflow, they feel empowered to unleash their creativity and innovation.

Extrinsic Motivation: Beyond the Self

Extrinsic motivators stem from external rewards, incentives, and recognition bestowed upon people for their efforts and achievements. While intrinsic motivation drives self-fulfilment, extrinsic motivators serve as tangible reinforcements that reinforce desired behaviours and outcomes.

1. Compensation and Rewards

Fair and competitive compensation serves as a fundamental extrinsic motivator for employees. Monetary rewards, bonuses, and benefits recognise individuals for their contributions and provide tangible incentives for performance and productivity.

2. Recognition and Appreciation

Acknowledgment and appreciation of efforts and accomplishments are powerful drivers of motivation. Whether through verbal praise, awards, or formal recognition programs, positive reinforcement reinforces desired behaviours and fosters a culture of appreciation and gratitude.

3. Career Advancement and Opportunities

Many people are motivated by the prospect of career advancement, professional growth, and new opportunities for learning and development. Clear pathways for progression, challenging assignments, and leadership roles inspire individuals to strive for excellence and invest in their long-term career aspirations.

Social Motivation: The Power of Connection

Human beings are inherently social creatures, and the quality of interpersonal relationships within the workplace profoundly influences motivation and engagement.

1. Collaboration and Teamwork

Collaborative environments that foster teamwork, camaraderie, and mutual support create a sense of belonging and community within teams. Shared goals, collective achievements, and collaborative problem-solving inspire individuals to invest in the success of the team.

2. Mentorship and Coaching

Meaningful relationships with mentors, coaches, and peers provide valuable guidance, support, and encouragement. Mentorship programs facilitate knowledge sharing, skill development, and career guidance, nurturing a culture of continuous learning and growth.

3. Organisational Culture and Values

A positive and inclusive organisational culture that values diversity, respect, and integrity, develops a sense of belonging and shared purpose. When people feel aligned with the organisation's values and culture, they are more motivated to contribute their talents and efforts towards collective success.


So, what motivates people at work?  

The answer is, there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that works!

Motivation is as individual as the people within the organisation. But, by understanding the diverse array of motivators that resonate with individuals, organisations can create environments that inspire passion, engagement, and high performance.

As leaders and managers, it's essential to foster a culture of purpose, recognition, and collaboration, and that empowers employees to thrive, grow, and achieve their full potential.

Ultimately, by tapping into each individuals’ dimensions of motivation, organisations can unlock the full potential of their most valuable asset - their people.


Don’t miss out on our latest Blogs; sign up for our e-newsletter to receive monthly resources, tips, tools and our latest news here. 


bottom of page