Wednesday, December 02, 2015

How Do You Enhance Instrinsic Motivation?

Jane Porter has written an article this week for Fast Company on the topic of intrinsic motivation.  Porter writes:

It's easy to hustle through our daily tasks, head down, focused on what's next on the long list of to-dos. But taking a step back to evaluate what really motivates and drives us is critical, not just for our well-being, but also, as research has shown, for our productivity.  Social psychologists call this type of drive "intrinsic motivation," or the desire and urge inside ourselves that propels us to do the work we do and do it well. While we're often motivated by external factors like pay, approval, or recognition, research has shown that intrinsic motivation is fundamental not just for our long-term happiness, but also for the quality of our work.

How can organizations enhance the intrinsic motivation of their employees?   I would urge managers to consider the lessons imparted by social psychologist J. Richard Hackman in his work on job design many years ago.  Hackman argues that five elements of job design have a strong impact on the intrinsic motivation of workers:  skill variety, whole task, task significance, autonomy, and clear and immediate feedback.   By skill variety, Hackman means that employees should not be performing the same monotonous task all day. They should able to use a range of their capabilities.   Whole task means that we cannot get carried away with the division of labor.  We should enable workers to be part of completing more than one minor step in a more complex task.  Third, workers need to understand the importance of their work.  What does it mean for the organization?  Sometimes we refer to this as establishing a line of sight.  Can workers see how what they are doing has impact throughout the firm, all the way to the customer?  Fourth, workers will be more intrinsically motivated if they have some autonomy in terms of how they do their work. Finally, employees need clear, constructive, and immediate feedback.  They need to know where they stand.   If you design the work in this way, you are likely to have workers who are more intrinsically motivated, and therefore, more engaged, satisfied, and productive. 

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