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Five intrinsic motivators and how they impact employee engagement at work

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

Many out of the box gamification solutions operate with the idea that what makes employees tick can easily be distilled down to a handful of badges and leaderboards. These types of solutions do have their benefits – they're quick and easy to launch and they usually create an initial spike in engagement, but to see sustained engagement and long-term results, companies need to create a thoughtful program based on proven gamification strategy and tap into their employees' intrinsic motivators.

Engaging employees with intrinsic motivators

How can you engage employees in a sustainable and positive way? Firstly, 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 by simply adding a trophy.

You need to begin understanding the distinct intrinsic motivators of your employees — and how those motivators link to your business success. And this starts with understanding a few fundamentals of human motivation. Check out our white paper, Using Gamification to Engage Employees for some real-world examples.

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 spark interest and promote participation. This path to clear goals and outcomes lays the foundation for a successful program because while the steps leverage extrinsic tactics, they tap into intrinsic motivation – the internal, emotional fuel that drives humans to engage in an activity because it is personally rewarding.

Five intrinsic motivators

There are five specific intrinsic motivators that have the most impact on performance.


"I control." It is important for people to feel like they control and have a choice regarding their participation. 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.


"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 psyche emotional and possibly financial rewards that come from doing something that a) couldn't be done before; and b) not everyone else can do.


"I make a difference." Every employee needs to feel like they're making a difference and that their efforts and accomplishments have meaning.


"I achieve." People respond well when they see that they are making progress on a goal — 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 recognised and appreciated.

These intrinsic motivators are seldom integrated into the workplace and that misstep can often negatively impact employee engagement.

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

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.

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, download our white paper, Using Gamification to Engage Employees.

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