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Money is not enough: The importance of intrinsic motivation

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Experts from the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) explain ways to inspire and motivate different groups of employees.

Recognition is a fundamental human need and one of the strongest motivators at work. Progressive organisations understand this and proactively seek new ways to show their appreciation to employees for their good performance and desired behaviours in the workplace.

While extrinsic rewards such as salary increments, bonuses and other monetary incentives are the most commonly used forms of recognition, organisations should not overlook the effectiveness of using intrinsic motivators to complement these monetary forms of recognition.

In order to effectively leverage the value of intrinsic motivators, organisations need to involve the middle managers. These are the ones who have frequent interactions with employees, and thus, have greater insight into their subordinates’ values, priorities, aspirations and goals. With this insight, middle managers can then support and motivate staff to meet the organisation’s goals.

At an organisational level, there must also be the necessary infrastructure and programmes to support and facilitate this. That said, it is important for organisations to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to motivating employees. Consider the following guide to motivate these groups of employees:

For the career-minded

Employees who prioritise career advancement will be the most motivated by training and development opportunities and challenging projects. Recognition for their contributions and training needs is also important. By setting clear achievable goals employees will feel motivated each time the goal is achieved.

For the family-oriented

Juggling between work and family responsibilities is no easy feat. For employees with multiple responsibilities and interests outside of work, employers can consider providing flexible work arrangements which give employees greater ownership and control of their personal time and working hours. This will enable them to manage their responsibilities outside of work.

For the socially motivated

These employees are most motivated by the work environment and place great value on social relationships. A pat on their back for a job well done will keep them motivated. Providing regular and constructive feedback and adopting the appropriate coaching style can also help to effectively build trust and spur these employees to stay committed and engaged at work.

The impact of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators is enhanced when a combination of the two is used, and organisations must note that the priorities and values of each employee differs and may change over time.

Hence, agile organisations that proactively anticipate changing employee needs and motivators will be able to continually engage them through multiple touchpoints and incentivise them appropriately to elicit the best performance.


TAFEP holds regular workshops to help employers and HR professionals keep abreast of HR best practices. Visit www.tafep.sg to find out more.



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