4 Employee Motivation Types

Motivating employees is crucial for any organization to succeed. There are 4 main types of employee motivation: intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, social motivation and achievement motivation. Understanding these different motivations can help managers maximize employee performance and satisfaction.

Definitions of 4 Employee Motivation Types

  • Intrinsic motivation – The desire to do something based on interest and enjoyment of the task itself. Employees with high intrinsic motivation work on tasks because they find them inherently satisfying.
  • Extrinsic motivation – The desire to do something to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Employees with high extrinsic motivation work to earn incentives like bonuses, commissions or promotions.
  • Social motivation – The desire to be accepted by others. Employees with high social motivation are driven by a need for affiliation and belonging.
  • Achievement motivation – The desire to accomplish challenging goals and advance in skills. Employees high in achievement motivation are driven by a need for achievement and mastery.

Background on 4 Employee Motivation Types

Understanding the differences between intrinsic, extrinsic, social and achievement motivation is important for managers. While all employees are motivated to some degree by each of these factors, individuals often have a dominant motivational driver. Managers need to recognize individual motivations to know how to tailor rewards and incentives.

Intrinsic motivation tends to produce the highest level of employee satisfaction. However, not all tasks are inherently rewarding. Extrinsic rewards can be used to drive motivation for less interesting work. Social motivation thrives in a collaborative team environment. Achievement motivation responds best to stretch goals and career development.

Maximizing Motivation in the Workplace

There are several ways managers can tap into the 4 motivations:

  • Intrinsic – Offer growth opportunities, varied responsibilities, empowerment in decision-making. Design jobs that provide meaning and challenge.
  • Extrinsic – Develop fair compensation plans with performance-based bonuses. Offer praise and recognition. Provide monetary and non-monetary rewards.
  • Social – Foster teamwork and collaboration. Provide mentorship programs. Recognize contributions to the team.
  • Achievement – Set stretch goals. Offer leadership opportunities and challenges. Recognize accomplishments. Provide training and development.

The Value of Understanding Motivation

Recognizing what motivates each employee provides many benefits:

  • Increased productivity and performance
  • Improved employee engagement and morale
  • Enhanced retention rates
  • Better alignment between employee values and organizational goals
  • Allows managers to be more supportive of employees

Tips for Using Motivation Types

Here are 5 tips for harnessing employee motivation types:

  1. Conduct motivation assessments to understand individual drivers.
  2. Link rewards and recognition to specific motivations. Praise an achievement-focused employee for accomplishing a challenging project.
  3. Set goals aligned to motivations. Enable an intrinsically motivated employee to take on a passion project.
  4. Foster motivational fit between employees and their roles. Match achievement-driven individuals with stretch assignments.
  5. Communicate how organizational success aligns with employee motivational needs. Show how a project contributes to the greater good for a socially motivated person.


Understanding intrinsic, extrinsic, social and achievement motivation empowers managers to create an environment where employees are motivated and productive. Assessing individual motivations and aligning rewards and responsibilities to employee drivers is key to maximizing satisfaction and performance. Motivation is powerful, and managers who leverage these psychological insights will propel their teams to success.