Workplaces are dynamic, right? There are so many moving parts, in every size team, in every industry, it’s tough to create a ‘one size fits all’ approach to improving productivity. However, one approach you can rely on to always deliver is, recognition.

Going beyond mere acknowledgement, or “Oh yes, you are an employee”, well delivered, thought out and real recognition can be a catalyst for sky high productivity, safety, and overall business success. The brilliant teams at Gallup and Workhuman put together a recent report that I’m keen to share with you; “From Praise to Profits: The Business Case for Recognition at Work.” In this fascinating article, the impact of recognition on intrinsic motivation is particularly profound.

But what exactly is intrinsic motivation (and its cousin, extrinsic motivation?)

When we’re talking about motivation, there are two key forces which drive human behaviour – extrinsic and intrinsic factors.

Extrinsic factors – show me the money

These are the external motivators we commonly associate with the workplace, such as monetary rewards, bonuses, or promotions. While these exchanges of fundamental basics are essential, extrinsic factors as a motivator have their limitations. They can only go so far in inspiring employees and may not foster sustained enthusiasm.

Intrinsic factors – where your heart is

Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, acts as a powerful force that draws individuals toward activities they find inherently rewarding. When teams are motivated by the joy, satisfaction, and fulfilment they get from their work, it becomes a game-changer.

But how does recognition unlock intrinsic motivation?

You can look at recognition as a pivotal bridge snuggled closely between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. When teams feel genuinely valued (and I mean genuinely, not just “oh thanks, by the way”) for both who they are and the contributions they make, it triggers a transformation in their behaviour which is a marvel to witness, I can assure you.

Intrinsic motivation is like a magnet that draws us toward activities that are fascinating, enjoyable and fun for their own sake.”

But how do you uncover what motivates someone intrinsically?

There is an art to recognising intrinsic motivation and it comes from a fully personalised approach. Leaders need to engage in open communication, actively seeking insights into what drives each team member on a deeper level, this could be as simple as finding out about their home-life to offer flexible hours, or learning that someone loves to lead, and taking them down the people-management promotional route. However the leader achieves a personalised approach, by creating an open culture that encourages dialogue and purposeful communication, businesses can uncover the unique intrinsic motivators that fuel their employees’ passion and dedication.

Why aren’t we using this approach in schools?

If we know the significant benefits to recognising individuals for their unique qualities and contributions in the workplace, why aren’t we applying these principles in education? It leads me to wonder how we can leverage these insights to create more engaging and motivating learning environments in schools?

Bringing the lessons from business into education could revolutionise how we approach teaching and learning. By understanding and acknowledging the intrinsic motivators of students, educators can tailor their approaches to create environments that inspire a love for learning, not just because students HAVE to pass exams or HAVE to attend school.

Do you feel your organisation understands how recognition has a profound effect on intrinsic motivation? Has it been a game-changer for your business? How could you channel the dual forces of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation to help your organisation build a culture of recognition to tap into the true potential of your teams? I’d love to find out if you use these simple, yet game-changing ideas, you too can create a workplace where individuals thrive, contribute meaningfully, and drive collective success. And then, perhaps we can bring this game-changer into education? Who’s with me?