Identifying the Keys to Human Motivation

Human motivation is a process that redirects our behaviors and actions to achieve a specific outcome. It is driven by the sum total of our biological, emotional, social, and cognitive factors. In the context of the average workplace, motivation is often referred to as the ‘why’ that guides our actions. It is the single most powerful driving force behind our actions and can further the envelope on what is possible. 

Motivation comes from two places: intrinsic and extrinsic. 

Intrinsic Motivation

This is a motivation that refers to behaviors driven by internal factors to meet personal needs. We perform these actions because we derive satisfaction from them, not because we have to. 

Extrinsic Motivation

This type of motivation is driven by external factors that seem to come from outside, examples include money, trophies, discounts, sales, and similar outcomes. Even though our goals are driven by outside factors, the result of performing the task is still rewarding. 

A growing body of research shows that utilizing extrinsic motivation is harder than it sounds. One 50-year-old theory, known as the expectancy theory, suggests that the following three factors must align for extrinsic motivators to truly motivate people:

  • Expectancy (you have to believe that an increase in effort will yield better results)
  • Instrumentality (an increase in effort will be exchanged with reward)
  • Valence (a desire for the reward)

In the context of the workplace, it’s easy to see why most employees don’t see any point in increasing their work hours or throughput if they don’t have a desire for the promised reward. Even money, up to a certain point, yields diminishing returns because employees’ desires shift to other forms of reward. 

Leveraging Intrinsic Motivation

This is why employers are now figuring out how to leverage intrinsic motivation to bring out their workforce’s best performance. 

Not so fast though. To capitalize on motivation, you have to first figure out all the possible driving factors for your team. Experts have defined motivation into six categories and have identified 12 driving forces. 

The six categories of motivation are as follows:

  • Knowledge 
  • Utility
  • Surroundings
  • Power
  • Methodologies


Furthermore, each category is defined by two driving forces. It may be useful to measure each motivator on a continuum and describing both ends with two keywords. The continuum helps us classify a person as self-determined or non-self-determined. 

You only have to identify the top 4 driving forces for a person to build their ‘motivation’ profile and understand the factors that drive them.

The table below illustrates the 6 motivators along with their 12 driving forces.

human motivation

Some examples of these driving forces in the workplace are as follows: If you have an employee who has a Resourceful driving force, they will be driven by achieving their goals, getting paid what they feel they are worth, and not wasting time. When someone has a Commanding driving force, they will be motivated by leadership roles, competition, or a career path. If you have someone who has an Altruistic driving force, they will be driven by opportunities to give to charitable causes or mentoring a new employee. 

When you form a person’s motivational profile, you unlock the key to furthering autonomy, mastery, and purpose. 

  • Autonomy refers to an environment where everyone is trusted and encouraged to take ownership of their work. 
  • Mastery refers to the potential of a person when they are given the tool needed to advance their skillset. 
  • Purpose encourages individuals to use their skills to focus on the bigger picture which makes them more passionate about their work.

When your work is aligned with your specific driving forces, you feel energized and inspired to focus on achieving a specific outcome. You will be motivated to perform better every day and reach your full potential.

If you would like to deep dive into the top four driving forces for you (or your team), we have an assessment that can accurately measure it.  Please, contact us today!