have stellar employee motivation for empowered agents

How to Use Intrinsic Motivation to Empower Your Call Center Agents

More money does not equal more employee motivation.

Too many managers think the key to employee motivation is giving out performance-based raises or incentives. People, you think, will work harder for an uptick in their monthly paycheck.

But this tactic actually doesn’t do too much, according to an analysis of 120 years of research on workplace satisfaction culled through by the Harvard Business Review. They found little correlation between pay and job satisfaction. And one study found incentives targeting extrinsic motivations actually had a negative impact on employees’ intrinsic motivators.

Understanding how people respond to the different types of motivation can help you to be a better leader, and it can increase the productivity of your team.

The Types of Motivation

Motivation comes served up in two ways, either intrinsic or extrinsic. Both are important.

In the simplest of terms, intrinsic motivation is doing something because it’s personally rewarding for you where extrinsic motivation is doing something to for a tangible prize – or to skip out on a punishment.

We all have different reasons why we do what we do. And cultivating a culture of employee motivation isn’t always as simple as cracking the whip or offering up cash incentives.

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

When you’re intrinsically motivated, you’re doing something because of an internal desire. For instance, you clean your desk because it helps you feel organized, or you align to your company’s vision because it gives you a meaningful purpose for your day-to-day motivation.

But intrinsic motivation isn’t one-size-fits-all. Managers need to take a hands-on approach and dig in to find their agents’ unique motivators to empower.

What is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivators are the tangible rewards. They don’t just involve bribery – though bribery can work. But in some cases, people may never be internally motivated to complete a task, and extrinsic motivation can be used to get the job done.

In fact, extrinsic rewards can promote interest in a task or skill an agent didn’t previously have any interest in. Rewards like praise, commissions, bonuses or prizes can motivate your team to learn new skills or provide tangible feedback beyond verbal praise or admonishment.

As a manager, use extrinsic rewards sparingly to motivate your team to take on new responsibilities or meet lofty goals. Bonuses, commissions, recognition prizes or a promotion can be effective ways to motivate or reward your team for learning new skills, taking on new challenges or meeting your goals.

The Link Between Motivation and Empowerment.

While things like pay are certainly necessary to attract talent, it’s not what’s going to motivate your team to stay. In fact, a study out of Gallup suggests only 12 percent of workers actually leave for pay-related reasons. Instead, your agents are looking for more autonomy, flexibility and a chance to lead a better life.

Business operating systems built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators don’t work. And, they often cause harm to your team’s motivation. Back in 2011, the London School of Economics published a review of more than 50 studies about what motivates people at work. They found workers put in more effort when they’re intrinsically motivated and if they felt appreciated by their colleagues.

Here are a few tips on how to empower your team into self-motivation:

1. Set Clear Expectations

Some 63 percent of employees say they’ve wasted time at work because they didn’t know what was a priority and what wasn’t. As a leader, it’s your job (literally) to work with your agents to set clear, measurable goals.

Communicate so clearly that there’s no room for interpretation about what you really mean. It’s tough for a team to succeed if they don’t know what the expectations are. So, work with your agents to set and define your goals, objectives and key results that support the department and organization. Then, help your agents see how their objectives (read: their efforts) are aligned to the company’s strategic outcomes.

2. Show Appreciation

A sense of appreciation is the single most sustainable motivator at work.

Research has shown praise can help to increase intrinsic motivation. Positive feedback that’s sincere, promotes autonomy, and conveys attainable standards can empower your team on the daily.

For most of us, it seems the word thanks is mostly just a nice way to end your emails, but not a whole lot else. But in a survey of 2,000 working Americans, 81 percent said they’d work harder for an appreciative boss. And, 70 percent said they’d feel better about themselves and the work they do if their boss thanked them more often.

And yet, gratitude at the office appears to be pretty rare, with a mere 10 percent of survey respondents saying they showed their colleagues gratitude.

3. Give (and ask for) Specific Feedback

Vague feedback, whether it’s positive or constructive, isn’t helpful. And from your agent’s perspective, it’s open to interpretation. Feedback that lacks detail can come across as half-hearted, impersonal, and non-urgent. It’s feedback for the sake of feedback.

Instead, create a culture of feedback to get an uptick in employee motivation. Focus on helping your agent know exactly what actions, methods or behaviors were on point, and what missed the mark. We’re all adults, and sometimes difficult conversations must be had. Use specific examples and focus on being kind and clear in your feedback.