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Intrinsic rewards are non-monetary motivators that come from within an individual and are related to their job satisfaction, sense of accomplishment, and personal growth. These rewards are essential for long-term employee motivation and engagement.

In today's fast-paced and dynamic workplace environment, organizations increasingly recognise the significance of intrinsic rewards in nurturing a motivated, engaged, and satisfied workforce.

We will explore 12 unique and effective intrinsic rewards that inspire employees and contribute to companies' overall success. From fostering a sense of purpose to providing opportunities for personal growth, we'll explore how these rewards can transform workplaces into thriving hubs of productivity and innovation.

So, let's dive in and discover the power of intrinsic motivation in driving employee excellence.

12 Intrinsic rewards for employee motivation

Here are 12 intrinsic rewards, along with examples of well-known companies that have successfully implemented them:

1. Meaningful work and purpose

Employees find intrinsic motivation when their work is meaningful and aligned with a larger purpose or mission. When they can see the impact of their contributions on the organization, society, or the world, it fosters a sense of fulfilment and commitment.

For example:

Patagonia: Patagonia is a well-known outdoor clothing company that has a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. Employees at Patagonia are motivated by the company's mission to "save our home planet." They engage in projects and initiatives that promote sustainability, which gives their work a profound sense of purpose.

Tesla: Tesla's mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy. Employees working on electric vehicle and clean energy projects often express a strong sense of purpose, knowing that their efforts contribute to a more sustainable future.

2. Personal growth and development

Providing opportunities for personal and professional development is a powerful intrinsic reward. When employees have the chance to learn, grow, and develop their skills, they feel more engaged and satisfied in their roles.

For example:

Microsoft: Microsoft offers a wide range of internal training programs and resources, including access to online courses and certifications. Employees have the opportunity to continuously develop their skills and advance their careers within the company.

General Electric (GE): GE's leadership development programs are renowned for nurturing talent within the organization. They invest in leadership training and mentorship to help employees achieve personal and professional growth.

3. Autonomy and ownership

Granting employees autonomy and ownership over their work is another effective intrinsic reward. When individuals are free to make decisions, be creative, and take responsibility for their tasks, they are more motivated and engaged.

For example:

3M: 3M is known for its "15% Time" policy, which allows employees to spend up to 15% of their work hours on projects of their choice. This autonomy has led to innovations like Post-it Notes and Scotchgard, which were developed by employees pursuing their own ideas.

Zappos: Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer, encourages employees to take ownership of customer interactions and provides them with autonomy to go the extra mile to satisfy customers. This approach has helped create a customer-centric culture and drive success.

4. Recognition and appreciation

Recognizing and appreciating employees' contributions and achievements can be a powerful intrinsic motivator. Employees feeling valued and appreciated boosts their self-esteem, job satisfaction, and overall motivation.

For example:

IBM: IBM has a program called "IBM Bravo!" which allows employees to give each other Bravo awards as a form of recognition for outstanding contributions. This recognition program not only boosts morale but also reinforces a culture of appreciation within the company.

Cisco: Cisco's "Connected Recognition" program enables employees to send virtual tokens of appreciation to their colleagues. This program encourages peer-to-peer recognition and reinforces a sense of belonging and teamwork.

5. Work-life balance and flexibility

Offering employees the flexibility to manage their work-life balance is an intrinsic reward that can significantly motivate them. When employees have control over their schedules and can adapt work to their personal lives, it enhances their overall job satisfaction and well-being.

For example:

HubSpot: HubSpot has a "Flexible Vacation" policy that allows employees to take as much time off as they need, as long as their work is getting done. This approach empowers employees to manage their own work-life balance and has contributed to high employee retention rates.

Adobe: Adobe offers flexible work arrangements, including remote work options and flexible hours. This flexibility has been especially valuable in attracting and retaining top talent and has positively impacted employee motivation.

6. Challenging and engaging tasks

Assigning employees challenging and engaging tasks that align with their skills and interests can motivate them. When employees are intellectually stimulated and feel a sense of mastery, they are more likely to be motivated and satisfied in their roles.

For example:

NASA: NASA provides its employees with opportunities to work on groundbreaking space exploration missions and cutting-edge research. The complexity and significance of the work inherently motivate employees to excel in their roles.

Pixar Animation Studios: At Pixar, employees are constantly challenged with creating innovative and visually stunning animations. The creative and technically demanding nature of their work motivates animators and artists to push the boundaries of storytelling and animation.

7. Peer-to-peer skill sharing and learning

Encourage employees to share their unique skills and knowledge with their colleagues. Create a platform or program where employees can offer workshops, tutorials, or mentorship sessions to teach others something valuable.

This not only fosters a culture of learning but also gives employees a sense of pride and accomplishment.

For example:

At Spotify, employees have the opportunity to host "Learning Labs," where they can teach their coworkers about various topics, from coding languages to hobbies like cooking or photography. This initiative promotes skill-sharing and strengthens the sense of community and personal growth.

8. Innovation time off (ITO)

Allocate a dedicated amount of time each month or quarter where employees can work on projects of their own choosing that align with the company's goals or values. This time off allows them to explore new ideas, technologies, or innovations that could benefit the organization.

For example:

At 3M, they famously implemented the "15% Time" policy, which allows employees to spend a portion of their work hours on self-directed projects. This policy has led to numerous innovations, including Post-it Notes and the development of new products.

9. Community impact initiatives

Encourage employees to get involved in community impact projects during work hours. Provide opportunities for them to volunteer, contribute their skills to local non-profit organizations, or support environmental sustainability efforts. This gives employees a sense of purpose and strengthens the company's social responsibility.

For example:

Salesforce has a "1-1-1 Model" where they commit 1% of their product, 1% of equity, and 1% of employees' time to community service. Employees are encouraged to volunteer and actively contribute to causes they care about, which helps foster a sense of social responsibility and fulfilment.

10. Innovation contests and challenges

Organize innovation contests or challenges within the company, where employees can submit their creative ideas or solutions to specific business problems.

Recognize and reward the winning ideas with recognition, resources, or opportunities to implement them.

For example:

IBM runs the "IBM Garage Innovation Challenges," where employees are encouraged to submit innovative ideas for improving products or processes. Winning teams receive funding and support to turn their ideas into reality, fostering a culture of innovation.

11. Learning and adventure grants

Provide employees with the opportunity to apply for learning or adventure grants. These grants can be used to fund educational pursuits, travel experiences, or personal development projects that align with the company's values or goals. Such experiences can broaden horizons and inspire creativity.

For example:

At Airbnb, they offer employees an annual "$2,000 Airbnb Travel Credit" that they can use to explore new destinations and gain a deeper understanding of the travel industry, which is central to the company's mission of connecting people around the world.

12. Personalized career development plans

Create personalized career development plans for each employee based on their skills, interests, and career aspirations. Provide them with opportunities for skill-building, mentorship, and career progression within the organization.

For example:

Deloitte is known for its "Career Journey" program, which helps employees create tailored career development plans. Deloitte provides resources, training, and guidance to help employees achieve their career goals, fostering a strong commitment to the company.

These additional ideas for intrinsic rewards focus on fostering innovation, personal growth, and individualized career development. By implementing such initiatives, companies can motivate their employees and enhance their skills and capabilities, ultimately benefiting the organization as a whole.

Impact of intrinsic rewards on employee performance

Intrinsic rewards are crucial in influencing employee performance and overall job satisfaction. Unlike extrinsic rewards, such as salary or bonuses, which come from external sources, intrinsic rewards are derived from within the individual. They are closely tied to the nature of the work itself.

Here are some ways in which intrinsic rewards can impact employee performance:

1. Increased motivation

When employees find their work inherently meaningful, interesting, or challenging, they are more motivated to perform at their best. Intrinsic motivation is driven by a genuine passion for the task or a sense of personal accomplishment, which can lead to higher levels of effort and persistence.

2. Enhanced job satisfaction

Intrinsic rewards contribute significantly to job satisfaction. Employees who feel that their work aligns with their values and interests tend to be more satisfied with their jobs. This satisfaction can lead to higher morale and a greater sense of well-being, which can, in turn, positively affect performance.

3. Higher engagement

Intrinsic rewards are often associated with a sense of engagement and flow, where employees become fully absorbed in their work. This flow state can improve concentration, creativity, and productivity, ultimately resulting in better performance.

4. Reduced turnover

Employees who experience intrinsic rewards are less likely to seek alternative job opportunities. They are more likely to stay with their current employer, reducing turnover rates and the associated costs of hiring and training new employees.

5. Quality of work

Intrinsic rewards are often linked to a sense of pride in one's work. When employees take personal satisfaction in what they do, they are more likely to produce high-quality results, leading to improved performance outcomes.

6. Innovation and problem-solving

Intrinsic motivation fosters a mindset of exploration and experimentation. Intrinsically motivated employees are more inclined to seek innovative solutions to challenges and actively engage in problem-solving, which can positively impact performance and the organization's overall competitiveness.

7. Collaboration and teamwork

Intrinsic rewards can also influence how employees interact with their colleagues. When individuals are motivated by a genuine interest in their work, they are more likely to collaborate effectively with their team members, leading to better collective performance.

8. Long-term commitment

Intrinsic rewards contribute to a sense of commitment to the organization's mission and values. Employees who derive personal meaning from their work are more likely to remain loyal to their employer over the long term, which can benefit the organization's stability and success.

To harness the impact of intrinsic rewards on employee performance, organizations should focus on creating a work environment that promotes autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Providing opportunities for skill development, offering challenging and meaningful tasks, and recognizing and celebrating individual and team achievements can enhance intrinsic motivation and employee performance.


Intrinsic rewards play a pivotal role in motivating and engaging employees. From meaningful work and personal growth opportunities to innovative initiatives like learning grants and career development plans, organizations can harness these intrinsic motivators to create a workplace culture that fosters fulfilment, loyalty, and outstanding performance.

By recognizing the importance of these rewards and implementing them creatively, businesses can boost employee motivation and pave the way for sustained success and growth.

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