Using Intrinsic Motivation for Long-Term Results in Your Wellness Program

Posted by Becky Squiers on Mon, Aug, 31, 2015

Intrinsic MotivationLong-term results should be the ultimate goal of your employee wellness program. What’s the point of investing in your employees’ health habits unless those habits are around for the long haul?!

It turns out that different types of motivation can play a role in the how long new habits or choices last, especially when it comes to health. The different types of motivation are called extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic Motivation

This is motivation that comes from outside sources. The individual’s motivation to take part in a behavior is not directly related to the actual action. It’s reliant on external sources like rewards, competition and praise.

This type of motivation tends to lead to short term change. The motivation subsides when the external motivator is removed.

Intrinsic Motivation

This type of motivation comes from the task itself. It involves enjoying or being interested in the behavior. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the individual, making outside sources unnecessary. An example would be a person choosing to run for exercise because it makes him or her feel good and hey or she enjoys running.

Intrinsic motivation is the long-term motivator because, as we said, it comes from within the individual. There is a stronger connection to the motivation when it’s internal, and therefore the person can draw on that motivation for a very long time.

Aside from being a longer-term solution, drawing on intrinsic motivation can also help individuals outperform those who draw on extrinsic motivation because they feel more invested in the task. Intrinsic motivation also obviously uses fewer resources than extrinsic because you won’t need to secure external rewards.

While intrinsic is clearly a more effective motivator, it’s important to recognize that both types are important. Extrinsic motivation is an excellent “first step” while the intrinsic motivation is being learned.

For example, if you offer a wellness activity that includes exercise, some people might not be interested in exercise. An external reward for getting involved is a great way to get these people in the door before they develop an interest in and internal motivation to exercise.

Ideally, you should appeal to your employees’ intrinsic motivation as best you can. Here are a few ideas to help you boost and utilize intrinsic motivation when it comes to your employee wellness program.

  1. Give your employees a chance. Let them have some freedom and flexibility to choose wellness activities they’re interested in.
  2. Spark employee curiosity to inspire your workforce to seek info. When they do the research and arrive at the solution themselves, they’ll be more invested internally.
  3. Develop an atmosphere of teamwork. Employees need to feel like they belong and are seen so they can take healthy steps.
  4. Communicate about the meaning behind and benefits of your wellness activities rather than just about the incentives.
  5. Reward wisely. If you choose to use external motivators, avoid centering the program on the reward. Try to reward strategically and focus on cooperation.
  6. Allow employees to see their progress easily. Make their information accessible so they can manage it on their own.
  7. Emphasize the fun of the event. Focus on the positives and make your program enjoyable.
  8. Identify your employees' personal intentions, goals and beliefs. Really listen to what your employees are interested in and try to deliver as best you can.
  9. Educate your employees with health how-to’s so they feel empowered to make correct healthy choices in their lives.

Ultimately, intrinsic motivation is what will drive success in your employee wellness program. Sometimes drawing on external motivators can be useful, but be strategic when you do so. In the end, a focus on intrinsic motivation will help you and your employees thrive.

How do you motivate your employees to make healthy choices?


Open Letter


Subscribe Here!

Recent Posts