New Territory For Intrinsic™

It has long been recognized that motivation is a crucial part of the performance equation, but many organizations are still suffering the consequences of overlooking the fact that with zero motivation any amount of ability will result in zero performance. Over the last decade or so, the employee engagement movement (now known as Engage for Success) has been at pains to establish that taking steps to ensure employees are fully engaged with their jobs will have significant impact on organizational performance. So what's the connection?

Well, at the most fundamental level, motivation and engagement are virtually synonymous. For example, a review by May et al (2004) points out that research on intrinsic motivation and employee engagement traces its roots to the same two constructs, namely, identifying with the nature of the task and encountering appropriate challenge. The common factor here is the 'meaningfulness' of the job, which according to the Kingston Report (2010) is "the most important driver of engagement for all employee groups":

Motovation and Engagement

This was the starting point for devising the Intrinsic™ psychometric, with the two parts of the instrument representing what you want to do and how you want to do it in order to define the individual's ideal role from a motivational point of view.

How is Intrinsic™ used in this context and what are the benefits?

One reason for the lack of attention paid to the motivation factor is the enduring appeal of competency assessment as a more immediate solution. However, as long ago as 1996 the International Competency Conference was reporting growing concern that competency frameworks were failing to produce the expected results. This was no surprise to those who consider that assessing the 'can do' without the 'will do' is doing only half the job - once users have come to appreciate the additional information provided by the 'will do' factor they rarely go back to assessing competency alone.

Perhaps the real value of the Engage for Success movement is that it is inadvertently raising awareness that motivation is at the heart of employee engagement and all the benefits thereof. There is of course more to it than just matching people to jobs, but this may be considered an essential prerequisite for all other engagement strategies - in simple terms, employees who are not where they want to be are unlikely to feel engaged with the organization.

The advantage of a psychometric approach is that it is a very efficient way of generating objective data with more detail than from any other source. This is the kind of information that line managers will take notice of, so Intrinsic is used to add real substance to two-way discussion between managers and their teams. The aim of the exercise is to ensure that employees are as close as realistically possible to where they want to be and line managers are equipped to make best use of them.

How does it work in practice?

Engage for Success make clear that line managers have an important part to play in the success of any engagement strategy, and common sense would suggest that individual differences must be taken into account when considering what employees want from the work situation. So for example, although the majority of people may value more opportunity for social interaction and collaborative working, there will also be many who would much rather be left to get on with the job on their own. And among the brightest young recruits there will be many who struggle to cope without clear targets and guidelines, and others who will be immediately turned off by being told what to do. More generally, whereas some people's notion of realizing their potential is to be all they can be, others will be far more content if allowed to settle for lower level aspirations.

The line manager's part in the process is therefore to facilitate the two-way discussion on what the comments in the Intrinsic™ report represent in the context of the job. The simplest way to do this is to ask the individual to highlight key phrases that strike a chord with them. For example, if they highlight the phrase "She will want to have clear targets and guidelines so that she knows what is required", this should lead to a discussion of how much structure there is in the job at present and what can be done to add more.

Respondents are generally very willing and able to explain how they see their profiles matching up, so responsibility for interpretation rests with them and managers need have no concerns about lacking expertise in this area. Most importantly, there's no such thing as a bad result in this kind of assessment - the aim is to "maintain high quality LMX" (leader-member exchange) as recommended in a recent paper by Loi et al (2014) among others.

Developing supportive supervisors has become the focus of a great deal of research in recent years which includes clear evidence that high level leaders rate them as better performers than less supportive supervisors, and therefore a key part of their investment for organizational growth.

If you would like to know more about Intrinsic or would like to speak to one of our experts to disucss how Intrinsic™ could be used to improve engagement and motivation in your workplace then contact us here.


Kerstin, A., Truss, C., Soane, E. C., Rees, C., & Gatenby, M. (2010). Creating an engaged workforce: findings from the Kingston employee engagement consortium project. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Loi, R., Chan, K. W., & Lam, L. W. (2014). Leader-member exchange, organizational identification, and job satisfaction: A social identity perspective. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 87, 42-61.

May, D. R., Gilson, R. L., & Harter, L. M. (2004). The psychological conditions of meaningfulness, safety and availability and the engagement of the human spirit at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 77, 11-37.