Work motivation

We explain what work motivation is and why it is so important. In addition, we explore types of motivation, the factors that influence it, and more.

Motivación laboral
Work motivation positively impacts a company's productivity.

What is work motivation?

Work motivation is an employee's willingness to maintain the effort and dedication in their tasks to achieve organizational goals.

Motivation is an internal state of the individual, so it varies from person to person. It involves a complex neurological, cognitive, and emotional process that drives and keeps an individual active towards the achievement of a goal. However, it can be influenced by external factors, such as ethical norms, values, public recognition, or monetary rewards.

Work motivation has to do, on one hand, with the individual satisfaction generated by performing tasks that are aligned with the interests of the organization, and on the other hand, with the actions done by the company to motivate employees.

Types of motivation

Though motivation varies with each individual, two types can be typically found:

  • Intrinsic motivation. It is the internal will that moves a person to act and engage in a certain behavior over a period of time. It is related to their feelings, desires, and need for self-fulfillment.
    For example: The motivation to get a university degree and do a PhD to practice a profession.
  • Extrinsic motivation. It is the will stimulated by factors external to the person, such as a reward, a prize or a benefit, which move them to act and engage in a certain behavior over a period of time.
    For example: An employee in the sales department striving to increase their monthly sales, to get a bonus.

The interaction between the types of variables (internal and external) and the personality define an individual’s level of motivation.

Factors influencing work motivation

Work motivation is influenced by multiple interrelated factors, the main ones being:

  • Environmental and external factors to the company. These are political and economic contexts that impact the development of a company's activities. For example: state laws that exert control over the import of raw materials can interfere with business productivity levels and costs.
  • Internal factors of the company. These are the variables that influence the organizational climate, i.e. the way in which people perceive the organizational culture determined by internal policies, recruitment methods, the way managers treat staff, remuneration, and recognition.
  • Individual factors. These are the feelings, values, ideas, and beliefs of each person, which stimulate the individual to act towards a certain objective and not another. For example: some people consider money as a way of measuring success, while others consider emotional bonds and relationships.

Theory of work motivation

There are several theories on motivation which are in general approached from psychology. One of the most recognized theories that allows for truly understanding the importance of the process of motivation of an individual is the Hierarchy of Needs theory, by American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1970-present).

Maslow's theory proposes the basic needs to all people. According to this theory, in the attempt to satisfy their needs, a person finds the drive or incentive to act. The degree of motivation to satisfy each need will be influenced by external and internal factors to the individual.

Maslow made a pyramid-shaped graph to illustrate people's basic needs, according to the order of priority to satisfy each one, placing the most important need at the base of the pyramid and, successively from highest to lowest level of priority, the rest of the needs, until reaching the top of the pyramid:

  • Physiological needs. These are at the base of the pyramid. They are the needs that seek to satisfy basic matters, such as food, cleanliness, a home, shelter, and a salary.
  • Safety needs. These are needs that seek to satisfy issues important to the quality of life in society, such as stable employment and health insurance.
  • Social needs. These are the needs that seek to establish interpersonal bonds and relationships. They involve emotional matters, acceptance and belonging to social groups.
  • Esteem needs. These are the needs that seek to achieve personal recognition, beyond group acceptance. They have to do with trust and with the individual's capacity for personal development.
  • Self-actualization needs. These are at the top of the pyramid. They are the needs that seek to satisfy individual matters that give meaning to each person's life. They are related to personal growth: by satisfying social and esteem needs, individual self-actualization can be achieved.

Examples of work motivation

A company striving to keep its employees motivated seeks to achieve more efficient business performance. While the company cannot control the internal or personal factors affecting employees, it can influence them through stimuli and incentives, such as a bonus or reward for achieving a goal.

The expansion of an organization is directly related to the development of its employees. The human resources department management is key to recruiting people and selecting the right staff, i.e. people whose individual interests are aligned with those of the organization.

Some examples of how companies can enhance employee motivation include:

  • Offering adequate and fair remuneration according to the degree of responsibility and working hours.
  • Offering an annual or semi-annual bonus for reaching certain stipulated goals.
  • Offering benefits for being a company employee, such as discounts on a health plan, entertainment services, or paid time off.
  • Treating all staff respectfully, making everyone be part of news and decision-making.
  • Promoting a work-life balance. A company must consider the individual interests of employees so that they are in line with those of the organization.
  • Encouraging teamwork to improve individual work and develop the capacity for empathy.
  • Maintaining consistency between the organization's communication and its actions, as a way of demonstrating credibility and transparency.
  • Implementing flexibility policies to adopt new work models if necessary, which may allow for optimizing the workforce while meeting business needs.
  • Trying to ensure that jobs match each employee’s qualifications in order to optimize their skills, preferences, and career growth expectations.
  • Offering opportunities to employees for career growth within the organization, by providing training, benefits, and recognitions that contribute to employee retention.
  • Providing adequate workspace: all the necessary infrastructure, furniture, and supplies for employees to perform their tasks properly.
  • Providing relaxation spaces for employees to take breaks during the workday.

Importance of work motivation

Work motivation is important because an employee who works with enthusiasm and drive positively impacts a company's productivity.

Work motivation represents the level of energy and commitment that employees bring to their tasks. If employees give their best at work, this results in a competitive advantage and better productivity for the company.

The company must consider the individual interests of employees so that they are compatible with those of the organization. Work-life balance is efficient in the long term, and strengthens the bond of commitment between employees and the company.


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  • García-Allen, J. (2015). Tipos de motivación: las 8 fuentes motivacionales.

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DE AZKUE, Inés. "Work motivation".
Encyclopedia of Humanities. 23 January, 2024,

About the author

Author: Inés de Azkue

Bachelor of Arts in advertising (University of Morón)

Translated by: Marilina Gary

Degree in English Language Teaching (Juan XXIII Institute of Higher Education, Bahía Blanca, Argentina).

Updated on: 23 January, 2024
Posted on: 28 September, 2023

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