intrinsic motivation

People retention is a key issue in the service sector – so what can you do to reduce attrition rates?

In my opinion, it’s about winning hearts & minds rather than just using carrots & sticks.

I firmly believe that many organisations fall into the trap of trying to make a boring, tough or stressful job more tolerable through extrinsic motivation. Yes, we know it’s not a great job but look at the rewards & benefits package, the team spirit, the social events and the prizes (carrots) you can win! But if you’re not very good at it, the carrots turn into sticks. When people leave these organisations, they often talk about missing their colleagues but very rarely their jobs.

So why don’t you make it less boring instead?

Instead of just compensating for the nature of the role, you should also look at ways to make the job more interesting and enjoyable – enabling people to derive intrinsic motivation from it.

Creating a role that offers intrinsic motivation is more likely to reduce attrition. It will stop most people looking in the first place and make the others think twice before moving on. If people enjoy their roles, they are less likely to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side. When people do leave, they usually talk about missing their colleagues and loving their jobs. They also tend to retain a sense of pride, loyalty and emotional attachment to the organisation.

So how do you create the right environment for intrinsic motivation?

Alfie Kohn, in his excellent book Punished by Rewards, breaks it down into collaboration, content and choice. I have distilled this further with the following practical tips:


  • ask people what they don’t like about their jobs and help them to do something about it
  • involve them in problem solving
  • consult with people about decisions relating to their roles
  • involve them in cross-functional projects and workshops
  • ensure they understand how their role is aligned with the business strategy
  • make it clear how their role makes a difference


  • look at ways to continuously improve the nature of their roles
  • remove any waste from the processes they use and automate the boring, repetitive elements of their role
  • identify and address the root causes of customer dissatisfaction
  • provide them with the tools they need to do the job
  • rotate their duties
  • upskill them
  • provide them with development opportunities


  • empower people to make decisions – don’t micro-manage
  • encourage them to experiment within their roles and learn from their mistakes and successes
  • provide them with more flexibility to do the right thing – don’t be too prescriptive

If you are having difficulties recruiting and retaining the right people within your organisation, please contact us at ted Consulting – we will be delighted to help.