Justin Rinaldi


It is not uncommon for employees to discuss the topic of a raise, bonus, or promotion within a company. In fact, it has become such a trending topic that employee motivation can be analyzed to shed light on how these motivational factors can drive a business to thrive. After all, a company’s real success is based on the support and work of its employees. Motivation is defined as the reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way. Motivation is split into intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors. The purpose of this paper is to focus on extrinsic motivation and its real-world application on employees in the workplace. Extrinsic motivation is characterized by a behavior that is driven by external rewards. In other words, an employee may be extrinsically motivated to excel in their position to receive money, praise or a promotion. Hearn (2018) describes extrinsic motivation in the workplace as a reward for an employee’s performance. He states that an employee “is driven to perform well in order to earn material compensation for their efforts.” (Hearn, 2018). Every year, company employees expect a performance-based promotion, raise or bonus that can be tacked onto their yearly income. This increase acts as a motivational factor that rewards employees for outstanding work in their position. This reward intends to keep employees invested in the quality of their work so that a business can thrive. If a company lacks these extrinsic motivational factors, decreased employee morale or work output may hinder a company to the point where it may not be as profitable as expected. Initially, it may not make much sense that an instructional designer could be involved in this sort of process. However, Hardre and Miller (2006) explain that workplace motivation stems from the instructional design training function of understanding and meeting a learner’s motivational needs. They state that “motivated learners experience greater perceived competence and self-efficacy in a given domain” (Hardre & Miller, 2006, p. 28). In other words, practical training builds the framework for learning. Motivated learners are more capable of retaining and transferring the instruction as it pertains to their work. As a result, an employee that once started as a motivated learner may effectively apply themselves, which will reflect upon their performance. In return, it is more likely that extrinsic motivational factors will be given to an employee to incentivize their drive to continue learning and performing for the company. The goal for an employee to be adequately incentivized with a raise, bonus or promotion is to elevate their work performance year-in and year-out. This raises the question of just how sufficient is extrinsic motivation within a company? In this workplace setting, it will be essential to focus on the motivational needs of the employee and how an instructional designer plays a role in understanding this process. To do so, the reasoning behind an employee’s drive for extrinsic motivation must be examined.

Literature Review

The first step is to look at motivation within the workplace and how it plays a role in the the large-scale picture of the company. Proper management makes up the bulk of these decisions to allow these extrinsic motivators to take place for employees. In a corporate setting, management must strategically think about its plan, resources and customers to direct the company down a path of financial success. Kajackaite and Sliwka (2020) explain that a customer-centered company focused on customer happiness will yield more significant interest, passion, and empathy in the long-term business plan. With a successful business plan in place, management can consider more extrinsically motivating opportunities for its employees.

In a survey conducted by Machova et al. (2018), they found that it was salaries and financial incentives that were the biggest motivators for employees. With this in mind, an analysis of the effects of incentives offered to employees to progress within a company must be performed. Herpen et al. (2006) analyzed the incentive effects of promotions within a company. They found that “promotions are the primary instrument for creating incentives for employees” (Herpen et al., 2006) as wage increases contributed significantly to lifetime income. A survey published within “Promotions Without Raises (2018)” argued that it is becoming more common for companies to offer employee promotions without salary increases. An important note to include however, is that these employees indicated that they would accept a promotion without a salary increase. Still, within a short time frame, the employee would inquire about a review of compensation. It also included that other extrinsic motivators like new perks, extra vacation time, and learning opportunities would be assessed with these promotions. Even though the employee’s pay wasn’t affected, other extrinsic motivators were being applied. Another factor in extrinsic motivation is the employee’s behavior towards the knowledge of their work. During a study performed by Isen and Reeve (2005), they state that “feeling happy, even though it promotes the enjoyment of enjoyable tasks, leads at the same time to forward-looking thinking, self-control, and the ability to stay on task, even on a task that may be uninteresting or unpleasant.” This implies that employees are driven by the value and meaning of the tasks they are completing. For a company, this means that extrinsic motivators should be strategically applied to its employees. Lin (2007) supports this idea by stating that extrinsic rewards secure only temporary compliance with employees. An employee that is extrinsically incentivized will only be temporarily driven to complete their tasks. To create long-term effects, an employee’s interests and motivators must be considered. Schickey (2018) sheds light on the importance of the meaning of these motivators. She discussed the importance of limiting extrinsic motivation as it creates more pressure for an employee to complete a task. In return, this added pressure may lead to a lack of motivation as the employee may not find the job pleasing anymore. For a company, this should be considered for its business plan as well. If too many extrinsic motivating factors are given out to employees, the company may find that its employees are no longer focusing on their work performance. This will end up hindering the company as employee morale, and work output will be decreased.

Practical Recommendations for Employee Training considering Motivational Factors

For instructors and instructional designers, the primary focus is to create instruction geared towards their target audience. For the most effective results, the learners need to be continually motivated and engaged in the content that is being provided. The content of the instruction should be presented in a way that is appealing to the learners but also highlights the importance of continued learning for their work. An instructor or instructional designer will need to decide if the learning can take place face-to-face or online (e-learning) in a synchronous or asynchronous format. In a study performed by Yoo et al. (2012), they investigated the role of motivations that influences employees’ intention to use e-learning in a South Korean workplace. They concluded that “extrinsic motivation did not affect the employees’ intention to use e-learning directly” (Yoo et al., 2012). This implies that an employee’s motivation to participate in online instruction is primarily influenced by intrinsic motivation, or the learner’s interests. When it comes time for employee training, an employee needs to see the value of their work and the need for it within the company. If an employee does not see this, they will not be motivated to engage in an e-learning setting.

In terms of motivation, instruction for employee training can be developed for face-to-face instruction and follow up with asynchronous e-learning instruction. In a workplace that must adapt to an e-learning environment, instructors and instructional designers will need to be elaborate with their presented content. Synchronous presentations could still be included. Instructional strategies, like guest speakers, can be utilized where individuals join the class and present. This would still allow for learners to socially engage with these individuals and ask any questions they may have. For the asynchronous e-learning aspect, an instructional designer could then take all the information from the training, personalize it to the audience and then create instructional units that learners could review at their own pace. It is of utmost importance that the instructional designer focuses on microlearning where each training segment is “chunked” so that learners can focus on one section at a time. If the instruction is too sporadic, the learner may not stay engaged or understand what is being covered. For the e-learning module itself, the instructional designer should build a compelling visual experience. Some examples include color, contrast, repetition, alignment, and balance of the displayed content within the module. If the module does not appeal to the learner, it will be difficult for learners to be engaged. In return, they will not be able to retain and transfer the instruction to their work. If the instruction is executed correctly, an employee will feel confident and driven to complete their tasks. This will reflect on their performance and create the possibilities for further extrinsic motivational factors like a raise, bonus, promotion or additional vacation time.


The information provided within this paper supports that extrinsic motivation within the workplace can be beneficial, if applied correctly. It is a common topic in every workplace where employees always seek extrinsic motivators like a raise, bonus, or promotion for their work performance. An employee’s continued efforts to learn and perform in the workplace is something that a manager can significantly appreciate. For this drive to continue, extrinsic motivation can be applied to maintain an employee’s motivation for their work. If a company lacks these extrinsic motivators or doesn’t strategically use them, the employee morale and work output could hinder the company. In a company, management must be able to create and uphold a business plan that can support extrinsic motivators’ opportunities. If a company is not successful from the start, then providing pay raises, bonuses, or extended vacation time to employees will only accelerate the company’s failure. Since salaries and financial incentives are the biggest motivators for employees, the company must support these options for successful employees. Even though there is an increasing number of employees that will accept a promotion without a raise, there are other extrinsic motivators like perks, extra vacation time and learning opportunities that are considered. Since extrinsic motivators are only temporary motivators for employees, a company can strategically incentivize the completion of tasks so that employees maintain interest in their work and will continue to excel. If too many extrinsic motivators are being applied, then the employee’s work output could decrease, which would further affect the company.

All employee motivation starts in training for their work with an instructor or instructional designer. For extrinsic motivation, the instruction would be most effective with face-to-face instruction and following up with asynchronous e-learning. However, it is possible for the instruction to be moved to an e-learning environment if the instructor and instructional designer can incorporate instructional strategies like guest speakers. This form of instruction creates the opportunity for the learners, or future employees, to be exposed to the value of their work. This also allows for social interaction and the opportunity to engage directly with other employees both within and outside their department. Following the instruction, asynchronous e-learning can be implemented to reiterate and break down complex training into separated parts. This allows learners to go back at their own pace and cover information as they see fit. For this to be executed effectively, the instructional designer should be prepared to work with a subject matter expert to create a learning experience that is conducive to motivating employees. This includes focusing on the basics and creating an experience that is engaging and driving to the audience. Should the need arise to cover information again, the instructional designer has created the opportunity for an employee to go back and review desired information Following successful instruction, employees should feel confident and driven to begin their work. Employees that are motivated and understand the value of their work will return the company’s investment by continually striving to progress within the company.

Additionally, extrinsic motivators shouldn’t be applied too often, as excess pressure is put on the employee to complete tasks. This pressure may result in the employee losing interest and no longer feeling motivated. However, if a company is capable and prepared to provide extrinsic motivation to successful employees, a continuous loop is created that sets a company towards the path of success.


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