Tripartite motivation and its drivers 

motivation and its drivers in the workplace.

we, me and it

The Tripartite Motivation Model (Joan-Mary Hinds PhD) identifies three intrinsic human needs; affiliation (we), achievement (me), actualisation (it) that respond to organisational and workplace characteristics (drivers) that fluctuate by sector, workplace, industry and time.

Intrinsic or extrinsic

Broadly there are two ways of looking at human motivation. One view is that motivation is triggered externally by reward or punishment (extrinsic motivation) whilst another view has motivation triggered internally by the impulse to satisfy human needs (intrinsic motivation).  

Economists tend to see humans as primarily rational and thus responsive to tangible rewards like pay and bonuses, whereas psychologists, sociologists and people managers know that humans are very rarely entirely rational and will react dramatically to internal emotions, needs or desires.

It is now widely accepted that intrinsic motivation models are the most useful for looking at employee energy, commitment and engagement.  So a basic understanding of how intrinsic motivation operates is absolutely vital for managers who are charged with the responsibility of motivating their teams.

Motivation and needs

Intrinsic motivation theories talk about human ‘needs and drives' and most mainstream theories classify our needs into three groups. Confusion can arise because each theorist uses different labels and descriptions for these needs.  So trying to understand motivation is often a challenge of semantics rather than theory.

Most theories are based on qualitative empirical research and some, like the work of Dr Hinds are founded in both qualitative and quantitative research which lends greater scientific validity and weight to their conclusions.

The Tripartite Motivation Theory identifies three intrinsic human needs; affiliation (we), achievement (me), actualisation (it) that respond to organisational characteristics (drivers) which fluctuate by sector, workplace, industry and time.

The Tripartite Motivation Model summarises motivation as occurring when an individual’s need for We, Me and It are satisfied. In the context of work, this means employees have sufficient:


WE - teamwork, bonding, collaboration, sense of belonging or membership

ME - achievement, use of skills and talents, to succeed, learn or achieve mastery

IT - self expression, creativity, a sense of purpose, belief or meaning


Motivation's secret sauce

So what is the secret to human motivation?  What are the organisational drivers of employee motivation? What can leaders and managers do to make sure their employees experience enough positive We, Me and It, to be motivated?

According to Deci & Ryan (2002) the conditions that support motivation are freedom, choice and autonomy. These ideas are echoed by Hinds who emphasises creating an optimal balance of ‘freedom’ with ‘order’.  This means providing people with freedom and autonomy they need to express themselves, make choices, provide input, participate and be creative; within an environment and leadership that provides order, safety, structure, sensible processes, systems and a purpose that is reliable and valued.

  • Rules without explanation do not support motivation - whilst mutually agreed and well understood rules motivate.
  • Meetings where nobody other than the manager talks do not support motivation - whilst meetings where people feel free to have their say and provide input motivate.
  • Managers who only delegate, monitor and discipline do not support motivation - whilst managers who listen, coach, empathise and support individual learning motivate.


Employee research over many years has identified seven powerful drivers of motivation with each driver containing a set of related workplace dimensions operating in harmony around a central theme.  

The 7 drivers are Job, Employer, Influence, Development, Alignment, Leadership and Manager.

Action on the seven drivers will impact employee motivation. This was proven via longitudinal studies where higher driver attached to higher motivation scores.

Whilst the seven drivers can't cover every workplace dimension that impacts motivation, they represent the most potent drivers, impacting most employees most of the time.

Teams and businesses wanting to motivate employees are well advised to look first at how the seven drivers are operating in their workplace.


7 drivers impact motivation

The relationship between drivers and motivation is predictive, one of 'cause and effect'. Actions that deliver improved driver scores will in a very short time deliver higher levels of employee motivation.