Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist/Before they’re allowed to be free?/Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head/Pretending he just doesn’t see?/The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind/The answer is blowin’ in the wind. (Blowing in the Wind, Bob Dylan)
When we talk about Employee Engagement, the discussion is essentially about motivation. Engagement is in fact, at some level a consequence of Motivation – a sort of end state if you may.
When I meet senior executives in organizations, a common lament is that ‘quality’ talent is so difficult to find. And if it’s a group of executives, then you can be assured a passionate discussion on a broken education system, exorbitant pay packages offered by rival companies, attraction to go abroad etc. will ensue
I usually try to bring up the topic of motivation and get them to talk about it. It works sometimes, but sadly more often than not – it gets pooh-poohed. One (very smart) executive recently told me bluntly – ‘ the very act of accepting the job offer represents motivation to work here. Why should we need to keep providing additional motivation? Nobody was motivating me with badges and games all these years!’
The lady had a point. Her conclusion was erroneous but her premise was not totally incorrect.
Accepting the job offer represents the first step in a journey with the organization (and with everything else that comes as a part of the deal – managers, peers and the organizational culture.) When the job offer is taken up, chances are you have crossed the hygiene hurdle of adequate compensation, so I am not considering that in my discussion for the moment.
The paycheck only comes around once a month, but the employee has to deal with the effect of organizational culture, his peers and his managers every single minute that he is at work (and sometimes even when he is away).
In my opinion, there are three questions every executive should try to answer honestly
- What intrinsic motivations can this candidate have to work with me?
- What intrinsic motivations can this candidate have to work with my team?
- What intrinsic motivations can this candidate have to work in my organization?
Note that I ask you think about the ‘intrinsic’ motivation. Compensation, Job role, Profile, Designation, Bonus is extrinsic motivations.. Focus on understanding the intrinsic motivations.
Take a few minutes and answer the three questions before reading further. Chances are when you answer each of these questions candidly; you will already know why you are not attracting top talent.
The ABC Drivers:
From all the literature I have pored over and the people (team members, managers and leaders) I have talked to, three main drivers of intrinsic motivation stand out – and I call them the ABC drivers of Intrinsic Motivation.
A: Achievement – A sense of accomplishment is a major driver for motivation for anyone who gets up in the morning and goes to work- taking time away from family and battling traffic. Its human nature – If you don’t have a constant sense of achievement, an idea of how you are contributing to the larger ‘story’, your engagement levels crash. Then you are doing ‘something’ with no clue ‘why’ you are doing it (a very common comment I hear!). Managers and leaders who want the best out of their team have a duty to set the context, explain how the tasks are contributing to a larger whole, give constant and constructive feedback and help provide a sense of accomplishment. If any of these pieces are missing, the engagement picture will remain incomplete for the employee.
At some level, your answer to Question 1 as a Manager should address this aspect. If you are a manger who is successful in providing your team members with a sense of achievement, they will always want to work with you!
B: Belief – Employees are highly motivated when they believe that the organization enforces a level playing field. They are motivated when they know that they have the authority to take a decision to solve issues. They are motivated when they know favoritism has no role in decisions taken, when team members are not promoted for being a ‘smoking buddy’ of the manager and when the organization stands behind the employee for doing the ‘right’ thing. A belief that the organization really cares about its stated mission and its employees really does wonders for employee motivation.
This driver should appear in your answer to Question 3 on why should someone want to work for your organization.
C: Camaraderie – Would you want to go to work in an organization where secrecy rules the roost? People in such organizations are afraid to share any information or to collaborate on projects because compensation and career progression depends on information asymmetry. Favoritism, Secrecy, Coteries, Mistrust drives a general feeling of apathy among the employees and engagement levels will be abysmally low. All the bonuses in the world can’t fix this problem.
A sense of camaraderie and teamwork is critical for driving engagement. Employees look forward to work when they get to work along side peers who support and empower them to achieve organizational goals.
This driver should appear in why people would want to work in your team. What kind of team-culture do you have? Do team members support each other? As a manager, do you pave the way for your teams to leverage everyone’s strength or do you ‘divide and rule’?
In Conclusion: If you want to increase employee engagement in your organization, then as managers and leaders – at some point, you will need to ponder over these three questions and see how aligned you are towards enabling the ABC intrinsic drivers among employees. And note that, these are in a way the only things that you need to do, but these should underpin all your thoughts, actions and efforts – otherwise everything you do will ring hollow in the long term.