The Ascent of Employee Engagement: A (very brief) history of motivation in the workplace (Part 2)

“There is an error; but it is merely the accidental error of mistaking the abstract for the concrete. It is an example of what I will call the ‘Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness.’… It is not necessary for the intellect to fall into the trap, though {…} there has been a very general tendency to do so.” Science and the Modern World, 1926, Alfred North Whitehead.

The Hawthorne Experiments: “the great éclaircissement”:

Mention “Hawthorne Experiments” at a cocktail party and chances are some wise-crack will ask you trying turning up the lights to get the party going. Jokes apart the experiments done at the Hawthorne Works were extraordinary in the sheer scale and the time duration. The experiments represent a major milestone in the rise of the ‘Human Relations Movement’ and also the shift of ‘management’ from a linear ‘scientific’ approach to a multidisciplinary one.

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The Ascent of Employee Engagement: A (very brief) history of motivation in the workplace (Part 1)

Iron and Coal by William Bell ScottI like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past. – Thomas Jefferson

Employee Engagement as a concept is going through some exciting changes. As geographical boundaries collapse, and distances are reduced to meaningless numbers – markets are getting more competitive and brutal than ever before. And companies are increasingly realizing that the only thing that will help them survive (and thrive) is their key asset – their people.  Office buildings and computers will not innovate. People will. HR professionals and business leaders are waking up to the reality that extrinsic motivation can only do so much. Intrinsic motivation is what’s crucial to make the cut. The art of engagement is all about providing an environment where the intrinsic motivation of employees dovetails with that of the organization.

To make sense of where we are and where we are heading to, it’s useful to take a pause and look back for a moment. Over the next few posts I am going to outline the various theories which form the foundations of employee engagement today.

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