How to grow and sustain increased engagement of people in your organization?
The following ideas and tips are based on the assumption that intrinsic motivation is one of the key contributing factors for employee engagement. Intrinsic motivation comes from within a person and has a strong connection to the person’s self-esteem and self-worthiness. In general, it is connected to positive emotions which create a strong memory and a long-lasting effect. In a simplified way, I differentiate three levels of possible interventions which have an increasing potential of boosting intrinsic motivation in people:
- Level: day-to-day recognition and praise
- Level: use of compelling visions for the person’s contributions in a wider context
- Level: creation of a deeper meaning or noble purpose of the person’s work
In the following, I will give specific tips about what can be done to enhance the motivation of people in an organisation.
The day-to-day practice: recognition and praise
For me, at the simplest level, recognition is a conscious act of observing what another person is doing and talking to them about your observations. Recognition is mostly combined with a positive aspect of the observations. Praise in my understanding goes one step further and relates the observation and the work done by a person to your personal expectations and is in one form or another an expression of your personal delight about particular achievements of a person. Praising somebody should always be specific to the situation.
Compelling visions: individual contributions set into a bigger picture
A compelling vision should relate to the end state of the whole undertaking to which the person’s piece of work is contributing. The compelling nature a vision depends on the emotional connection between the person’s contribution and a likely recognition when the vision becomes reality.
Antoine De Saint-Exupery summarized beautifully what a compelling vision means in his following quote: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Giving it all a deeper meaning:
Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who studied how people get into the state of “flow” (a high focus and high performance state), summarised his findings on the most powerful effects on intrinsic motivation in the following: “If a leader demonstrates that his purpose is noble and transcendent, that the work will enable organizational members to connect with something larger and more permanent than their material existence, people will give the best of themselves to the enterprise”.
This third level is challenging for many as it requires a lot of imagination but also full authenticity in order to be truly effective. In some organisations it may even be impossible to create such a connection. And if you ask yourself whether this is really working, then think about those people who work for charities and non-profit organisations in voluntary positions for long hours. Why are they so highly motivated by this kind of work? It is because they do something for the greater good of society or humanity, way beyond their personal existence.
The quick summary of my three core tips to increase engagement:
- Recognise and praise people regularly by speaking positively about their work and their achievement.
- Give people a compelling vision on how their work contributes to the success of the organisation or a project.
- Create a deeper meaning for the work of your people building a strong connection to something greater.
A more detailed version of this post was published in “SOFW” from May 2015.
Feel free to leave a comment below or if you want to discuss any of this with me in more detail, contact me direct.