My tested and proven ways to grow and sustain increased engagement of people in organisations
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-respect. 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 areas of possible interventions which have an increasing potential of boosting intrinsic motivation in people:
- day-to-day recognition and praise
- setting the person’s contributions in a wider context
- creation of a deeper meaning of the person’s work
In the following, I will give specific tips about what you can do to enhance the motivation of people in your organisation.
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 letting them know about those observations. Recognition is mostly combined with a positive aspect of what you observe.
Praise, in my understanding, goes one step further and relates the observation of the work done by a person to your personal expectations. It 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.
Setting the person’s contributions in a wider context
When setting the person’s contribution in a wider context you should relate it to the common goal of the project/activity to which the person’s work is contributing. This approach allows them to see much clearer how and what they contribute to. The motivational effect of this depends on the strength of the emotional connection the person builds between their contribution and the importance of the project/activity to the organisation.
Antoine De Saint-Exupéry summarized beautifully what this 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.”
Creating a deeper meaning of the person’s work
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 area is challenging for many as it requires a lot of imagination and also full authenticity in order to be truly effective. And in some organisations (i.e. those that deal with highly controversial products) it may even be impossible to create such a connection altogether.
And should you ask yourself whether this is really working, then think about all those people who work for charities and non-profit organisations in voluntary positions for long hours. Why would they do that? How are they so highly motivated engaging in 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 core tips to increase engagement:
- Recognise and praise people regularly by speaking positively about their work and their achievements.
- Give people the context of 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.
We explore this and other business relevant subjects in our Virtual Leaders Lounge. This is an informal online meeting of maximum 10 business leaders where we discuss challenges in virtual teams and organisations and share best practices. No PowerPoint is used, no prep work required!