A quick search on Google and you are overwhelmed with the number of articles written about how to motivate and engage your employees. These strategies can form the backbone of company culture – trusting, transparent, people-focused – but can also refer to various perks like private healthcare, team-building, and even breakfast every Friday morning. But one thing is for sure: in today’s digital work environment in which candidates drive the recruitment process, the cost of replacing a top performer who is unhappy is significantly higher than listening to their needs.
Motivation can be defined in multiple ways, but simply put, it represents a person’s willingness to put in effort and energy to achieve certain goals. Motivating employees is key to a company’s success and creating a better work environment with a positive atmosphere. There are multiple theories which have shaped the way we engage and inspire teams. In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced his theory of the hierarchy of needs in his paper A Theory of Human Motivation and his book Motivation and Personality. His theory suggests that people are motivated to fulfil their basic needs before moving on to more advanced needs. If we were to consider the work environment, the psychological needs are related to having a safe environment, a mental health-friendly policy, having breaks when needed and, of course, looking after the employees and offering them support in their career development.
Each workplace is made up of a mix of people, backgrounds, cultures, interests, skills, experience – the list is endless. As the modern workplace evolves and as the nature of today’s work changes, we need to understand how people’s minds work and how they react to the work environment, and identify the differences between the engagement levels of employees to better support them.
Daniel Pink, in his best seller Drive from 2010, examines a different and more modern approach to employee motivation, more suited for the company’s needs. The three aspects – or gifts for employees, we might say – he analyses are:
- Autonomy – the ability of employees to exert control on some aspects of their work; for example, what to work on or when to work.
- Mastery – the possibility to improve, and receive space and support for continuous growth
- Purpose – help employees connect to higher goals, people and values to unlock the motivation, and get them engaged.
Employee engagement can be described as the level of commitment and connection an employee has towards their organisation. For obvious reasons, this is a critical factor in the success of every company – talent is retained, customer loyalty is fostered and the organisation is prosperous.
When we distinguish between employees, we can usually break them down into the actively engaged, enthusiastic ones and the employees who do the bare minimum, don’t engage in social events and tend to have a fixed mindset.