You may be able to tell by now that I truly believe that a leader’s first responsibility is to put their employees in a position to be successful. However, being put in a position for success and being successful is a two-person job. It doesn’t matter the number of opportunities leaders give their people; it’s all for nothing if they lack the motivation to make the most of it. In this article, I plan to discuss the way you can achieve motivation through employee engagement. I also plan to leave you with a few pitfalls I have found with my experience.
Why This is Important
Earl Nightingale said “We are at our very best, and we are happiest when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.” Its hard to find a quote that could better sum up a “why” than this. Simply put, an engaged employee is a motivated employee. Even better, the motivation is intrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation can be way more powerful than motivation out of economics or fear. Intrinsic motivation is the reason why there are so many “it started in their garage” stories in the world. If you want a great example, read about a man named Samuel Pierpont Langley.
A short sum up of the story follows: Samuel Pierpont Langley was trying to build the first machine capable of attaining consistent flight. He was a renowned inventor with a large financial backing, and the best research team money could buy. His competition, two men working on a farm. They were not near as funded nor did they have the team Langley did. Their names were Wilbur and Orville Wright (the Wright Brothers).
The reason most of you know the Wright Brothers instead of Langley is because the Wright Brothers won. They defied the odds and beat out the “top dog” team. This story highlights the power intrinsic motivation has while in the arena against fame and money.
This is exactly the reason that companies are caring more about the engagement level of their employees. It’s even to the point that companies are hiring independent consultant groups to come in and conduct thorough Employee Engagement Surveys. They are taking the chance to invest in employee engagement because they know the potential benefits they will see in return.
Speaking on behalf of the employee for a second, my company conducts employee engagement surveys, and even the act itself is a motivating force. Just the display of caring gives me a small sense of happiness.
Some Problems I’ve Ran Into
Now that I have talked up Employee Engagement, I need to switch gears a bit and share a few pitfalls that I have seen with some employee engagement efforts.
There are two main problems that I have with standard Employee Engagement Surveys; Closed door action item lists, and the overall cost of the survey. So first, I’d like to explain what I mean by closed door action items.
When we have received these surveys in the past, the responsibilities have been separated by data submission (the employee) and data analysis (the supervisors/executives). When the results are published, the data analysis begins at the highest level to come up with an action plan to increase engagement across the workforce. Despite the best intentions of management, the resulting list will usually be a list of our most thoughtful guesses.
We sometimes think that since our employees took the time to give us the feedback we need to respond with a decisive plan to show that we are listening. The problem with this tactic is that we may have missed the mark. There is no guarantee that the correct diagnosis was made.
For this to work, we need to start building the action plan with the ground floor employees, to make sure we are on track. Otherwise, we put ourselves in a situation where we have to wait until the next survey to see if we were successful in increasing engagement at a significant level.
This brings me to the next issue, cost. Because these surveys require both time and money, they are typically only given annually, bi-annually, or even less frequently. So if you did your closed door session, it might take years for you to know if your actions worked. Because of the time and money needed for these surveys, it’s not practical to experiment. So it’s possible to have wasted years of effort because there is not a cheap way to get feedback along the way.
Despite these two problems we have run into, we are actively finding ways to build action plans by working with the ground and giving lighter weight engagement surveys at a faster rate. My next post will talk about the software we use and how it is helping in our effort. This is a very important topic and one that I hope keeps growing.
If you have any experience with employee engagement, please feel free to use the comments to share. I hope you enjoyed the content and make sure to look for my next post regarding some of the things I’m doing to increase my team’s engagement.
Further Reading:Top Eight Reasons Employee Engagement is Important