An organization’s human capital can be its strongest asset, significantly influencing the success of the company and its future. Employees who feel strongly connected to their workplace, engaged in their duties, and are continuously motivated can contribute to significant business outcomes and even improve the company’s ESG posture.
Employees’ well-being falls under the S in ESG, and includes among other parameters, employee engagement and employee motivation. According to SASB, companies are requested to report on the engagement rate of employees.
An ideal work environment would be one where employees are both engaged and motivated. To ensure that both concepts materialize in the workplace, managers should first learn to distinguish between the two and understand how each contributes directly to the organization.
This article discusses the importance of employee engagement strategies, the difference between engagement and motivation and the different types of motivators for employees.
The difference between engagement and motivation
Employee engagement and employee motivation are two of the most important cornerstones of the workplace culture and are usually at the base of high-performance teams. Employee engagement and employee motivation are responsible for unlocking the full potential of employees and both are crucial for the thriving of the workforce and the success of the company.
To successfully foster employee engagement and inspire motivation, employers must distinguish between the two and understand how to promote each one to keep employees equally engaged and motivated.
Employee engagement is most commonly defined as employees’ attitudinal and behavioral conduct within the workplace. It is a psychological state showing how emotionally and intellectually involved employees are in their workplace and the degree to which they dedicate their resources, be it personal or professional, towards the success of the organization’s goals. In other words- the employees’ commitment to the organization.
Engaged employees will typically be driven by a sense of purpose and enthusiasm within their role and are likelier to excel in performance. This is not to be confused with employee happiness or employee satisfaction.
Benefits of employee engagement
According to Gallup, there are many benefits to employee engagement. Firstly, there is a consistent correlation between engagement and performance across different industries and regions worldwide. Businesses with high rates of engaged employees tend to outperform their competition. Research shows that employee engagement can help companies thrive in economically challenging times.
High engagement boosts retention and is beneficial for maintaining lower turnover rates- as actively engaged employees are less likely to look for new job opportunities. They are also more likely to consistently show up for work, as the engaged workforce has 41% less absenteeism.
Other benefits include increased customer satisfaction, better employee health, and even decreased injuries associated with the workplace. Therefore, understanding and promoting employee engagement is essential to building a more robust and profitable workforce.
There are different levels of employee engagement:
- Highly engaged employees have a solid connection to their work, team and organization. Typically, they will act as brand ambassadors for the company. Not only will they publicly state their affection for their workplace, but they will also encourage co-workers to do better.
- Moderately engaged employees will also express positive sentiments toward their organization but they will also see room for improvement. There usually will be a certain hindrance to fully engaging and their performance will usually mirror that.
- Barely engaged employees- will typically hold a certain level of indifference, lack motivation, and will be at higher risk of turnover as they might be actively seeking other job opportunities.
- Disengaged employees are disconnected from the organization and its mission and should be handled delicately as not to obstruct the motivation of those around them.
Employee motivation is an intricate concept, influenced by various factors, both personal and organizational and is defined as the driving fuel cementing their commitment- the driving force behind their actions.
Employee motivation can be identified as two main kinds of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Managers must understand and provide both types to motivate employees successfully.
Intrinsic employee motivation refers to employees’ internal drive to succeed in their role because doing so aligns with their own personal values. This emanates from the sense of reward, fulfillment and satisfaction an employee receives from performing the tasks assigned to their role. When employees are motivated in this way, they typically are more engaged and show a higher commitment level to the organization. This type of motivation does not derive from external sources but from within.
Examples of intrinsic motivation include sharing values and interests with co-workers, feeling a sense of purpose and believing in the organization’s goals.
Managers can work to promote and encourage intrinsic motivation in these ways:
- Discover what interests your employees- there are higher chances employees will be motivated if they are genuinely interested in what they are doing, which is why to maximize your employees’ motivation, managers need to get to know them. Learn your team’s skills, interests and strengths and provide them with opportunities to grow and learn.
- Allow your employees to pursue personal projects- granting your employees opportunities to develop personal projects can give them a boost of motivation and might even result in major developments for the company.
- Connect employees to the bigger picture- employees are guaranteed to work harder when they understand the importance and context of their job. Employers should strive to tie all assignments into a larger vision allowing employees an understanding of how they contribute to this mission.
- Match the work to the worker- as motivation is highly individual, employees will be motivated by different things in different stages of their careers. Identify what motivates them to provide them with the best task for their abilities and capacity. An employee who feels seen will be motivated to do better.
Extrinsic employee motivation includes all the external factors that incentivize employees to perform better. These motivators can be in the form of compensation, awards or recognition and can be either short-term such as bonuses, or long-term such as working conditions and relationships with co-workers and managers.
Because extrinsic motivation is connected to specific outcomes, success tends to be short-lived and managers need to constantly keep extrinsic motivators up to date. Managers can work to promote and encourage a positive work environment by using these extrinsic motivation techniques:
- Provide achievable steps- incentives work better when they are earned and not given away like a prize. Make sure employees have a clear understanding of what they need to aim for and what will be the guaranteed outcome. Make sure this is a resealable and achievable feat for them.
- Praise employees in a way that makes them comfortable- some employees shy away from the limelight and prefer their feedback be given privately, while others thrive on public praise and recognition.
- Celebrate milestones- offering employees perks that are tied to seniority in the company can be a great way to attract talent and minimize turnover.
- Reward employees with flexibility- a great extrinsic incentive can be rewarding outstanding employees with flexible work hours, remote work options or a choice of projects.
Engagement and motivation- can one exist without the other?
The two concepts often overlap and affect each other- engaged employees are likely to stay motivated and motivated employees are more likely to be engaged. That being said, it is important to work towards ensuring each one separately in an organization as both are important for employees to thrive.
Employees who are highly motivated but are at a lower level of engagement will be more likely to leave the company in their search for engagement. Employees who are engaged but lack motivation might experience a certain disconnect from the company’s goals and mission.
The combination of engagement and motivation is what will allow employees to feel a part of the company’s mission but also pursue their own individual goals and success within their role. Both together can have a huge impact on the company’s performance, and it’s up to HR and management to make sure employees remain motivated and engaged.
By implementing an engagement strategy that is tailored to the specific circumstances of the employees and by finding appropriate incentives for motivation, organizations can reduce turnover and improve their overall performance.
What are the contributing factors to employee engagement and employee motivation?
It is up to managers and leaders to facilitate a healthy working environment that nurtures employee engagement and motivates them continuously. There are several ways in which employers can foster engagement strategies successfully. Here are some key factors that can encourage both engagement and motivation:
Recognition and appreciation- employees who feel valued for their unique contribution will be more likely to stay motivated and engaged. It is important that management uphold this practice by installing periodic feedback conversations.
A positive and caring work environment- a culture of collaboration and communication where employees can feel supported and heard will significantly influence their level of engagement.
Meaningful work- employees are more likely to be engaged if they understand the meaning behind their work and the contribution they have to the organization and its goals. This is magnified if they can clearly see the company’s impact on the community around them and the world.
Alignment of values and goals- employees who share the same values and belief system as the organization are more likely to stay engaged and work towards its success with genuine intention.
*Disclaimer: This summary is for general education purposes only and may be subject to change. ESGgo, Inc., and its affiliates (the “Company”, “ESGgo”, “we”, or “us”) cannot guarantee the accuracy of the statements made or conclusions reached in this summary and we expressly disclaim all representations and warranties (whether express or implied by statute or otherwise) whatsoever.