Motivation and Employee Engagement

Motivation – nonsense. All that people need to know is why their work is important.

W. Edwards Deming

Is too much importance placed on the topic of motivation? Are motivation programs a substitute for poor management? Are rewards programs effective? According to noted engineer, professor, and management consultant W. Edwards Deming, the answers might be: yes, yes, and no.

Hype and Hyperbole

Business publications and networking platforms such as LinkedIn are full of tips, advice, and articles about motivation. In fact, in just a few clicks you can find out how to motivate your employees by age, race, gender, status, etc. Why is there so much hype regarding motivation?

Research suggests that companies are experiencing problematic levels of employee engagement. As a result, companies implement rewards and recognition programs designed to improve it. After all, engaged employees are more productive and loyal. But too soon, the eager anticipation fizzles as reality sets in and program maintenance becomes another tedious task to check off the list.

A more efficient approach to learning what motivates your employees would be to ask them directly. Studies such as Dynamic Signal’s Annual State of Employee Communication and Engagement Study 2019 did just that. Here is what they discovered.

Employees Want More Communication from Leaders

The Dynamic Signal study is very comprehensive and provides excellent actionable information. According to the study, employees say they want more frequent communication and performance feedback from their managers and senior leadership. They are unaware of the strategy and direction of the company and more importantly, they are unsure about the value of their work and effort. In short, just as W. Edwards Deming pointed out in the mid to late twentieth century, they want to know why their work is important!

Managers, set time aside on a weekly basis with your team to review the company’s strategy, your team’s goals, and your execution plan. Then, set time aside for monthly one-on-one coaching sessions that focus on personal and professional development, skill requirements, and motivation levels. Employees will value the time they spend with you and see it as an investment in their success. That alone is the best antidote to low employee engagement.

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