Employee engagement is a frequently discussed yet often misunderstood concept in the workplace. Leaders and employees alike often confuse true engagement with other concepts like motivation, satisfaction and effort. Employee engagement goes beyond motivating employees and requires a clear vision from leadership to foster connection and belonging in the workplace.
Employee Engagement vs. Motivation: What’s the difference?
While similar, there are important distinctions between engagement and motivation that leaders must understand. Engaged employees feel a sense of purpose and belonging, understanding how their work connects to an organization’s broader mission. Engaged employees go the extra mile because they understand why they have been assigned particular tasks, are provided the tools and resources to complete those tasks, and know how their work directly impacts the organization’s success. They don’t feel like a “cog in the wheel”; they feel like a crucial part of what keeps the wheel moving!
Motivation is a component of engagement but is not engagement itself. A motivated employee is one who feels the drive and desire to actively contribute. Motivation can be intrinsic to the employee as well as influenced by the employer through various mechanisms such as adequate pay raises, recognition programs, and employee perks. As Marlies Pellikaan of Effectory says, “Employee engagement serves as a foundation for your employees to do their best work, while motivation is the fuel or energy required to actually do it.”
Why are employee engagement and motivation important?
Employee engagement has been a widely studied concept in recent years, particularly because it has been demonstrated to have a clear impact on an organization’s bottom line. According to The Harvard Business Review’s report “The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance,” while 72% of leaders surveyed indicated employee engagement was important to their organization’s success, only 24% of those leaders considered their employees highly engaged. It’s clear that leaders understand WHY engagement is important but are increasingly unclear on how to create an environment that fosters it.
People often ask how employee engagement can motivate staff. HBR suggests the drivers below as being the most impactful0:
The drivers listed in the graphic can all motivate employees and in turn, drive engagement. For example, finding opportunities to regularly recognize employees for their contributions will motivate them to contribute at a high level, while reinforcing connection and allegiance to the organization. Setting up individual performance goals that support the overall business strategy will motivate the employee to achieve their goals while also contributing to the broader business objectives. Providing meaningful work with clear expectations ensures employees know how their work impacts the success of the entire business.
The examples listed are rooted in “intrinsic motivation,” in other words, the motivation that connects the employee to the work increases their drive to succeed and gets them excited to participate. As effectory.com shares, “A properly executed engagement strategy should provide employees with intrinsic motivators. Meaningful work, access to necessary resources, and clearly defined metrics for success all foster intrinsic motivation in employees.” All too often, companies fall into the trap of focusing on external, or extrinsic, motivators such as compensation rewards, advancement opportunities, or employee perks (think: free lunch and gym memberships). Extrinsic motivators are often temporary in nature, meaning the engagement expected as a result will also be temporary.
Consider a time when you rewarded an employee with a significant bonus for working hard on a particularly intense project. The excitement for that bonus and the motivation to continue working hard was likely palpable in the moment and perhaps felt for a few weeks afterward. Eventually, the impact of that bonus wears off, especially if the employee is continuing to spend long hours on that intense project. Instead, a leader might consider combining that bonus with clear communication about the strategic impact of the project on the business, sharing recognition for this person’s role in the project or providing additional resources to make the work less intense.
People often ask whether employee engagement really impacts employee retention. Rest assured – it does. Gallups’ most recent meta-analysis on employee engagement “found that teams scoring in the top quartile on employee engagement saw the following benefits compared with bottom-quartile teams:
- 10% higher customer loyalty/engagement
- 23% higher profitability
- 18% higher productivity (sales)
- 14% higher productivity (production records and evaluations)
- 18% lower turnover for high-turnover organizations (those with more than 40% annualized turnover)
- 43% lower turnover for low-turnover organizations (those with 40% or lower annualized turnover).”
Even if employees are not actively leaving the workforce, the concept of “quiet quitting” has forcefully emerged. Gallup frequently measures employee engagement and identified the drop in engagement beginning in the second half of 2021 and continuing to decline into the second quarter of 2022. According to the research, “many quiet quitters fit Gallup’s definition of being ‘not engaged’ at work — people who do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job. This describes half of the U.S. workforce.” Whether quietly quitting or actively leaving, making an effort to both engage and motivate employees will continue to require attention and action from leadership.
How Can Teamraderie Support Leaders in Engaging and Motivating Their Workforce?
Teamraderie supports leaders to lead their teams with intentionality by providing experiences to engage, connect and motivate employees.