Last week I came across a LinkedIn article given high visibility on what drives employee engagement. The author’s three suggestions were 1) share profit info with employees so they can see their impact; 2) hold events like summer picnics to bring together a family atmosphere; and 3) share success in the form of monetary gifts like bonuses and gift certificates.
While #2 is spot on (cultivating team relationships is key to engagement), #1 and #3 miss the mark. Profits and bonuses are extrinsic motivators. While they certainly serve a purpose and can result in short-term gains in performance, employee engagement depends on our ability to tap into intrinsic motivation in each employee.
I wish the author would have instead suggested strategies that aren’t “carrot and stick” in nature such as getting frontline managers to understand the unique talents and strengths of their personnel and aligning their roles accordingly. That is a driver of engagement. Or using one-on-one time with direct reports to solicit feedback, ideas, suggestions, and professional aspirations- another key engagement strategy. And most of all I wish she would have talked about creating line of sight between employees and a powerful purpose that is meaningful to them. Profits may not be it. Serving others, contributing to the team, and making a difference in the world tend to rank higher for most, as much of the research on employee engagement suggests.
In an era where the concept of “employee engagement” is shifting from a critical strategy to an overused buzzword we must work twice as hard to shine a light on those things that really do propel our employees to higher levels of investment, enthusiasm, and performance. Beware the guru who says that extrinsic motivators will get you there.