Bob Verchota is owner and senior consultant for RPVerchota & Associates, a consulting firm providing services to clients who seek to align their business and employees, creating successful outcomes and excellent work environments. After 20+ years in Human Resources and Operations senior leadership roles and teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses in Leadership and Organizational Development, Bob transitioned to using his experience and skills in consulting. 

Factor Leading to Engagement: 

Okay, so let’s look at engagement. Where does this come from? How is it that people become engaged? And that will give us, I think, some clues about how they become disengaged as well. So, it’s all about motivation, and there’s two sides to this if you go back to your psychology class, the first one is extrinsic or external motivation. So, those are these things outside of us that make a difference in how we act. And maybe the easiest to understand would be pay. You come to work today knowing that you’re going to get paid, or certainly hoping you’re going to get paid, and if we quit paying you, you quit coming to work. That’s an external motivation. You may really love your job, but you probably aren’t going to do it if you don’t get paid for it. And so, it’s this idea that if I reward you, you will do something, and if I don’t reward you, you won’t do something.

So, it’s kind of this difference between compliance and commitment. If you have an employee who has behavioral issues, and so then you have some kind of a program to straighten them out, usually it’s about punishment. If you don’t come to work on time, guess what? You’re going to get on an oral warning, a verbal warning, a written warning, and a termination. That’s all about extrinsic motivation. And it’s real, it’s important, and the thing is that the company owns that motivation, not the employee. The employee isn’t doing these things because they’re internally charged up to do it.

Well, what we find with engaged people that there’s a high level of intrinsic motivation. This is the motivation that comes from within you. A good way to look at that is when you go home after work, what do you do? Say, for example, you coach your kid’s softball team. Why are you doing that? You’re not getting paid for it, or maybe you have a hobby or something, maybe you like to go for a run or whatever it is you do with your discretionary time, you are probably internally motivated to do that. And many of us are also internally motivated to do a good job. We like our work, we find it interesting and engaging for us, and so we do it because we take pride and the sense of accomplishment in what we do. So, you will have employees who feel like they own what they do. In fact, the ideal is that you have an employee who is not a technical owner of the company, but they act as if they do own it. So, it’s the intrinsic drive that really matters for people who are engaged and committed.

That’s what we are looking for. And when people lose that, then they come to work just for the paycheck. And not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not what we are looking for here. And what we’re particularly looking for is the person who came in fully charged up and energized, and then they lose that energy. Or you will see maybe that with children, for example, first grade, kindergarten, early elementary, they’re real pumped up about school, they love it, and then somewhere along the way sometimes they just lose that spark, and then sometimes they pick it up again later. So, what is feeding into that?

So, there’s kind of four types of motivation. And on the left side is the extrinsic and we can have it be positive or negative. So, a positive one, it says, “If you write the report, you get a bonus.” So, you do good work, you produce a bunch, we’re going to give you a bonus. On the bottom side is, “If you don’t do this work, we’re not going to give you a bonus, and in fact, we may even fire you.” It’s the carrot and stick kind of thing. And if you do good work, we’re going to give you a carrot, if you don’t do good work, we’re going to hit you with a stick. And what happens with that is that if you take away those rewards and punishments, then it changes the behavior. What’s the likelihood, if you’re used to getting a bonus, an incentive, for doing things, and then they take that away, then you’re not as likely to do it.

So, on the right-hand side are the intrinsic rewards. So, this is where you personally want to do it, and maybe the company says, “We’re looking for someone to take on a new project.” And you look at the project, you say, “Yeah, that’s kind of cool, I’m interested in that, I’m curious, I’ve always wanted to do that.” And so, you raise your hand and you volunteer to do it knowing you’ll probably get paid, but at the same time, you’re intrinsically interested in and motivated to jump into this. On the other side is you may say, “You know, that’s just not my thing. That does not interest me whatsoever, and I’ll do it if you tell me to do it and if you pay me to do it, but if you’re just asking if I want to do it, the answer is really no.” So, that’s that intrinsic side. It is the intrinsic side, that’s where engagement comes from.

So, I think this can be useful because there’s two kinds of engagement drivers. First of all, are the disengagement drivers. Those are those extrinsic rewards. And so, money is a really good example or benefits. If I feel like I am not getting paid fairly market based, not getting a fair number of benefits, that’s a disengaging factor, and people will become dissatisfied. Certain kind of work environment kinds of things have that potential to disengage people. The interesting thing is that more of it does not create internal motivation, it doesn’t cause engagement.

Now say, for example, I give you a really big bonus, I will probably do the work, it doesn’t mean that I like the work or I’m going to put my heart and soul into the work and love it. But then I also know that if you don’t get paid enough, you’re going to become unhappy. And the interesting thing is what can happen is that people will actually put in less and less effort depending on these disengagement drivers. To the extent, in fact, that some people will put their extra discretionary effort into making things worse.

Okay, so the engagement drivers, and there’s all kinds of research that shows what is it that gets people internally motivated, internally engaged and committed and charged up to do something? There’s several things, one is this idea of advancement or growth. It could be personal growth, it could be professional growth, but humans are people who frequently want to know more, be better, feed their curiosity, feel like we are getting ahead. It could be that maybe you’re looking at having a bigger job with more responsibility and more authority, some kind of advancement or promotion. That ability to move forward and achieve things, that can be really internally motivating.

So, oftentimes, we maybe explore advanced education knowing that it’s going to help us in our job, but it’s because we want to get better at what we do. A really critical one has to do with independence and control. How many of us want to be micromanaged? I don’t know very many of them, but this idea of freedom, independence, autonomy, control. So, the key is that we give people the ability to manage their work life to the extent that we can’t. I’m not suggesting that we give people too much control because that could be a problem as well, but people want to have influence over the things that are important to them. We know that that makes a big difference to people.

Recognition is another one. And in some ways I think this could be a disengagement driver as well, but we know that when we give people that pat on the back, recognition and reward, and it doesn’t have to be financial reward, it’s just recognizing and giving people credit for what they do, that that has a way of engaging people and building that internal motivation.

Another thing is this idea of alignment with your personal values. This kind of goes to what do you do after work? Whether you like to go backpacking or camping or traveling or whatever, these are values that you hold dear to yourself. And so, you will seek out opportunities and activities that fulfill those values. So, to the extent of that your company has opportunities for you to do work that fulfills or are aligned with your values, that can feed into your engagement.

These are all really critical things. And again, there’s all kinds of research out there that shows that these things get people charged up to do the work even though it may not have anything to do with pay, these are the things that help people to enjoy their work. So, what we know is then when people become disengaged, all of these factors can come into it. It may be that the disengagement drivers are there, that people maybe aren’t being paid enough, or you start working in a toxic work environment, the work conditions aren’t good, or maybe that they don’t have enough of the engagement drivers, that they’ve lacked control and independence and autonomy, that they aren’t getting that pat on the back, those are all things that we were going to be looking at here as ways of assessing whether the employee…what’s going on with their engagement level.

With Your Success In Mind, 

BizWatch Network Events Editorial Team

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