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Exploring the Relationship Between Employee Motivation and Engagement


Motivation and engagement are popular buzzwords for entrepreneurs and HR professionals, but they do not mean the same thing. There are times when they go hand in hand, but some kinds of motivation can actually work against employee engagement. It is important to know the difference between the two so that you can make them work together to benefit your business.

Extrinsic Employee Motivation

Extrinsic employee motivation comes from an outside factor. Employees who are externally motivated are more likely to accomplish a task or achieve a goal in order to get something in return, whether it is a reward, a promotion, or extra time off.

There is a place for extrinsic motivation in a business, but it does not foster employee engagement. Here’s why:

  • It fosters competition. While a little healthy competition can be fun every now and then, you want your employees to work together as much as possible toward a common goal, namely, the success of the business. Even if a competition involves teams, employees are still being pitted against each other, and that can work against engagement. (This does not mean, however, that gamification is bad. It simply means that the way you gamify your engagement activities must be carefully planned.)
  • It encourages a What’s in it for me? mentality. Extrinsic motivation encourages employees to ask What’s in it for me? rather than What’s in it for us? These employees are selfishly motivated. They may cut corners or do other things that do not necessarily benefit the business in order to achieve their own goals.
  • It opens the door to questions about equity. When a business rewards a certain task or goal with a tangible prize, it fosters jealousy and opens the door to questions about fairness and equity. Again, you want your employees to work with each other as much as possible, not measuring their success against each other.
  • It confuses expectations. When an employer rewards one task, employees could soon expect rewards for other tasks that should be done without extra motivation.

A reward system can help mitigate some of these problems, but let’s take a look at a different type of motivation that is more likely to lead to employee engagement.

Employee Engagement and Intrinsic Motivation

Motivation is very important for a successful business, but when an employee is engaged, the motivation is intrinsic. Engaged employees have a desire to help the company, and that is what motivates them. This desire fuels their work every day, with no need for a Starbucks gift card or extra time off.

Here are a few ways to build intrinsic motivation:

Clearly define your goals. The best place to start when looking to build employee engagement is to make sure your business has a clearly defined mission statement.

Employees need to know the goals of the business before they can begin to work toward those goals. Make sure each employee also understands how his or her position fits into the larger company, and how individual work can help the business succeed in its mission.

Challenge and listen to employees. According to a survey from ReportLinker, 83 percent of employees say that opportunities to take on new challenges make them more likely to stay with a business. The same survey found that 78 percent of employees who feel encouraged to be creative and innovative are committed to their employer.

Employees like a challenge. They like to feel that they are contributing and that their skills and abilities are being put to good use. Give your employees opportunities to show what they can do, and listen to their feedback and ideas. Even an employee in a job that does not seem to lend itself to creativity can develop innovative ideas in an encouraging environment.

Recognize employees. Rewards are not the deciding factor when an employee is engaged, but in order to keep and build that engagement, they should feel appreciated. Recognition is key. That can come in the form of a comment passed along from a client, positive feedback, a thank you, or a bonus. The employee should feel like their work helps the company, and if you can show them tangible evidence of that fact, they are more likely to continue that work.

Foster camaraderie. Instead of pitting employees against each other, find ways for them to enjoy each other. This is important in the office, but it’s also important to foster team relationships outside of the office. You can do this via instant messaging capability on a mobile app, as well as with mixers, bowling nights, family picnics, and other events.

Measure engagement. After you have implemented the above measures and others to build employee motivation, make sure to measure engagement to find out what is working. Analytics and data can help you find out what you are doing right and continue to build on that.

Why Employee Motivation and Employee Engagement Are Important

According to a survey from Korn Ferry, 90 percent of executives say keeping new hires is an issue for them. And TopResume found that 73 percent of employees are open to hearing about new job opportunities. Employees who are motivated and engaged are more likely to stick with their company for the long term. Employees who are invested in the success and the future of the business will want to see it through.

If you are interested in building employee engagement for your company, you can try the HubEngage app for free. Our mobile app is fully customizable and easy to manage, and you can get started right away.

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