Dec 8, 2005

Employee Engagement or Motivation?



DD has posted a bit on Employee Engagement and I thought I would pitch in too. He touches a bit about branding but I think I would talk about it in a different perspective.

To be frank, I find the word "engagement" a confusing word. It's one of those 'mould-to-suit-yourself' kind of word. If I have to think about engagement more thoroughly it would be great to view it through Herzberg's lens.

1. Hygiene factors: These are the factors that first determine whether or not I take a job. Usually refered to as the basic requirements, these are dependent on the context of the industry and location. If all other organizations in the city offer commuting services, and you don't, it's tough to expect that people will join you, or even after joining be happy about it. So, admit it, step one in employee engagement starts outside the organization!

2. Motivators: Once you have the hygiene factors in place, doesn't mean that people are going to be all happy and mushy about your organization. It merely means that they are NOT going to be unhappy. That's an important distinction. To motivate people, organization has to offer things that are above and beyond hygiene conditions. These motivators could be tacit, explicit, tangible or intangible.

But, and this is a BIG but, the thing to remember is, factors move from the Motivator bucket to the Hygiene bucket faster than you can realise. Remember the time ESOPs were offered initially as a reward mechanism? They were a huge motivator then, but as more and more organizations started offering ESOPs they quickly moved to the hygiene bucket for certain classes of jobs.

The SECOND BIG thing to remember is that motivation is an individual issue. One person might be motivated to work by working on research issues, while another might be motivated by working on large initiatives with an enterprise impact. If you switch their jobs, all things remaining same, they would be disengaged and de-motivated.

Sure internal communications does play a role, but it can only do so much. The actual work of making employees engaged lies in the hands of their managers.

So to find out if you as a manager have engaged employees try agreeing or disagreeing to these questions:

  • I know what is important to my individual employees.
  • I have plans for each employee to meet their career goals
  • I know their respective strengths and weaknesses and can coach them to amplify their strengths.
  • I can show them a career path that links to their goals in my organization.
  • I have developmental plans to help them close the gaps in their skills.


If you can answer these questions with a “yes”, then there is a good chance that you will have engaged employees.

Anything else is a bonus !