A recent University of Vermont study evaluated how the moods of more than 2.4 million people changed throughout the day. More interesting than the base results are the observations around what this means for managers in the workplace:
“In the work world, we talk not of positive or negative ‘affect’ but of motivation, commitment, and engagement — the willingness of people to expend the extra effort that extraordinary performance usually requires. Whatever it’s called, the phenomenon is the same: ‘motivated’ and ‘unmotivated’ or ‘engaged’ and ‘unengaged’ are two different things. The factors that drive one are different from the factors that drive the other.
“The implication for you as a boss is that if you want motivated (or committed or engaged) people, you must take two kinds of actions. You must remove restraints and replace them with drivers of motivation. Removing the things that inhibit motivation will lead, at most, to a neutral place. To paraphrase the authors of the Twitter study, motivation and a lack of motivation (or engagement and disengagement) aren’t opposite ends of the same spectrum. They are two spectra that have to be managed separately.”
If increasing employee engagement in your organization is your goal, think of it as a two step process.
Step 1: Remove negative factors that inhibit people from wanting to engage. For example:
- High performers who bully, intimidate and coerce their co-workers or subordinates
- Lack of direction about changing priorities
- Failure to notice and acknowledge employees’ continued exceptional efforts in a stressful situation
Step 2: Create positive factors that show people the value of engaging more in their work, your culture and your organization’s desired outcomes. For example:
- Recognize employees frequently and in-the-moment for demonstrating your core values in their daily work
- Use recognition to redirect efforts in line with changing priorities
- Create and proactively manage a culture in which employees know they are valued, their efforts will be noticed, and their achievements celebrated
Does your organization tend to focus only on one of the steps? Which one? What would you do to integrate both steps into your organization’s plans to improve employee engagement?