"A simple yet revolutionary concept...it’s impossible to fully separate life from work."
Bob Kelleher is a best selling author, keynote speaker and thought leader on employee engagement, leadership, and current workforce trends. “Workplace engagement” or more specifically, the lack thereof, has recently been a common focus among management experts—and with good reason. Notably, the statistics commonly state the number of actively engaged employees as being around 32%. What Kelleher captures in his inspirational book, I-Engage, is the essence of engagement, not only from a purely work perspective but also from the individual viewpoint, such as life values, intrinsic motivators, and purpose, which gives both the individual and manager more relevant strategies to improve employee engagement. The book is designed for employees to access guidelines and checkpoints to assess their current status of engagement and the methods and strategies to improve.
"It seems obvious that an honest and searching awareness of who we are can serve as an indispensable inner compass."
Engagement is a multifactorial dynamic that should be considered both in ourselves as well as within management. Very few people lose their jobs because of lack of skills or education, it is usually deficiencies in behaviors—the intangibles—that are not consistent with company culture that are the cause.
Understanding your personal intrinsic motivators acts as a personal compass to locate and and maintain the ideal job that enhances and leverages your skills, interests and talents. It is an important step to understand your intrinsic motivators in order to reach high levels of engagement as an employee.
The seven recognized intrinsic motivators are:
- Achievement – an inherent desire to succeed.
- Authority – an inherent desire to lead and persuade.
- Camaraderie – the desire to interact with others.
- Independence – an inherent desire for freedom.
- Esteem – an inherent desire for recognition and praise.
- Safety – a desire for a steady income and benefits and a safe work environment.
- Fairness – concerned with equity, compares themselves to others.
As a group exercise with your team, ask them to rate these seven motivators and choose the top two. Ask each team member to guess each others top two motivators and write them down before revealing them. How could management work with this?
- Achievement – Challenge with work assignments.
- Authority – Give work assignments that offer opportunities to lead or make decisions.
- Camaraderie – Create interaction with teamwork projects, group meetings, etc.
- Independence – Give tasks to allow their own decisions
- Esteem – Give ample feedback
- Safety – Predictable work with little risk or uncertainty.
- Fairness – Maintain fairness as perceived inequities will discourage these individuals.
The aim as an employee is to position yourself in a job where your some of these intrinsic motivators are satisfied: for instance stacking supermarket shelves may be highly social for you, a short commute and health insurance may suit a mother returning to work, etc. When searching for a job consider some of the following; what does the company do, and is it of value? What is their mission, what are their differentiators? Do your personal values and mission align with theirs?
Pitfalls to Avoid
"Engagement means having optimal access to our best, most productive and creative selves, but there are some pitfalls that can keep us on the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy."
Engagement is not a static thing, it’s a revolving process and at least 50% of engagement lies within ourselves. Reducing your limits of freedom reduces the chances of reaching a truly engaged state.
The first pitfall is “Deciding that what you know now is enough.” So many of us leave education with the belief that “that is it for me, I’m not going back to study.” Given the state of technological changes, this belief is extremely self limiting.
Our education should be in a state of flux: set goals for your own education and pursue them with purpose. It should remain a lifelong process, learning does not have to be formal (the internet is making formal education easier though), it can be in the form of on the job learning, mentoring, job shadowing, job rotation, and stretch assignments. The access to knowledge is what breaks or creates careers. Become a lifelong learner, it will change your prospects.
The second pitfall is becoming too reliant on your wage to survive, Kelleher suggesting creating what he refers to as a “my choice” fund. If you are disengaged, make sure you have funds to survive being let go, seriously reconsider your budget if you are skint and keep a “my choice” fund.
The third pitfall is being complacent, if you are disengaged don’t become the victim and blame the boss, the company or the situation, you need to take action for your own engagement. Clarify any mitigating circumstances that may be affecting your engagement with management.
Know your Differentiators
"If you don't have these strengths to differentiate yourself from the next job applicant, it's time to work on them. Some will come easily to you; some will require purposeful, intentional changes to your default way of reacting to circumstances."
Having a job is not simply turning up for work and doing your job well, other qualities that are highly desirable to any manager will help differentiate you from others and allow you to grow up the corporate ladder.
Ask yourself if you have the potential to be:
- Managerial. Even if you are just starting in a low position, take a managerial role in your job and see that things are done as they are supposed to be done, hold people to account, even your superiors. Stick to timelines and follow up with agendas. Treat people with respect, don’t “suck up” to your superiors and never condescend. This includes managing yourself: know your roles and responsibilities, but also know how to step up and take on work outside of your immediate responsibilities.
- Able to Manage up. Managing your boss well is a particular trait that will always work in your favor. Understand their communication preferences, anticipate their needs, prepare them for the unexpected, and don’t bother them with the small stuff.
- Productive/Driven. Great employees manage their time well, have daily action plans and don’t procrastinate especially on group projects. As an employee, learn time management well and always work towards efficiency and high quality.
- Goal Orientated. Engaged employees go beyond the mediocre, they go beyond the expected, and have a highly driven expectation of the company’s goals and how their own efforts fit into the bigger picture.
- Positive. A great employee takes responsibility for problem solving, they have a can do attitude and only approach management with problems after they have spent time coming up with potential solutions. They don’t complain and remain accountable for their mistakes.
- Social. Cultivating strong relationships across the company’s departments is one of the most important traits to develop. It does not mean introverts will not rate as its more about understanding what your co workers want and working in a collaborative and productive way to achieve that.
How many of these qualities are you strong or weak in. Recognize them, write them down and come up with strategies to improve. Try to identify where things have gone wrong because you were lacking in some of these traits. What could you have been done differently?
Regardless of your position within your organization, you can work to become a more engaged employee by understanding your intrinsic motivators, avoiding your pitfalls, and understanding what differentiates you as an employee. And if all else fails, you’d be smart to get started on a “my choice” fund, so that you don’t find yourself stuck in a disengaging job.