Whilst I was thinking about preparing for this blog I googled “staff engagement” and got just over 5 million searches. That’s a lot. But then I googled “staff motivation” and got over 46 million searches. Now that’s a lot more. Why would engagement get so much less attention than motivation? I pondered this for a while and here’s my thoughts:
My HR colleagues talk a lot about staff engagement, referring to polls like the famous Gallup poll. The subject of staff engagement is inextricably tied up with the work of the HR professional. I respect the work of HR folk who encourage wider engagement with staff – it can be a tough job. Certainly in more corporate or larger businesses the subject of staff engagement has become part of the norm. My experience in the SME world is that firstly, the term “engagement” is less widely used and secondly its application is less obvious. That’s not to say some great SME’s have got staff engagement sorted though. A Wakefield based manufacturer OE Electrics is an example of the success of engaging with staff to make the business work better.
So if SME’s are talking less about staff engagement, is it all bad news? I don’t think so. More and more I am hearing owners and managers in SME’s talk about attitude, especially when it comes to recruitment of new staff. Recruit for attitude and train the skills. When owners and managers talk about attitude they mean people being proactive, conscientious, positive, having a can-do attitude, or as I regularly say they want to do a good job. They may take personal pride in what they do, it’s just the way they think and work. So is attitude really another way of saying motivated? I think so. And if we really want motivated people to work with or for us, can we do anything to increase motivation?
This is where it gets tricky. In my experience a manager can easily demotivate a person, maybe just with one “management decision”. Whereas it can be much harder to motivate a person. In fact you could say a manager can’t directly motivate a person but they can create the conditions that reduce the chances of demotivation and increase the chances of increased motivation.
Here’s some of the examples of ways to work with your staff to engage with them/motivate them and remember employees don’t turn off their humanity when they walk into work in a morning. Like Karen Martin says, they want and expect to connect with those for whom they produce work and get work from.
These points are an extraction from my eBook How To Become An Outstanding Organisation Through Engagement which can be downloaded free here and gives lots more advice on engaging with your employees.