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4 steps to Employee Engagement. Hint: money is not part of it

If we want to assure that things are carried out in the most effective manner by an actively engaged team - what should we focus on?

Often overlooked is the motivational aspect.

Reflecting the constantly evolving work requirements and changes in worker expectations, the dynamics around motivation have seen dramatic changes in recent years. One of the biggest changes has been the acceleration in the importance of psychological or intrinsic rewards, and the dramatic decline of material or extrinsic rewards.

Once people take up a position, studies show that extrinsic rewards such as salaries and bonuses become less important as day-to-day motivation is more strongly driven by intrinsic rewards.

Here lies the difficulty, as unlike financial (extrinsic) rewards, we simply can’t task the Human Resources Department with developing an “intrinsic reward system” because the responsibility of building intrinsic motivation largely lies with line management.

But how should managers identify and build intrinsic rewards?

Today’s employees add value by innovating, problem solving and improvising to meet the conditions they encounter. Basically, most of today’s workers are asked to self-manage. Hence, looking at the how people self-manage is a good starting point.

In the process of self-management, people make judgments about:

(1) meaningfulness of their purpose

(2) degree of choice they have for doing things the right way

(3) competence of their performance

(4) actual progress being made toward fulfilling the purpose

These four judgments are the key factors in workers’ assessments of the value and effectiveness of their efforts and the contribution they are making.

So when positive, each of these judgments is accompanied by a positive emotional charge, and these positive charges are the intrinsic rewards that employees get from work.

In summary, these are the reinforcements or the rewards that keep employees actively self-managing and engaged in their work:

(1) sense of meaningfulness

(2) sense of choice

(3) sense of competence

(4) sense of progress

Research shows that, although people are quick to recognize the role of intrinsic rewards in their own behavior, there is a general tendency to assume that other people are motivated mostly by money and self-interest. Hence, it is important to educate the managers in organizations on this issue.

By considering what are the foundations building each of the senses, managers can identify what needs or not to be done to enhance the reward.


Haruka Marufuji

Bessern Director of Organizational Leadership and Culture


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