Motivation Fuels Engagement

When I think of motivation, I think of an old episode of The Simpsons where Homer decides that the reason why he’s going to show up for work each day is because he loves his daughter Maggie, and he’s willing to make the daily sacrifice for her.  It’s December 17th, and seasonal celebrations are everywhere.  Employees are taking vacations, kids are out of school, relatives are in town, and everyone seems to be in a hurry get somewhere.  So whose responsibility is it to ensure that employees are engaged in their work?

Motivation fuels engagement.  If I want to do something, I’ll do it, it’s as simple as that.  Speaking as an employee, I feel that the responsibility of staying engaged at work is largely mine.  But I think that`s greatly because of my personal work ethic.  If my mind is not challenged with a complex task, or if I feel unappreciated, I’ll disengage from the task at hand.  Despite these challenges that can come up in the workplace, as a paid employee, I do feel that it is my responsibility to focus on work during work hours.

On the other hand, as someone who manages employees, I view the salaries that are paid by employers as investments made on behalf of the company.  We need to support and develop these investments over time to get the best return.  So on the other side of the coin is the reality that employers have a responsibility to all stakeholders to observe the working patterns of their employees, and support their development through training and mentorship.

In Ron Alsop’s book, ‘The Trophy Kids Grow Up’ he writes about how the Millennial Generation is forcing the workforce to change the way they recruit, and ultimately how they manage their staff.  The Millennial Generation is made up of those who were born between 1980 – 2001.  Key characteristics of this generation include being comfortable with using technology, doing more than one task at all times, and demanding immediate results.  He argues that on the one hand, this generation demands immediate payoffs, but on the one hand, the work they produce is also completed swiftly.  On the one hand, Millennials want to maintain worklife balance, yet they desire to move quickly up the corporate ladder.  ‘The Trophy Kids Grow Up’ is a fascinating exploration into the mindset of the Millennial Generation, and what that means for managers and corporations as a whole.

As a Millennial myself, it is easy to see where my choices fit into the stereotypical Millennial frame of mind.  Honestly, some aspects of being a Millennial seem extremely negative, including a constant need to be recognized for one’s work.  Still, I strongly believe that the reason why I care about employee engagement is because of my Millennial traits.  Not only am I willing to multi-task, voluntarily working through multiple projects at the same time, but I enjoy the challenge of excelling in more than one task.  And because I do intend on moving up the corporate ladder over time, my mind is always focused on the business as a whole, and learning all of its parts (rather simply focusing solely on my role).

Again, I can only do so much for my own engagement.  I, as an employee, can be excited to learn about the business I am in, and the industry I care so much about.  But unless my employer supports that desire to learn through training or mentorship, there’s no other way for my curiosity to go beyond simply that.  So to the question ‘whose responsibility is it to ensure that employees are engaged,’ my response is that if motivation fuels engagement, then the responsibility of an employee is to find motivation to work, while the responsibility of an employer is to sustain that forward motion.  An employee may be expected to start the car, but an employer needs to provide the gasoline.

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