Susan Fowler is the author of “Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging.” In connection with the launch this week, she has provided some background thinking on an important aspect of her work: The difference between motivation and engagement and why it matters.
This post originally published on 9/4/2014 at www.susanfowler.com
Don’t Confuse Motivation with Engagement
There are tons of data supporting the value of having an engaged workforce. However, researchers have only recently explored how people come to be engaged. How do you improve engagement if you don’t understand the internal appraisal process individuals go through to become engaged in the first place?
The appraisal process is at the heart of how employee engagement—and disengagement—is formed. Every day, people are appraising their experience in the workplace and coming to both cognitive and emotional conclusions: I feel threatened, safe, unsure, positive, frightened, fearful, optimistic, etc. When appraisals are negative over time, people end up disengaged or actively disengaged. When people have positive appraisals over time they are engaged or go beyond engagement to what is called employee work passion.
Engagement is the long-term, accumulative result of people’s persistent and positive appraisals of their workday experience. What if managers could help people manage their appraisal process? They can. But better yet, individuals can learn to manage their own appraisal process daily so they are more likely to experience employee work passion over time. How? This bold assertion is key to improving engagement over time: Motivation is a skill. People can learn to choose and create optimal motivational experiences anytime and anywhere. Optimal Motivation is experiencing the fulfillment of psychological needs while in the pursuit and achievement of meaningful goals.*
Motivation is the day-to-day, moment-to-moment experience that ultimately leads to active disengagement, disengagement, engagement, or employee work passion.
Managing people’s appraisal process by understanding the true nature of human motivation and helping people shift to an optimal motivational outlook day-to-day is the key to having a positive effect on long-term engagement.
Engagement efforts have suffered as organizations mistakenly focus on creating metrics out of their survey results instead of the appraisal process that leads to the results. People have suffered from actions designed to improve engagement that actually undermine day-to-day motivation. Despite compelling research on the undermining effects of traditional carrot and stick approaches to motivation, organizations try to incentivize people to improve engagement.
Stop using carrots to bribe people to be engaged. Stop using the stick to pressure them to improve engagement scores. These traditional tactics only thwart day-to-day optimal motivation, destroying long-term engagement. Remember, the quality of a person’s engagement is the result of the quality of their day-to-day motivation.
*Optimal Motivation definition by Susan Fowler, David Facer, and Drea Zigarmi
Susan Fowler has 30 years’ experience as a researcher, consultant, and coach in over 30 countries around the globe in the field of leadership. As an expert in the field of personal empowerment, she is the lead developer of The Ken Blanchard Company’s Optimal Motivation product line, as well as Situational Self Leadership, their best-of-class self leadership and personal empowerment program.
Susan is the bestselling co-author of three books with Ken Blanchard: Self Leadership And The One-Minute Manager, Leading At A Higher Level, and Empowerment. A catalyst for growth, Susan also authored the audio programs Overcoming Procrastination and Mentoring. She is a Senior Consulting Partner at The Ken Blanchard Companies, and a professor in the Master of Science Leadership Program at the University of San Diego.