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Motivation vs Engagement

Once again, we have confused Mary with Joseph and use these two words interchangeably. 

Here I also would like to make a very brave statement, your employees' needs are backed by science but your HR actions are only supported by the rules of thumb of the business community. So they fail! 

You can easily guess whether motivation or engagement is backed by science. Yes, that's right, it is motivation. Engagement theories and studies are weaker than my grandma's idea about how the Internet works. But let's not dismiss it completely instead, understand it. 


Engagement is the emotional part of one's performance. It is about commitment, a sense of purpose and belonging, and the love for the job, a particular team, manager, leader or the company itself due to established good relationships. Engagement is fragile and many times hard to come by. Human emotions and feelings change just like relationships between individuals and team dynamics. I have seen companies losing talent because two friends' relationship was ruined and one left. The company had nothing to do with it. That's why I always say, that engagement is often beyond our control, hence we need to focus on motivation. 


Motivation is action. The willpower that gets things done even when we don't feel like it although motivation also completes engagement as it urges people to act upon their emotions. The good news is that we have greater control over this and science has helped us set up the framework. This is why we have, goals, rewards, performance chats, employee development, adequate time off, salary bands, equal pay etc. All of these actions can be traced back to the number of widely known motivational theories not to forget about the equity theory


The problem is that HR professionals have no idea about these theories and even if they do, they fail to keep their practices up to date in line with them and when things go south they default back to the unscientific engagement narrative. You see that millions of times! One of the motivational aspects is good relationships between team members and managers/leaders. This is part of motivation, not engagement! When managers/leaders create conflict or toxicity organisations don't recognise this as a motivation problem so they arrange an event where people can come together without addressing the actual issues. 

Pizza parties don't address motivational issues which in this case is the toxic manager. 

Once someone asked me, "Which is easier to do, engage or motivate?" Motivation is somewhat easier because you are in control of the motivating factors all you have to do is ask the person what is he/she motivated by and focus on that. I am, for example, motivated by trust. If you trust that I can build a bridge I will find the way to build that bridge. 


Engagement on the other hand is intrinsic and extremely hard to influence because engagement is LOVE. I know it sounds like a cliche but it is not. Love for my company, the team I work with, the job I do, or the management I work with. When people are emotionally involved they make things happen, but it must come from within. We can create an environment where people have functioning relationships but creating emotional bonds between them is above our capacity. 


Focusing on creating an environment that is motivating should be 80% of every manager, HR, and leader role and if we do that engagement is likely to follow. But guess what? Even if it doesn't, motivation will get more performance out of your people than engagement which can be easily destroyed by an argument between colleagues. 


PS: As climbers, we say, "Motivation & and discipline will get you to the summit." So focus on that instead of organising another ice cream van or a pizza party because let's be honest, that is not very scientific is it?


10 days left! You can access my CliftonStrength A-Z course for free until the 14th of January.


Also, HR stop doing these demotivating and disengaging practices immediately!:



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