Subhakar Rao Surapaneni

Investor, Sales and Marketing Pioneer, Author, Technology Champion, Philanthropist, Leadership Mentor

What Drives Employee Engagement?

What is employee engagement?

“The most highly motivated and productive employees push hard because they feel like their work makes a difference to attaining worthy goals.”

Successful companies know how to treat their employees well. They make each and every employee feel that his/her work makes meaningful contribution to the company. Smart companies know before awesome products, great customer service, and killer strategies – they need a highly engaging and motivated workforce. Because an engaged workforce will always outperform the less engaged ones. Needless to say: an engaged workforce has a direct impact on the growth and development of a company.  Both financially and as a brand value.

So what drives employee engagement? What makes an employee connected to his work? While companies ascribe trust, respect, incentive as the foundations for employee engagement; I have always believed it’s “value” that drives an employee to greater performance. My experience in leading people has reinforced my belief further. Employees want to feel that they are valuable to the company and what they do makes a real difference to the company. It’s very intrinsic and voluntary in nature. You can’t drive engagement by laying down 10 page HR policies. You can drive engagement only by creating an environment where employees can establish deep relationship with the company both personally and professionally. And how can you create that relationship? I think managers have the greatest role to play here.

Managerial Direct Roles

For most of the employees, their reporting manger is the face of the company. In a survey conducted jointly by Dale Carnegie and MSW Research on 1,500 employees; following key drivers were observed that impact employee engagement the most:

  • Relationship with immediate supervisor
  • Belief in senior leadership
  • Pride in working for the company

Since employees discharge duties which are directly delegated by his immediate reporting manager/lead or supervisor – they are directly responsible for creating positive atmosphere of employee engagement. It is not a cliché when people say “a team’s engagement rises and falls with the engagement of their leader”. Managers who are passionately engaged at work have direct impact on the engagement level of the employees working under him.

Top Leadership Cascade Effects

Leaders are not just there to delegate tasks or measure project milestones; but also to act as a medium to carry out the vision, values and goals of a company. And it starts with the top leadership. It is a top down approach, where senior leaders passionately cascade engagement level with the middle managers and middle managers with their team members. They do this by following an honest and transparent communication policy where employees are encouraged to express openly and fearlessly. And when communication channels are facilitated properly, trust factor is improved. Once there is trust in the system and work environment; more and more employees feel engaged at the workplace. It builds up an intrinsic value system within the company.

Extrinsic & Intrinsic Factors at Work

Tangible benefits can never be undermined when we live in a money economy. You simply can’t talk of something grand, deep or philosophical unless the basic biological and physiological needs of employees are met. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is still very relevant in modern world. Remuneration is an important factor in any employee engagement program. Because for most of the employees, their job is the only channel to fulfil their materialistic aspirations. Smart companies understand this simple dynamics and therefore, have competitive if not exorbitant compensations and benefits program. This act as ceiling level where employees don’t become disengaged at work due to low monetary components. However, smart companies also know that intrinsic factors are keys for developing deep engagement level. And the most motivating intrinsic motivation for an employee is his sense of involvement with the work he is doing for the company. Employees want to be assured regularly that they are contributing meaningfully to the growth of company. Smart managers map employee performance management with overall organisational growth. They align employees’ aspirations with company goals. Employees have more sense of purpose at their work because they can see prospects of career advancement when they contribute meaningfully to the company. It makes them believe that they are valuable to the company. A smart company leverage both the extrinsic and intrinsic at optimum level to keep employees motivated at work.

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