Lately I’ve been thinking back over my career to the times when I have felt most engaged. Having been immersed in the world of engagement and motivation for the last 6 months at Motivait, I’ve so far found that many people and organisations often have very different ways of determining or measuring engagement, as well as different methods of igniting it in the workplace. Some have been considering engagement surveys, others are revamping office layouts, or improving communication tools, or even encouraging more flexible working hours. I have had a varied career, in both large corporates and small privately owned businesses; going from leading teams in manufacturing environments, to working as an HR professional and as an executive recruiter. However regardless of the role or size of company I feel there have been a fairly consistent set of factors that have mattered to me throughout, when it came to keeping me motivated or engaged:

• I have had clear, achievable but challenging goals
• I have had some freedom and been trusted to decide on how I achieve my goals
• I have been able to see where my contribution fitted and the impact it has had, or could have
• I have been part of a team that pulled in the same direction
• My boss has had a vision, been supportive, inspiring and led by example
• I have been able to question and air my thoughts
• I have been able to help, guide and advise others
• I have been able to get involved in activities outside of my day to day responsibilities

It’s completely normal that engagement should mean many things to different people. To an extent, your preferred definition shouldn’t matter. What is ultimately important however, is what you do with those engagement survey scores or how you involve employee feedback in redesigning the experience. How are you developing that natural emotional attachment to the organisation? How are you enhancing engagement within your employees? That desire and willingness to put yourself out, put the extra hours in, visibly show your pride in your company, actively help and encourage a colleague, question the status quo, take on broader responsibilities out with those normally expected. And not necessarily for a tangible reward, but instead because there is a drive from within that makes you want to do something. Not because you have to.

Of course, everyone appreciates bonuses, company cars, promotions, the latest technology etc. But while they are nice to have, they are not the things that have made me feel good when I’m on my way home reflecting on my day. For me at least it’s often been about the intrinsic motivators, my feel-good factors that have made it all worthwhile and sustained my commitment, enthusiasm and desire to contribute.

People who have got the best out of me have listened, they have got to know me as a person, they have understood what makes me tick. They have helped create the backdrop for me to maximise my contribution and feel valued. We already see this kind of behaviour between organisations and customers, as they work to nurture meaningful relationships- why not create the same value between organisations and their employees? It’s crucial to pay attention to the reasons people do their work and pursue their goals. The science behind motivation shows that when people thrive, you don’t need to ‘drive’ them with a carrot and stick to get results.

None of this is exactly “new thinking” but more can always be done to create the conditions that incorporate intrinsic motivators. When business leaders review what can be done to enhance performance, defining the organisation’s “employee experience” or “the employee value proposition”-with their employees in mind- is a pivotal first step towards seeing a more productive, satisfied and engaged workforce.