Essential Questions for Boosting Workplace Engagement

You’re not as selfish as you think.

Of course, we naturally care about how our jobs affect us individually, but that isn’t all that matters.

We’re also motivated by social consequences.

As we strive to increase employee engagement and motivate the people in our organisations to do their best, we sometimes forget all the tools at our disposal. Maybe we think we have to increase pay or find a way to push co-workers to outwork each other.

Sure, that may work sometimes, but it’s not the only approach. Most people also want to do good in the world. We want to work with (not against) our co-workers. We want to feel good about the work we do.

If you’re looking to increase workplace engagement, ask yourself these two questions to see how you’re socially motivating your employees. If they’re not socially motivated, you’re missing out on a key source of influence.

1. How Do We Impact Others?

Most people care about their customers and their impact on the world.

Does your job make the world a better place? Do you share mutual purpose with your customers?

When we don’t, we start to believe our product is inferior. We have contempt for our customers, thinking, “They’re suckers!” Are you cynical about your work, seeing it as a means to take advantage of people rather than make their lives better?

There are some companies where this is their ethic. In those organisations, we don’t see much pride, commitment, or engagement based on this social source of influence.

But if we believe our work benefits others, we take pride in the quality. In these organisations, we have positive interactions with customers — the more frequent, personal, and face-to-face opportunities to relate to clients, the better!

If you can get people to see how their work makes a positive contribution to people’s lives, they’ll be committed.

2. Are We on a Team?

Social motivation also comes from the organisation and team culture. The more camaraderie among the staff, the more motivated they are to work hard and enjoy their work.

It’s the “band of brothers and sisters” mentality.

Without a sense of team in an organisation, employees feel rejected, betrayed, and disrespected by others. Plus, they probably won’t like, trust, or respect their co-workers either. They’re in competition with others and feel angry and resentful of their co-workers. And they probably believe they work for a “loser” organisation.

A positive organisational climate generates motivation for employees to work hard. When people believe in their team, they feel trusted and respected by co-workers and management. In turn, they trust and respect others.

They want to support others in their work and feel supported by their team. Often, they even have a “best friend” at work. They believe they’re working for a “winner” organisation.

One of my friends saw this team culture begin on her first day of college. The entire student body came together before classes began to celebrate the beginning of their college career. The university president addressed the students, saying, “I want to begin with a round of applause to our admissions department because they’ve never made a mistake. Each of you belongs here.”

Think of the reassurance he instilled in them! They weren’t in competition with each other— they were a part of a team. That’s vastly different than the infamous first-day speech, “Look to your left. Look to your right. One of you isn’t going to be here next year.”

Take the positive approach in your organisation. Instead of creating an internally competitive work environment, work towards a team mentality. When you send a message that says, “We believe in you. We’re here to help you succeed. You’re part of our team,” you’ll see dramatically different results.

Work shouldn’t be about conning the customer and competing with your co-worker. If you want to build engagement, look for ways to capitalise on social motivation.

The more that employees connect to their customers, believe in what their organisation is working to accomplish, and establish mutually beneficial relationships at work, the more motivated they’ll be.

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