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Digging Deep to Get to the Root Source of Employee Disengagement Thinkstock

Digging Deep to Get to the Root Source of Employee Disengagement

You can’t address the growing decline in employee engagement until you understand the source of their dissatisfaction..

Activating optimal motivation is far more than a feel-good proposition for individuals and organizations. It provides a pragmatic and skill-based framework, course of action and solution to helping shift a workforce. Lost productivity can cost organizations an estimated $350 billion annually in lost productivity. Organizations will spend $750,000 to $1 billion to fix the problem, yet many executives do not understand how employees become disengaged.

Many top-level executives dedicated to measuring and improving employee engagement have no idea how people become engaged or disengaged in the first place, says Susan Fowler, author of Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … and What Does, and a coauthor for the Optimal Motivation program developed by Ken Blanchard Companies.

“A top-level executive recently confessed to me that his organization is spending a fortune to measure and implement engagement initiatives, but ‘nothing seems to be working; in fact, our employee engagement numbers are getting worse instead of better,’” said Fowler, who helps organizations understand that the key to engagement is the quality of an individual’s day-to-day motivation.

 This is because organizations are trying to fix a problem after it has occurred using techniques based on outdated approaches to motivation. Organizations need to intervene before people are on the road to disengagement.

Blanchard’s research finds that shift in how leaders look at motivation changes their approach to motivation. Ironically, when leaders shift their focus from getting results to creating a workplace where people thrive, they get the higher productivity, sustained performance and results they seek. When people flourish, so does the organization.

In a white paper, the company’s researchers have clarified how employees ultimately come to be actively disengaged, disengaged or engaged, and how to empower them to be passionate about their work and employer.

According to researchers, there are six motivational outlooks. The “suboptimal” outlooks include:

  • Disinterested – The individual simply does not find value in the project or task and may feel overwhelmed by it or that the task is a waste of time.
  • External – The project or task may provide the individual with an opportunity to exert his or her position or power or to take advantage of a promise for more money or an enhanced status in the eyes of others.
  • Imposed – The individual is participating in the project or task because they feel pressured to do so due to the assumption that everyone else is participating and expects the same of them. They may also participate to avoid feelings of guilt or shame, or a fear of not participating.

Optimal motivational outlooks include:

  • Aligned – The individual is participating in the project or task because they are able to link participating to a significant value such as learning from others or having others learn from them.
  • Integrated – The individual is participating in the project or task because they are able to link their participation to a life or work purpose such as giving voice to an important issue.
  • Inherent – The individual is participating in the project or task because they simply enjoy the activity and regard it as fun.

Fowler, together with Optimal Motivation coauthors Dr. David Facer and Dr. Drea Zigarmi, claims that motivation can be learned, developed and sustained. Leaders need to understand that the quality of an individual’s motivation is what matters most. The leader’s role is to facilitate employees’ shift to a more motivational outlook and use best practices for creating workplaces where high-quality motivation – and people – flourish.

“The most powerful moment in motivation is when you are able to use the skill of motivation and shift to an optimal motivational outlook,” says Zigarmi. “It can be done personally and – with some time, attention and training – you can learn how to help others make that shift also.”

To take full advantage of the science of motivation, leaders need to understand that they cannot motivate anyone. What they can do is shape a workplace where people are more likely to experience optimal motivation at work. When leaders treat employee motivation as a strategic issue, they create a distinctive advantage not easily matched by competitors.

This strategic approach results in higher quality individual performance on everyday goals and projects, more out-of-the-box thinking, faster innovation, greater acceptance of change and greater “idea velocity,” according to Blanchard research. Sustaining high-quality motivation as a strategic capability also creates a magnet for talent. By asking themselves “What do I want for my people?” rather than “What do I want from them?” leaders can create a dynamic culture shift.

Getting to the root source of engagement makes good business sense. Research shows that optimally motivated employees are three times more satisfied with their jobs, deliver 31 percent higher productivity, are 10 times more engaged by their jobs and demonstrate three times higher creativity.

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