Proper motivation can increase employee engagement

How engaged are your employees? The answer is probably not what you want to hear. Less than one-third - 31.5 percent - of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014, according to a Jan. 28 Gallup survey. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.

So why is there an epidemic of workplace disengagement? Why are so many workers just going through the motions of their day-to-day responsibilities instead of giving their all?

The problem is that most managers do not know how to properly motivate employees.

The old styles don’t work anymore. Gen X-ers and Millennials want collaboration and consensus in the development of their skills and careers.

They also need to know that there is opportunity for advancement since that tends to be one of their primary motivators.

The fact is, most managers don’t know how to give employees what they need. They often forget that not everyone is motivated by the same things.

Fortunately, behavioral research has evolved in such a way that there are now personality tests that can describe someone’s usual, visible behaviors. There are more advanced assessments, such as the Birkman Method and others, that dive deeper to help employers understand each worker’s needs, motivations and reactions.

Such tools give managers the information they need to provide an environment in which every employee can perform at their optimal level.

Most people want to feel that they are part of a team, but with today’s technology and flexible work schedules, many employees find themselves physically isolated from one another.

This makes it difficult for them to feel that they are part of a team.

Don’t get me wrong; working from home may be good for some people. But generally people thrive on human interaction and collaboration, and the lack of it may feel like a death sentence.

Another major problem I see is people simply not taking a break. With smartphones we’re constantly “plugged in” to what’s happening in the office, even when we’re at home, in the park or on the ski slopes. It affects us on a psychological level that most people don’t realize.

Technology has also contributed to a real communication problem.

Many people – especially Millennials – email and text to the point that they have trouble with real human interaction.

While email does serve a purpose, it’s no substitute for a phone call or – even better – a face-to-face meeting. If a certain type of collaboration is what motivates an employee and they’re in a company culture of electronic communication, they will quickly become disengaged.

Knowing what truly motivates your employees is key to cutting down on workplace disengagement. The best investment a manager can make is taking the time to get to know their employees so they can put them in an environment in which they will flourish.

Based in Camden, S.C., Claire Carrison is a specialist in organizational development. Her company, Millvale, offers Birkman Method Certification Training to consultants, organizational development leaders and HR personnel. The Birkman training will be offered in Atlanta February 23 – 26. For information, go to