Are your employees engaged? Or are they just motivated? The difference is important, says Paul Marciano of Flemington, an expert in employee engagement.

“Engagement is similar to, but not synonymous with, motivation,” he explains, “because engagement refers to an intrinsic, deep-rooted and sweeping sense of commitment, pride, and loyalty that is not easily altered. In contrast, one’s level of motivation is strongly influenced by external factors, especially expectations that certain efforts or accomplishments will yield valued rewards, such as a financial bonus for meeting a quarterly sales objective.”

Marciano will speak on “Building a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT,” Tuesday, May 8, at 8:30 a.m. at Raritan Valley Community College. The program is designed specifically for managers who are responsible for motivating and engaging others, such as human resources professionals, supervisors and small business owners. Cost is $99. Register at www.paulmarciano.com/rvcc-presentation or call Jeanne Murphy Public Relations at 908-752-5179.

Marciano earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from Yale University, where he studied behavior modification and motivation. Paul has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Yale, Princeton, and Davidson College. He has worked in the field of organizational development for 25 years and is president of the human relations consulting firm Whiteboard LLC, a company that helps organizations cultivate, manage, and grow their human capital.

He is the author of “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT,” published in 2010. He also serves on the board of the Ronald McDonald House Charities and is a Huffington Post and SmartBrief contributing editor.

Engagement vs. Motivation. “Motivated employees want to get through the work as quickly as possible to get to their carrots — regardless of what may be going on around them. In contrast, engaged employees keep their eyes on the goal but also use their peripheral vision to look for opportunities that may contribute further to accomplishing the mission of the organization,” explains Marciano.

“Employees who are motivated but not engaged will work hard when there is something in it for them. Engaged employees work hard for the sake of the organization and because it gives them a feeling of fulfillment.”

Marciano gives an example. “One Sunday I came into my office and I found my bookkeeper working; her two little girls were sitting on the floor in the next room, playing a game. ‘There were some things I didn’t finish on Friday and I just wanted to make sure they were done,’ she explained. Now that’s an engaged employee!”

Engaged employees make a difference in an organization. They go above and beyond. “A motivated employee will clean up the puddle of water on the floor. An engaged employee will move the ceiling panels to find the leak,” explains Marciano.

The carrot and stick. While traditional “carrot and stick” rewards will help to motivate employees, they will not engage them, he adds. These types of rewards are based on the B.F. Skinner model of training rats to run through a maze by offering food pellets as rewards.

“If the rat isn’t hungry, he isn’t motivated to run through the maze,” says Marciano. In other words, to motivate employees, managers must continually come up with new things they are hungry for — the motivation to work hard comes from without, not within. And if the particular reward has no interest for some employees, they will not work harder to receive it.

Marciano calls these types of reward programs, “Mickey Mouse,” not only because they are “light weight,” but because like a Mickey Mouse wind-up toy, the employee runs for a little while, then stops once the reward is given. The manager must continually find ways to “wind-up” employees with new motivation programs.

Motivation programs can backfire. There are other problems with traditional reward programs. They tend to motivate the people who are already top performers while reinforcing the “loser” mentality of employees who routinely achieve less.

In any organization there are a few people who are consistent high achievers, and few who are consistently at the bottom of the pack, with the vast majority of people falling somewhere in the middle.

This middle part of the pack ispeople who will achieve more if they become engaged employees, according to Marciano. They are also most likely to be discouraged by traditional reward programs.

When you run a reward program, who is the most likely person to win? The people who are already high achievers. That means that you really haven’t motivated anyone except those who were already motivated. And unfortunately, you have just discouraged those people in the middle who feel that no matter how hard they try, they never win.

These people become discouraged, and in good economic times, usually look for another job. However, in the past few years, with a tight job market, the discouraged employee usually can’t move to a new job, therefore they stay — and continue to under-perform.

A recent survey showed that if they could find another job with the same pay and benefits, 72 percent of employees say they would move to the new job. That means that 72 percent of your work force is not engaged — or not performing at their best.

Respect is an old-fashioned concept that needs to be brought back into every business, says Marciano. Showing respect for employees is the easiest way to engage them and turn them into top performers — the people who want to come in on Sunday, or find that leak in the ceiling. Marciano has turned the word into an acronym.

Recognition. Acknowledge employees for the contributions they make. Let them know that you have noticed their work and that they have made a difference. A verbal acknowledgement from their manager goes a lot further than a gift card reward that comes without that pat on the back.

Empowerment. Give employees the tools, resources, and training they need to do the job.

Support: A supportive manager gives feedback, explaining what was both right and wrong about a job. “I’d like to blow up the yearly review process,” says Marciano. “Managers shouldn’t wait for a year to tell an employee what they are doing well or what needs to be improved. Immediate feedback brings much better results.”

Partnering. Make your employees feel like partners in the work by finding ways to collaborate, rather than sending down orders from above.

Explain Expectations Clearly. Employees will live up to what is expected of them. “Hold people accountable, rather than allowing poor performers to continue to perform below the standard,” says Marciano. Unfortunately, what often happens is the person who performs well ends up getting more work, while the poor performer is rewarded by being given less work — and that, he points out, is a quick and easy way to de-motivate the best performers.

Consideration. Marciano relates a story he heard at one of his workshops: an employee goes into labor and leaves work early to head to the hospital and deliver her baby. Her supervisor reports her as an unexcused absence. It’s hard to believe, but examples like this abound in the workplace, says Marciano. A little consideration for others goes a long way in keeping employees engaged.

Trust. If there is no foundation of trust between employees and managers, nothing else matters. “Keep your employees in the loop. Let them know what is going on. Acknowledge your own mistakes,” says Marciano.

Showing the traits listed above will buffer the impact if something negative does occur, explains Marciano. “In other words, highly engaged employees will remain motivated despite adverse circumstances such as limited resources, equipments failures, time pressures, and so on. In contrast, employees with a low level of engagement will tend to appear motivated only under favorable conditions or when attempting to reach tangible, short-term goals that yield a personal reward.”

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