Why Employee Engagement Fads Don’t Work–And What Does Work

Here’s what we know from decades of research:  You cannot motivate anyone; they must motivate themselves.  Extrinsic motivation (commands and incentives) is weak and fickle; only intrinsic motivation (coming from the individual’s needs and wants) is strong and sustainable.  Programs claiming to improve employee engagement by giving pizza parties,  t-shirts, coffee mugs, ice cream socials, prizes for behaviors, ropes courses, workout facilities, nap rooms, and even BMWs (remember that?) may make for a “great” place to work, and are very nice things to do, but they  will not increase employee engagement or motivation or performance.  If you want to make a difference in actual employee engagement, focus on the work itself—how to involve people in decisions, tap into their ideas, challenge them to find new solutions, stimulate their best performance, connect the work to a higher purpose, and so on.

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