Practical activities from Mapping Motivation for Engagement (James Sale and Steve Jones, Routledge, 2019)
Welcome back to the next instalment of a series of articles in which we use practical exercises to explore motivation and more. You can find the first article, which explores Roots of Motivation, here. In previous articles, we discussed the Roots of Teamwork and Leadership.
Today, we’re taking the ideas explored in previous articles onto a broader canvas and discussing the critically important—but still relatively new—concept of Engagement.
As observed in the Preface of Mapping Motivation for Engagement, “Whereas it has always been obvious that leadership is of critical importance in the success of any organisation, or endeavour for that matter, engagement and its significance has been a relatively recent phenomenon…” (Mapping Motivation for Engagement, p. xii). It is easy to see why. Engagement is essentially an employee-centric idea. It is a “bottom-up” approach rather than “top-down”. This runs antithetical to traditional notions of how to run a business.
It is easy to forget in the Twenty-First Century in the West, where we take our rights and democracy for granted, that throughout the majority of human history all leadership and governance has been predicated on “command-and-control” principles: I am the King, I am in charge, and you must do what I say and when. There are many parts of the world where this is still the case. What’s more, the very civilised model for western democracy, aka ancient Greece, was only able to support its people’s freedoms via slavery. So, only a partial democracy, if truth be told. Business has naturally followed the suit of politics in its organisational models; therefore, most businesses deploy command-and-control, hierarchical management styles.
And yet, there is a growing body of evidence that shows just how costly and ineffective this old-fashioned methodology is. Indeed, to pick two simple statistics that tell a grand story: the cost of employee disengagement to the UK economy in 2008 was between £59.4—64.7 billion per annum! A sobering figure if ever there was one! But now, according to Perkbox, the figure is “a staggering £340 billion a year. This is an accumulation of productivity, recruitment spend and much more.” The figure is staggering AND the situation is not getting any better. As Perkbox add, “Poor engagement can impact employee productivity, cause you to lose your best talent, and stop you from attracting new candidates.”
So, engagement is not a mere buzz-word, though it may seem that way, but is a relatively radical concept when taken seriously and not as a tick-box exercise, and clearly vital to the very survival of most modern organisations! As we shall see, there are massive benefits and rewards for those prepared to engage their employees (and, as we have already seen: titanic losses for those who do not).
But how does engagement work? The MacLeod Report sheds some light on this bidirectional and symbiotic concept: “We believe it is most helpful to see employee engagement as a workplace approach designed to ensure employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.” (MacLeod, 2009)
There are many important ideas to unpack from this—too many for the space of a single article! However, I want to zoom in on one in particular, and it will come as no surprise to those who have been following this series: MacLeod highlights the importance of motivation. Employees, when engaged, are motivated to contribute to organisational success. This is a more revolutionary concept than it may appear on the surface. This is essentially an act of transcendence (if I may be grand!), for the employee puts the organisational success on par with their own needs, desires, and wants. MacLeod says that engaged employees “are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being”, but what this truly means is that organisational success becomes a means by which well-being might be achieved. Now that is another staggering concept!
The way that this process works is, of course, complex and necessarily ambiguous (as all things concerning human emotion and beliefs must be), but one can grasp the essence of it via this relatively simple formula:
Figure 1.6 – from Chapter 1
We will break this down in detail, but first, it’s important to mention this equation is a development of a simple model for understanding performance which is given in Mapping Motivation (Routledge 2016, page 87). This (abridged) model is: Performance = Skills x Motivation. Employee performance is really what we’re talking about when we discuss “organisational success”. High-performing employees will deliver results, and results—even in domains that are not traditionally associated with revenue—will always positively impact the bottom line. Highly motivated administrators, for example, will save everyone time, which will reduce costs. Highly motivated HR professionals will be better at recruitment and retention, which means less overheads to acquire talent. The list goes on. So, performance is what we desire, and the simplest way to understand this is our motivation multiplied by our skillset. If you have no motivation, then even the best skills in the world will achieve nothing (think of a sports car with no fuel in the tank)! Likewise, all the motivation in the world will not help the employee who knows absolutely nothing about what they need to do (think of a sports car with plenty of fuel but no steering wheel)!
However, the “P = S x M” model is incomplete when it comes to engagement, which is where the more advanced model detailed in Figure 1.6 comes in. This equation factors in that other critical word identified in the MacLeod report: “commitment”. Commitment is the mediator between the organisation’s goals and values and the employee. Without commitment, the employee may be high performing in the general sense, but only when pursuing activities aligned with their own values and goals, not those of the organisation. Commitment is what creates synergy (we dislike this word, but sometimes it has to be used) between the employee and the organisation, and we formulate this commitment as being the sum of the Value of a Goal plus the Likelihood of Success in achieving.
Now it’s time for our practical exercise to understand this in pragmatic terms.
This activity comes from Mapping Motivation for Engagement, Chapter 1, Activity 1.5, page 22.
Let’s re-consider this data… Skills and motivation are now to be scored out of 5:
My current skill (S) level out of 5 is:
My current motivation (M) level out of 5 is:
Add these two numbers together (S + M) = a score out of 10.
Consider now the biggest or most important or consequential work-related goal that you are trying to achieve? Write it down.
My biggest work goal is:
Score yourself out of 5 of how valuable that goal is to you. Then do the same for how likely it is that you perceive you can achieve that goal.
The value of this goal (V) to me out of 5 is:
The likelihood (L) of my achieving this goal out of 5 is:
Add these two numbers together (V + L) = a score out of 10.
Finally, to get your probability of performance success multiply your two numbers (S + M) x (V + L), to get your % score.
As stated in Mapping Motivation for Engagement: “Having done this, you will be in a much better position to begin to understand that this means for any employees you are managing. These variables are critical for you to understand and utilise if you are going to overcome barriers and get employee engagement.” (p.23).
Hopefully, you have found this article and exercise useful. Please let me know what you have discovered in using this, either on yourself alone or in considering others within a team. For more information, read Chapter 1 of Mapping Motivation for Engagement.
And for more information about Motivational Maps please contact one of our Licensed Practitioners.