Money Isn’t Everything

Even though money is important, it’s not everything especially when it comes to employee engagement. In fact, pay increases can quickly be forgotten whereas performing meaningful work that leverages the natural skills, talents and interests of employees has staying power. Employee engagement is that sweet spot where employees feel an equal balance between their contributions and what they get in return. That is, alignment between contribution and pay.

Why is employee engagement important? Because it boosts morale, deepens commitment and stimulates discretionary effort. Engaged employees are willing to go the extra mile and put in greater effort because they feel emotionally attached and committed to the job. Let’s consider some intrinsic strategies to do just that.

The Right Person in the Right Job: Ensure your team members are in the right job by aligning their interests, strengths and skills with a role they find meaningful and challenging. Pay attention to the kind of work your employees enjoy and in which they excel, then look for opportunities to keep giving them those types of assignments. While it may not be practical to move them into a new job altogether try to give them projects or responsibilities that feed into their sense of purpose and meaning, and that also benefits the company.

Give Them Space: Now that the right person is in the right job (or at least the right assignment) give them the freedom and autonomy to do the work. Allow them to spread their wings and be fully responsible for the job. At the same time let them know you’re available for questions and guidance. Giving them autonomy fosters both personal and professional growth which boosts engagement.

Keep the Future in the Present: For long-term commitment employees want to know their company is well led, is moving in a positive direction and has well defined strategic goals. It’s imperative that leaders keep employees abreast of where the company is heading and why. The “why” portion becomes all the more compelling when it’s clearly tied to the company’s mission and values. Keeping the future in the present by regularly conveying where the company is headed and why, and how employees fit into the picture, helps foster engagement.

Recognition and Appreciation: Feeling valued and appreciated is a basic human need. Leaders can boost employee engagement through giving recognition and expressing appreciation. This can come in a variety of ways including an email message or a handwritten note. Or it can have a more public flair to it such as a sincere thank you at a staff meeting, giving out a certificate or putting the employee’s name on a plaque. Regardless recognition and appreciation are most effective when it’s meaningful to the employee and it clearly describes their contribution.

By focusing on these intrinsically driven strategies you’re sure to see a surge in employee engagement. The trick will be to continue to keep it up and to infuse even more ways to boost engagement.

Heather Backstrom is an executive coach, leadership development consultant and speaker. She has a doctorate in organizational leadership from Pepperdine University. She can be reached at

July 24, 2014

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