Employee engagement: What aspects of work do you value?

This article outlines three workplace motives: power, achievement and affiliation. Talent leaders should help employees figure out what drives their motivation to keep engagement and commitment at its highest.

To do outstanding work, we must play to our strengths. No one wakes up motivated every day, but knowing your motivation style is the key to remaining engaged at work, in-person or remote.

Employee engagement measures how committed and connected employees are to their organization. According to Gallup research, 87 percent of employees are disengaged, meaning they feel misaligned with the team’s goals and company’s mission. That disengagement means they must dig deep to perform at the expected level and they don’t feel invested in the outcomes their work produces. 

On the other end, engaged employees consistently provide quality work, meet expectations and appreciate the outcomes of their work. Engaged employees care about their company and see value in helping the company reach its goals. Engaged employees perform better, produce better work, have a better employee experience and are more committed to the organization. 

What’s your motivation?

The most difficult part of employee engagement is how to help individual employees take stock of it. Because employee engagement is about how employees show up daily and get their work done, talent leaders should help employees unpack and analyze their work motives. 

Understanding what motivates us unlocks insights into what we need to feel engaged at work. According to American psychologist David McClellan, each employee operates primarily from one of three motives: 

  • Achievement: motivated by results and opportunities to demonstrate expertise
  • Power: motivated by opportunity to influence and have control over team or business outcomes
  • Affiliation: motivated by interpersonal connection and social approval

When you know what motivates you and you’re able to align your motivations with your organization’s culture, you become engaged. Once an employee knows what they value and what makes them tick, they can identify what they need from their organization to be engaged.

Our work motivations mold our personality at work and reveal what we need deep down to feel energized. When we feel motivated at work, we act, problem solve and persist. We’re incentivized by the outcomes of our efforts and we feel engaged.

When motivation is missing or dwindling at work, we do not feel inspired to do more than the minimum. We struggle to make choices, our progress stagnates and we avoid any situation that could cause discomfort. We don’t see the point of our efforts and we feel disengaged. Talent leaders can help employees feel engaged based on their work motive. 

If the employee is motivated by power, they need: 

  • Opportunities to lead, be listened to and delegate to others
  • A clear answer to the question, “Where can I expect to be in six months?”
  • Access to the ear and eyes of senior leadership

If the employee is motivated by achievement, they need: 

  • Opportunities to participate in challenging projects that lead to accomplishing important goals 
  • A clear answer to the question, “What metrics are we using to evaluate success of this project?”
  • Access to opportunities to grow relevant skills that keep them competitive in their job function and industry 

If the employee is motivated by affiliation, they need: 

  • Opportunities to help, fix, support and/or serve an organization with a clear mission
  • A clear answer to the question, “What can I do to strengthen the morale of the team?”
  • Access to a network of colleagues that value them as a co-worker and friend

To achieve engagement, employees must know their motives or what makes them feel connected and committed to the organization beyond receiving their paycheck. To cultivate engagement, leaders must be clear about their culture or how they support employees in remaining motivated to do great work.