Forget about employee motivation, it is about employee engagement. Motivation is temporary, engagement is more permanent. As usual our American friends have the statistics: 70 of US employees are dis-engaged. Dis-engaged employees cost the US economy an estimated $450bn per annum, (Gallup 2013).

Definition: employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.

This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a pay check, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organisation’s goals. When employees care—when they are engaged—they use discretionary effort (Forbes). So now, with the world beginning to turn towards the sun again, and the economy improving, how do you ensure you improve your employee engagement?

What if we address some of their underlying fears? We start by recognising the 5 universal fears every human has:

• Death (our own and our families)
• The Outsider
• The Future
• Chaos
• Insignificance

(Source: Donald E. Brown in Human Universals (1991)

Managers who have a responsibility to ensure every member of their team is as engaged as possible, might respond – “addressing their fears is way beyond my pay grade.” Yes and no. Let’s keep it simple, how does an individual or a team best respond to these fears. They look for the correlated need as outlined below. Now the management team need to determine how best to tap into the universal fears to better engage the team members to everyone’s benefit. Some ideas are included in the table below:

The above sounds straight forward, but as usual the devil is in the detail. Every manager needs to take time to reflect on his current skill set, and determine what he or she needs to develop and give the time and head space to do so. Nearly everyone in business stumbles into management and the skills that got you there are the wrong skills to be effective as a manager. Like addressing fears above – the most basic question any manager needs to ask is: how would I like to be managed and act accordingly; and more importantly recognise when you did not act accordingly and learn from the experience.

Through LEAP’s structured Management Effectiveness Programme managers get the opportunity to reflect on their current performance, develop their management skillset, apply best practices and gain QQI certification in management practice.

Mike Gaffney, MD LEAP

Mike Gaffney managing director at LEAP