Employee engagement is the not-so-secret ingredient to a thriving workplace – essential for increasing profitability, boosting retention and supporting productivity. As something that exists on a scale in constant flux, work engagement requires ongoing management. Sadly, there is no single thing we can do to guarantee it, but there are three underlying factors we can continually target. These are autonomy, competence and relatedness – the basic psychological needs which form the backbone of the Self-Determination Theory. Here are just a few ways you can satisfy each to achieve work engagement Zen.
You may have seen “self-determination” used in the context of governments or cultural groups, but the version we’re dealing with relates to individual psychology. Put very simply, Self-Determination Theory is about being able to make your own choices and have control over your life. It forms a super important part of our wellbeing. We all naturally want to feel like we’re in the driving seat of our own life. So, unsurprisingly, when we feel out of control of our destiny, we can quickly experience stress and anxiety.
Self-Determination Theory (SDT) suggests there are effectively two main types of motivation – intrinsic and extrinsic. While both of these help dictate who we are as people and how we act, they’re very different. Extrinsic motivation is an urge to act a certain way due to external sources, for external rewards – like working in order to achieve a reward or recognition. Intrinsic motivation, conversely, comes from within – it is driven by engagement with our fundamental principles, interests and personal ethics.
While people often turn to extrinsic motivation to boost engagement, intrinsic motivation is usually far more effective and enduring. While it’s natural to want to receive recognition for our work (and few people will say no to a raise!) true engagement requires the satisfaction of these three basic psychological needs:
Recognizing and understanding these three basic needs is one of the most important steps any workplace can take to boost engagement. But how do you go beyond good intentions to actually fulfill each one?
Our psychological need for autonomy can be realized by allowing employees to make their own decisions on how, when and where they work – effectively, helping them become masters of their work. This can be achieved through:
Supportive work environments will naturally bring out the best in people. You can satisfy the psychological need to feel competent by providing ongoing feedback, recognizing achievement and offering employees new challenges. For starters, try:
Relatedness – otherwise known as connectivity – is a vital part of work engagement. We humans are social animals, and forming strong relationships is important for our wellbeing – as well as being a key ingredient to successful collaboration. Being part of a community makes us happy, and studies show happy team members are more engaged. You can improve relatedness by ensuring employees: