Understanding the Dynamics of Employee Engagement

In his bestselling book “Drive: What Really Motivates Us,” Dan Pink shared the concept of Motivation 3.0.   According to Pink, Motivation 1.0 was simple motivation to satisfy simple basic needs of food, shelter, etc.  Motivation 2.0 was typified through the use of monetary and other rewards in return for employees behaving in a desired way.  According to the research that Pink shares, Motivation 2.0 methods actually resulted in lower performance levels from when people were free to simply connect to the work and enjoy it for its own rewards.  This higher level of motivation that came from within someone, Pink termed as Motivation 3.0.

Pink also shared that there were three things that lead to Motivation 3.0.  The first of these is a sense of Autonomy; that the person gets to make decisions about their own work.  The second one was the ability for a person to acquire Mastery of their work; to become good at what they do on a daily basis.  And finally, the third item was that people are connected to their work through a sense of Purpose; that what they do matters.

Of course, what Pink was sharing in his book was nothing more than the research of Edward Deci, Richard Ryan, and others regarding Self-Determination Theory (SDT), and how it differentiates between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.  Motivation 3.0 is really nothing more than people being intrinsically motivated. In SDT the three concepts are Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness, but the terms are used to describe the same things that Pink described in his three components of Motivation 3.0; Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

As I compared these research studies to the other research that we have been reviewing here at Resource Development Systems over the past 10 years or more on high performance organizations, and also to our resulting Seven Elements of High Performance™ model that came from this research, it was easy to see a strong link between the three concepts that lead to Motivation 3.0 above and the Seven Elements.  Autonomy quickly jumped out as being synonymous with Personal Responsibility.  After all, Personal Responsibility is all about allowing employees to make individual decisions about their jobs.  Mastery, or Competence, linked up with Strengths, as employees will never become competent or Masters of a job that does not allow them to rely on their Strengths.  And clearly Relatedness or Purpose is connected to Vision, as Vision is all about giving employees something that they can connect to: an Aligned Purpose, Values, and Goals.  And when we link these three elements together in the graphical representation of the Seven Elements Model, we produce a triangle.

So clearly the Seven Elements of High Performance™, through our independent research, was very similar to the findings in the research on Self Determination Theory.  But is motivation enough?  Obviously we do want employees to be intrinsically motivated to do good work in the organization, but is intrinsic motivation enough to produce high performance throughout the organization?  What about the employee who is highly dedicated to their work, but consistently runs into roadblocks from their manager or management higher up in being able to deliver for their customers?  This person is obviously intrinsically motivated, but probably not engaged.  In fact, they may even be Actively Disengaged.

Granted, they may not be able to fully exercise their decision-making and have complete Personal Responsibility in their quest to take care of their customers and achieve the Purpose and Goals of the organization.  But if this is the case, then what is getting in the way?  If we look to the Seven Elements model we will quickly see that another element, Trust, is clearly missing.  Employees will not be given complete autonomy and allowed to exercise Personal Responsibility if management does not Trust them to use their Strengths and experience to make good decisions.  So instead of only three components, we now discover that it takes four of the Seven Elements to actually create employee engagement.  This is more than simply Motivation 3.0; it is Motivation 3.0 on steroids, and leads to phenomenal performance, not just for the individual, but for the entire organization.

When we now connect these four Elements together in the graphical representation of the model, we now move from a triangle to a diamond.  These four Elements, Trust, Vision, Personal Responsibility, and Mastery, together become the Diamond of Engagement™, and are the real drivers of employee engagement.


You can learn more about the Diamond of Engagement™ and other related concepts in Gary’s next book “Rising Above Mediocrity: The Path to Performance,” which will be released in in the future.