By Stefanie Stern
Over the years, Scott Philips – TruNorth Partners Principal and Founder, has developed several diagnostic tools that support teams in identifying the various elements that are helping or hurting their success. In early 2013, Scott developed a poignant new diagnostic that tackles what might be the most critical component to a company’s success, an issue that flat-out stumps many leaders today: employee engagement and motivation. I sat down with Scott to learn more about the tool and why every company should be looking at these things.
TNP: Why look at employee motivation and engagement?
Scott: The purpose of business is to make money, right? To make money you need customers, products or services, a strong value proposition, and an ability to deliver on that value proposition. Productivity and profitability rarely (if ever) occur without an engaged and motivated workforce. Success is dependent on it.
TNP: How do you define employee motivation and engagement?
Scott: Employee motivation is what draws an individual to their work and workplace or what personally stimulates them to high levels of performance. This is unique for virtually every person, and is much more internally driven. Leaders who know how to motivate their employees know how to sync with those employees’ internal drive. Engagement is essentially external elements that connect or involve individuals with outside stimulus. Engaged employees are attentive, they contribute, they are stimulated, and they show care for what’s happening. The outcome of both strong engagement and motivation is higher productivity and profitably. These things should matter to every company.
TNP: Would you say these things matter more now to companies than they used to? Why?
Scott: A qualified yes. I don’t think that motivation and engagement have necessarily changed, I think that the things that matter to people have changed a bit. A decade or two ago, the mentality was more “I’ll take any job to earn a decent living”. It’s not that way anymore. Today, people want to do something they feel passionate about. And, with the ‘graying of America’ and Baby Boomers exiting the workforce, there are more opportunities available and people can now be more choosy. Also, many employers are now looking for skills more than experience, which means that people don’t necessarily have to pay their dues and “climb the ladder” as much as they used to. That means people aren’t as loyal to their workplace as they used to be; they are loyal to themselves. With all that to consider, it’s becoming critical for employers to understand what they’re people need to stay motivated and plugged in. If they don’t look at that, they’ll lose people.
TNP: You’ve recently developed an employee engagement tool called the DWEM (Diagnostic for Workforce Engagement and Motivation). How does it work?
Scott: The DWEM is a diagnostic tool that looks at 32 elements in workplace and measures how important those elements are and how well the organization provides those things. Where you have high importance and low performance, you have the areas with opportunity for improved engagement and motivation. Where you have low importance and high performance, there may be an over-investment that could be reallocated to other areas in need of resources. Once these are viewed, an organization is more apt to reorient their priorities to meet the needs of their employees more directly.
TNP: You mentioned 32 elements. What kinds of elements are you looking at?
Scott: The elements fall into four primary categories. You can see on this visual that there are four quadrants that look at cross-sections of elements that are tangible, intangible, personal, and workforce-at-large. Tangible means that you can write it down and everyone has essentially the same definition (like policies and procedures). Intangible means that everyone has a unique and individual perspective of what it means (like life/work balance, relationship with boss). Surprisingly, many of the most significant elements we look at through the diagnostic end up falling into the ‘intangible’ categories.
TNP: How are you seeing it have an impact on companies?
Scott: Once we begin unpacking the results from the diagnostic, teams are having good dialogue about what really matters. I think that the honest conversations in and of themselves produce motivation for people to stick around. It’s also helping leaders identify expenses or costs they’re incurring that they could allocate more effectively elsewhere. And, it’s giving teams a ‘language’ for their values and culture, which then provides a means to evaluate the kinds of employees they should hire into their company. We’ve also seen situations where somewhat disgruntled employees begin to realize that there are actually many favorable things going on at work. And, people are discovering that things aren’t as bad as they thought.
TNP: What tend to be the top driving factors of employee engagement and/or motivation?
Scott: Relationships with your boss and team are consistently at the top of the list. Job challenge and enjoyment, recognition and achievement, work/life balance, and personal growth are also near the top. These again tend to fall into the ‘intangible’ elements of the Diagnostic.
TNP: Where does salary fall?
Scott: For most teams, it’s not even in the top five. This frequently becomes a rationale for dissatisfaction, yet we find that actually other elements have more impact. We’ll see how this trends as more teams go through the Diagnostic.
TNP: How can I tell if there’s a problem with my employee engagement and motivation?
Scott: For the most part, I think leaders sense when there’s a problem. And if you’re not sure, ask your people. Unless there is significant trust issues, they will generally tell you. There are many obvious indicators that a culture is fractured – bickering or complaining, high turnover, a lot of closed-door conversations and mistrust. But the issues can be much more subtle. The work environment may seem ok, employees may seem happy, but productivity may be low. Subtle issues will eventually escalate into more obvious ones. Even if a company has a really solid culture and employees are generally satisfied, there should be consistent conversations around engagement and motivation or it won’t stay that way.
TNP: If a leader is struggling with culture in their company, where should they start in addressing it?
Scott: The first thing to do is to talk to your people. Ask them what’s working and not working. Figure out what motivates them. Don’t just throw money at what you think the problem is. I’ve seen many companies do this and end up completely missing the mark. Once you’ve begun the conversation with your people, take a temperature of your people with a tool like the DWEM. And, you can certainly call TruNorth Partners and get help there.
TruNorth Partners measures how well organizations are meeting the expectations of their workforce. In addition to developing patented diagnostic tools to identify immediate challenges, TNP has also developed key solutions and processes to walk teams into the next phase of improvement and transformation. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.