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How are employee motivation and engagement different?

Find out how employee engagement differentiates from employee motivation and how how they help to build an engaged and motivated workforce.

Clélie Protopapas image

Written by Clélie Protopapas

4 Oct, 2022  –  6 mins read

Behind every great business are motivated and engaged employees. We all know that employee engagement and motivation are key to business success, but do we know the difference between the two? Do we know why each is uniquely important and how to target both?

Employee engagement and motivation, while closely linked, are not quite the same thing.

In this article, we’ll explore the distinctive features and benefits of employee engagement and employee motivation, highlight their differences, and provide ideas on how to effectively target both within your team.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement describes how employees feel about the organisation; their commitment and connection to the company, values and overall mission. Engaged employees enjoy their work, are more productive and take pride in their work. They are your biggest brand advocates and spread positivity throughout the workplace. They also make for more profitable business too!

If you want to take your employee engagement to the next level, consider using Seenit. Get employees feeling creative, connected, and engaged with User-Generated Videos. It’s a fantastic way to involve your employees to give feedback, welcome new teammates, share personal career journeys, celebrate successes and connect socially. See how having User-Generated Video can improve employee engagement.

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What is employee motivation?

Employee motivation is the energy or driving force that pushes an employee to act. Motivated employees are hugely productive, put in their best efforts and invest in self-development — to benefit the individual and the company.

Motivation can be intrinsic, coming from enjoyment or satisfaction in the work itself, or extrinsic, spurred on by reward or punishment. This distinction is important as you’ll need to consider both to motivate employees effectively.

With intrinsic motivation, the relationship between motivation and engagement becomes clear. Engaged employees typically enjoy and take pride in their work and are intrinsically motivated. Focusing on intrinsic motivation through effective employee engagement will pay off in the long run. It’s essential to incorporate intrinsic motivators in your employee engagement plan. This can take various forms: clearly defined goals, opportunities to socialise and connect and channels to voice opinions and feedback.

With extrinsic motivation, employees are driven by external rewards such as pay awards. Extrinsic motivators can increase performance, but the employees will need more nudging, and their motivation will eventually burn out.

Difference between employee engagement and motivation

Employee engagement and motivation are often used interchangeably. On the surface, both can make for happier, hardworking, and more productive employees. But while there is a strong relationship between the two, they do have subtle but important differences.

Engagement is the emotional connection and sense of commitment an employee feels to a company, whereas motivation is the energy an employee has to act on that feeling. In other words, engagement is the feeling, and motivation is the doing. Both are essential if you want a high-performing and profitable team. Here’s what happens if you have one without the other:

  • An engaged employee who is not motivated feels connected and loyal to the company but isn’t driven to contribute – they feel happy just being part of the team.
  • A motivated employee who is not engaged contributes a lot but won’t feel loyal to the company – they’ll likely leave sooner for better opportunities (or better employee engagement!)

To illustrate this, here are some examples of how engagement and motivation might differ:

  • Engaged employees feel an emotional connection to their work, whereas motivated employees feel like their work has meaning
  • Engaged employees work for the common goal, whereas motivated employees work for the reward
  • Engaged employees seek knowledge, whereas motivated employees want to learn to be more efficient and better at their job

By understanding the differences and targeting engagement and motivation, you can harness the power and benefits of both invested employees who want to do the best job they can.

How to keep employees motivated and engaged

There are lots of things you can do to boost employee motivation and employee engagement. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Ideas to keep employees engaged

1. Communicate effectively and often

Keeping your team informed and connected is vital to keeping them engaged. Use different methods and communication channels to keep them interested and promote collaboration: instant messenger, newsletters, videoconferencing, User-Generated leadership videos and virtual team building are all good strategies.

2. Create a positive workplace culture

Fostering a strong sense of team and community is essential to keeping employees engaged. Personal connection formed through social interactions and team building creates strong connections between employees and the company, as a whole.

3. Invest in employee well-being

Employees who feel like their boss genuinely cares are more likely to stay engaged. Encourage a healthy work-life balance and think about initiatives to promote well-being – office massages, lunchtime yoga or quiet spaces to recharge.

4. Have a strong development offering

Employees that feel like they have opportunities to grow, will stay more engaged. Show employees their career paths and provide regular training and up-skilling opportunities.

Ideas to keep employees motivated

1. Recognise good work

A little thank you goes a long way. A public shoutout, a small gift or even a simple “thank you” keeps employees motivated to keep up the good work.

2. Offer long-term perks

Reward employees for their loyalty. Pay awards, extra annual leave or even a work anniversary cake, all show your appreciation.

3. Create a tailored training development programme

Find out what your employee’s personal motivations are and come up with a tailored development plan. This might involve a personal pet project or coaching to help them work towards a leadership role.

4. Upgrade the work environment

Think about ways to make the work environment more pleasant. Equipment that works, fun workspaces, good lighting, some greenery or local art all make it a more enjoyable and rewarding place to be.

5. Offer food

Did you know that free food increases employee happiness? It’s not the most surprising revelation, but bringing in a few afternoon treats can keep staff feeling appreciated and motivated.

Benefits of motivated and engaged employees

We’ve outlined some of the ways motivated and engaged employees are good for business, but let’s take a look at the key benefits of each in a bit more detail.

Benefits of engaged employees

1. Increased productivity

Their investment in the team means they are happy to work hard and go the extra mile to achieve a common goal.

2. Lower employee turnover

Their happiness at work means they are more likely to stick around and invest their skills and time.

3. A better work environment

Engaged employees spread their passion and positivity in the workplace; it’s infectious!

4. Better customer service

Engaged employees love your business. Their genuine enthusiasm and passion for your company mission come across in their customer and client interactions – no sales pitch required.

Benefits of motivated employees

1. Commitment to a good job

They want to put their best effort into their work and take pride in doing a good job.

2. Higher growth overall

They are highly productive and will keep pushing through when things get tough to achieve success.

3. Focus on self-development

Motivated employees want to reach their goals and will put effort into achieving results – that’s good for them and for your business.

4. Greater creativity

Failure is not an option. Motivated employees look for creative and innovative fixes to keep the project going.

Employee engagement and motivation are different— each can be an essential factor in the success of your business. Investing in a workplace where employees are both engaged and motivated can be the difference between a surviving company and a thriving one.

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