Employee Engagement: Is It Your Responsibility?


Employee motivation levels are gradually deteriorating. In a study, 50% of employees claimed to be demotivated; 17% even went as far as to say they were highly demotivated. Whose fault is it?
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Although motivation is intrinsic to each human being, it must be acknowledged that certain organizational factors have a significant impact on it. At one time, to motivate employees, the focus was on remuneration and job security. However, it must be admitted that what worked a few years ago, or even decades ago, is no longer the solution today.

Motivation is the energy that enables action, the investment of the necessary effort to make a change and make a difference. It is the driving force essential for success. Distinguishing what falls to the organization and managers from what is up to the individual themselves can make a crucial difference in the emergence and maintenance of a high level of motivation.


Individual Responsibility

It is up to each of us to engage in some introspection and discover what is essential to feel motivated and fully invest in our work. Without this clear understanding, it is impossible to contribute to the best of our abilities. Indeed, while some stimuli are the responsibility of the organization and the manager, others entirely depend on the individual’s preferences, values, and goals.

To give you an idea, here are the three main criteria that generally determine motivation at work:


  1. Autonomy: Do you have the opportunity to make choices? Or are you the victim of micromanagement?
  2. Sense of Belonging: Can you relate to your colleagues and feel confident? Do you feel a real commitment to a common goal?
  3. Competence and Impact: Do you feel competent in your work, capable of facing obstacles alone or with your colleagues? Are you reaching your full potential?


If any of these elements are lacking, it is likely that the energy that could drive you towards excellence is blocked. What solutions could you propose to remedy the situation? What is under your control?


Organizational Responsibility

Certain environmental factors are known to have a negative effect on employee motivation: an incompetent manager, inadequate remuneration, constraining processes, etc. They are the result of the decisions or lack of decision by the organization as a whole. At this level, employees have little control. The management team, along with the human resources department, has its part to play in improving such unfavorable factors.

It would be natural to think that by remedying the situation, the level of motivation would be higher. However, research conducted more than fifteen years ago shows that what demotivates employees is not always in line with what motivates them. Indeed, improving environmental factors can, at best, neutralize the negative impacts they may have. This is essential, but not sufficient.

To increase employee motivation, the organization must also activate levers that appeal to their psychological well-being: contributing to the sense of belonging, offering interesting work, and stimulating challenges. An employee will undoubtedly be motivated to do their job because it comes with a financial reward necessary for their security and basic well-being. Perhaps they also have a large office and a prestigious title. However, if their benefits are limited to this, it is likely that their motivation will be mixed and short-lived. On the contrary, they will achieve extraordinary results if their psychological and emotional needs are satisfied. They will be driven by great motivation if their work aligns with their values and allows them to realize themselves as a human being.

The Role of the Manager There are also concrete elements on which a manager can act. It is to your advantage to understand these levers if you want to encourage – and not hinder – the motivation of your team members. Especially since research shows that you, as a manager, have a greater effect on the motivation of your employees than the organization as a whole.

You just need to understand that motivating employees to invest in a task essentially comes down to two elements:


The Importance of Performing the Task

The amount of energy your team is willing to invest to make a change or achieve a particular result first depends on the importance of that result to them. Is the result important to the organization? Is it also important to your employees? Is it more important than other commitments already made by your team? In other words, your role as a leader is to understand and clearly explain why it is important to achieve a particular goal – not only for the organization but also for your employees. The more closely the organization’s goals are linked to the values and aspirations of your employees, the more they will give their best to succeed. The alignment does not need to be perfect, but it must be sufficiently relevant to them.


Employees’ Confidence in Their Ability to Perform the Task

Your team members may understand that it is important to perform a task. But do they feel that all the conditions are in place for them to succeed in it? If not, it will be difficult for them to invest much effort and energy.

Do they have enough time to perform this task? Are there conflicting priorities? Do they have the appropriate skills and competencies to achieve the goals? Are there enough people involved? Is the scope clear? Are the processes effective? Are the tools sufficient? Is there trust among team members? There are many questions to ask.

The context is rarely perfect, but sufficient conditions must be met to stimulate your team’s confidence and optimism. As a manager, you can make a difference in the level of confidence your employees have regarding their likely success.

You may also want to think about the level of cynicism present in your team. The issue does not always lie in a lack of confidence in one’s ability to meet a challenge. Sometimes, resistance comes from the team members not believing that the organization has the capacity to improve…


READ ALSO: “Become a Manager-Coach”

As workers, we are all called to give our best to reach a target. If this target is in harmony with our values and aspirations, it is then natural to invest efforts and all our heart. Motivation is the fire that drives us, the energy that allows us to surpass ourselves. Although motivation is intrinsic to individuals, managers and the organization have a role to play, thus making the difference between fueling the sacred fire of employees or simply extinguishing it.

Some interesting references on the topic:

  • Ariely, Dan (2016), Payoff
  • Chester, Eric (2015) On Fire at Work
  • Fowler, Susan (2017) Why motivating people doesn’t work … and what does
  • Fowler, Susan (2019) Master your motivation
  • Herzberg, Frederick (2002) One More Time—How do you motivate employees, Harvard Business Review article.
  • Nohria, Groysberg, Lee (2008), Employee Motivation, Harvard Business Review article



  1. Ariely, D., Payoff – The Hidden Logic That Shapes our Motivations, New York, Simon & Schuster/TED, 2016, 128 pages.
  2. Herzberg, F., “One more time – How do you motivate employees”, Harvard Business Review, online article, 2003.

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