Building a motivated and engaged workforce from the inside out

by guest contributor Debbie Fuller


Demotivation and disengagement in the workplace continues to dominate global business news and surveys such as the Gallup findings that only 13% of the global workforce are engaged at work. A common response is to promote a positive culture. But is this enough? Much has been written about the importance of external culture to ensuring a motivated workforce. Indeed the main tenure of the recent article How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, now trending, is that organisational culture drives motivation and that strong organisational culture is critical to success and that “Leaders have to treat culture building as an engineering discipline, not a magical one.”

I would agree — it’s a good starting point — with a measurable impact (as supported by their research); however, I don’t think it is the whole story. An externally engineered culture is certainly vital to set the stage at the macro level as a starting point for employee motivation, but it is the quality and authenticity of one-to-one relationships in the workplace — the microcosm of the relationships within the organisation — that are critical to embed that motivational and motivating culture.

Central to this is understanding internal human needs. Abraham Maslow informs us that the most powerful forms of motivation are not external — they come from within. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, proposed in his paper A Theory of Human Motivation (Psychological Review, 1945), remains as relevant today as it was then for understanding the internal prerequisites underpinning human motivation, leadership, and personal development. It is only by understanding and interfacing with human needs that leaders create motivation which leads to an enabling culture, and as a consequence an engaged workforce — a positive feedback loop if you like.

Good leaders recognise the following:-

People need to feel that their work is meaningful — they need to know that what they do makes a positive difference.

People need a strong sense of achievement and to feel successful in what they are doing through their efforts being personally acknowledged and appreciated.

People need to be known as individuals, not as faceless cogs in a wheel.

People need to have a sense of belonging.

People need a physical environment that reflects value in them as an individual.

People need to be supported in their personal growth towards their own unique potential.

Good leaders are aware that when people feel individually valued and appreciated they are hugely motivated and performance driven. Good leaders, therefore, invest time and energy into understanding and knowing the individual motivations of team members and they build authentic, empathetic and empowering relationships where they listen, set goals, trust, give feedback and coach. This trust inspires self–esteem and validation that nurtures personal competence, growth and development.

In short, good leaders understand that along with an environment conducive to positive outcomes, it’s always the individual interactions that make the difference.

by Debbie Fuller
Guest Contributor

Debbie Fuller specialises in leadership development. From her own successful background in leadership, she is now a well-regarded and accredited leadership coach, change management consultant and trainer. Over the last two decades Debbie has facilitated behavioural change and high-level outcomes for individuals and organisations locally and nationally.