Harnessing Motivation and Engagement (2 Different Things)

Jun 14 2017
By Joseph Knecht in Insights

It’s fun to look back on the way Proteus has grown. We started with the seed of an idea about producing software development in 1993, in the computer science department of the University of Nebraska. 
Over the years, we morphed and bloomed into several iterations involving entrepreneurial technology – Vipa Solutions and i2rd, which later became VentureTech. In 2017, the two companies merged and, voila!, we now have Proteus. The company’s new name mirrors the name of the cloud platform we have been using for years to help our customers implement technology innovations.
How did we get to this point successfully? I think about that a lot these days as we pull the trigger on the latest growth pivot of our company to digital transformation. In my mind, the growth of VentureTech/Proteus always hinged on two foundational qualities I honestly don’t think we could have existed without: engagement and motivation. I’m talking about both internally and externally: employees and customers.
In case you hadn’t heard, engagement and motivation are not the same thing.
Motivation involves reasons an individual person leaps into action. It hinges on the person’s belief that their work is meaningful, and it’s often triggered by the external payoff: monthly pay, personal opportunities, avoidance of embarrassment and other painful feelings.
Engagement almost always involves activity between members of a group. Engaged people are hungry to learn more and feel an emotional connection. Engagement is triggered by a desire to achieve fulfillment of some kind: accomplishment, emotional validation, satisfaction.
In the workplace, engagement and motivation are absolutely, positively indispensable if the organization is going to reach its goals. One of our client companies, WorkXO, incorporates both engagement and motivation in the unique platform it offers clients to help them solidify their work cultures.
Here are a few insights that approach has led to for WorkXO:

  • Work matters. We want work to suck less — for everyone, not just the few lucky ones.
  • The distinction between work and life is artificial. It’s a barrier to leveraging both the power of the individual and the power of the organization.
  • Work is the expending of effort for the creation of value. If there’s no value, the work is pointless and wasteful.
  • Work is the process of creating something for the purpose of human flourishing. Let’s get rid of anything that doesn’t do that.
  • Work has meaning for the networks each individual is connected to. Work has meaning for the local community and the global community. Work involves social responsibility.

In the end, WorkXO has discovered that motivation and engagement actually take on a life of their own within an organization, in the form of something that could be called “spirit.” 
So, that’s a bunch of fancy talk, but how does that spirit manifest in a company’s workplace day-to-day? How does it lead to better things, like more productivity, employee and customer loyalty, and good stuff like that? 
I can demonstrate by giving you a glimpse of what happens with the Proteus staff. We have a 15-minute staff huddle every morning that we call a “JumpStart:”

Proteus JumpStart Daily Agenda

  1. Review company values — cover one per day to keep them top-of-mind
  2. Celebrate — give team kudos and allow time for thanks from employee to employee
  3. News — ask employees to describe any company news they want to share
  4. Individual quarterly goals — 5 team members per day provide an update on their own business goals aligned with the company quarterly goals (are they on-track or off-track?)
  5. Red flags — employees are asked to mention anything holding a client or team member back
  6. My mission for the day — each person makes a commitment to achieving a certain thing today

It takes conscious efforts like this to build the kind of “spirit” in an organization that clearly focuses its people on the right things through engagement and motivation. You can probably identify a few things you’ve done that either worked or didn’t work. 
Think about it carefully, and you can probably figure out which of your efforts involved motivation and which involved engagement. This little exercise might give you some clues to the kinds of things you need to do—or keep doing—before you tackle a major digital transformation.

How can you improve your team’s engagement and motivation? How can you improve your customers’ engagement and motivation? You need both.

Joseph Knecht
Post by Joseph Knecht

Joseph Knecht is the CEO at Proteus and loves to cover the topics of entrepreneurship, digital transformation, and web product commercialization.

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