Exploring The Link Between Employee Engagement And Motivation

Mark Terry - July 16, 2020

Exploring the link between employee engagement and motivation is essential to realising a productive and engaged workforce, but the connection between the two is often overlooked. Without an effective employee engagement strategy, employers will struggle to cultivate a team that feels motivated to perform their best work.

To truly motivate your team, it’s essential that you first understand the different types of motivators that are available to you, and how you can utilise employee engagement initiatives to create a motivated workforce.

What is employee engagement?

Defining employee engagement is a somewhat elusive exercise, especially when you consider the goals of different industries. With employee engagement theory a readily available online resource, the vast range of ideas, opinions and definitions highlight a more fluid concept dependant on your company’s particular needs.

Instead of trying to make your company fit a specific mould, it is more beneficial to consider exactly what employee engagement looks like to your business and use that to guide your own employee engagement definition. By specifying exactly what employee engagement means to you, you can embed the concept into your company culture, and use it to lead your employee engagement strategy.

To help get you started on your company’s definition and identify employee engagement ideas that will work for you, it can help to initially think of it as the act of creating a working environment where your employees feel both willing and able to perform their best work.

Customer outcomes

Defining employee motivation

Put simply, motivation refers to the drive that an individual feels to act in a specific way to achieve a goal. This drive is realised through two different forms of motivation – intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation – this refers to an employee’s innate drive to do well, and take ownership of their work, because they enjoy their job and/or enjoy the pride and satisfaction that they feel at a job well done.

Extrinsic motivation – this is achieved via external factors, both positive and negative. An employee can be motivated to perform their job to receive bonuses/pay-rises or equally by the want to avoid negative circumstances, such as an angry manager.

To truly realise a motivated team, it is important that you introduce both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators into your employee engagement strategy, but only in their positive forms. Utilising motivators, such as the fear of an angry manager, will only be effective in the short-term, before it begins to damage motivation and morale levels. Whereas, introducing motivators, such as bonuses and pay-rises, alongside initiatives that support intrinsic motivators, will help you to establish increased motivation levels.  

Motivation and employee engagement

Truly engaged employees are often intrinsically motivated. They identify as being engaged with their work, love their jobs, and are dedicated to furthering their skills and ensuring company success. This type of engagement is achieved by creating an environment that provides support and improves your employees’ work lives, both physically and mentally, in a genuine a thought-out process.

In contrast, an extrinsically motivated workforce is likely to require constant reminders and check-ins to produce work. Extrinsic motivation is often viewed as a short-term fix, as budgets restrict the number of bonuses and cash incentives available to employees, and fear-based motivation often leads to a disengaged and burnt out team.

How to use employee engagement to increase motivation levels

Utilising employee engagement initiatives to increase motivation is a tried and tested solution, providing employers with an intrinsically motivated team who are actively engaged with their work. Understanding the drivers of employee engagement and motivation, and providing your team with factors such as a defined role, achievable goals, autonomy and recognition, is essential to realising an engaged and motivated team.

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Defined roles

An employee that truly understands the remit of their role and feels that they have the correct training and skillset to perform their job, will be more productive than an employee who feels unsure of their role. Providing employees with detailed job descriptions and facilitating both internal and external training to support their performance, will create a workforce that feels both empowered and confident in their roles. Utilising software, such as an employee engagement solution, enables companies to create a centralised location for training and knowledge sharing, equipping your employees with the tools that they need to best perform their role.

Achievable goals

Providing your employees with regular targets and goals to strive towards, is a tried and tested motivator. Oftentimes, when employees have a specific target to aim for, they become passionate and committed to tackling tasks and overcoming challenges to achieve their target. Achieving this type of progress is a key intrinsic motivator, with employees feeling a sense of accomplishment and importance when a goal is achieved.


An employee that is given ownership over their work, is much more likely to be motivated to perform to a high standard. Providing employees with autonomy, and an understanding of the importance of their work, is an especially effective and positive way to intrinsically motivate staff. This ownership shows employees that you trust them to manage their own workload and helps them to understand how they fit within the wider organisation, creating a sense of belonging and reinforcing commitment to company success.


In contrast to the above intrinsic motivators, recognition is an extrinsic motivator that helps to keep employees engaged with their work. People naturally crave recognition for a job well done, and it helps to show that you are just as engaged with your employees as they are with you – this is easily achieved by utilising an employee engagement platform to publicly recognise an employee’s performance.

Unlike incentivised tasks though, recognition should be viewed as a by-product of an action, as opposed to the sole driver for performance. Utilising intrinsic motivators is essential to encouraging a high-performing team, and extrinsic motivators should simply be used to reinforce these.

Motivation and engagement in the workplace

Understanding how improved employee engagement increases motivation in the workplace is essential to company success. Focussing on intrinsic motivators to foster a team that is passionate and driven to perform well through positive strategies, and supporting your plans with extrinsic motivations such as bonuses and pay-rises, will enable you to achieve your employee engagement objectives.

Implementing solutions, such as an employee engagement app, is an increasingly popular investment that serves to underpin your strategies, providing a centralised place for public  recognition, and an open communication channel to facilitate training and knowledge sharing, and help your better support, motivate and engage your team.

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