In a reversal of previous trends, the Gallup Institute recently reported a decrease in engaged employees from 36% in 2020 to 32% in 2022.
The modern workforce is evolving, with more employees working a remote hybrid model and many individuals and organisations still recovering from a tumultuous few years. Workplaces must adapt to these changes in order to safeguard employee motivation and enhance performance.
There has never been a better time to take stock of what’s working for your business, and where there is still a need for reimagining employee engagement. Gallup highlights that to encourage engagement, organisations need to motivate and support their employees. One way of achieving this is by fostering self-determination at work, which has been shown to enhance well-being, and improve performance.
Self-Determination Theory (SDT) provides a conceptual framework for understanding human motivation. This is helpful when considering engagement at work, and can be applied directly to goal setting. SDT is a theory of motivation that views individuals as active agents who have a propensity towards growth and mastery.
A component of SDT that is of particular interest here is Basic Needs Theory, which describes that individuals have three core psychological needs that they are driven to satisfy:
- Competence: similar to the concept of self-efficacy and speaks to the need to feel capable of achieving one’s chosen objectives and to develop mastery of tasks.
- Relatedness: the need to feel understood and connected to others, and the desire to feel a sense of belonging in one’s social networks (such as the workplace).
- Autonomy: the need to engage in meaningful pursuits and to feel in control of your actions and goals.
Once these three needs are satisfied, individuals are more likely to be autonomously motivated, perform better at work, and experience higher levels of well-being. This ultimately contributes to organisational success.
At work, leaders can leverage these concepts of SDT by engaging in behaviours that support the basic psychological needs of their team.
Here are some examples of what that might look like when engaged in goal setting conversations:
- Encourage choice-making, and give employees some control over the goal setting process to support autonomy. Ask open questions and encourage participation from your team to generate meaningful goals.
- Value and foster competency by encouraging employees to develop mastery of skills, and to set goals that focus on learning and development. Provide appropriate support and resources to enable employees to enhance their skills and achieve their objectives.
- Promote relatedness by having meaningful and supportive conversations that make employees feel valued. Use active listening skills, provide genuine positive appraisals, and validate team member perspectives. Linking employees in with other organisational staff who can share knowledge and support with chosen goals or development areas is also key here.
There has never been a better time than right now to rethink employee engagement. Employees who are motivated and supported are more engaged, and when employees are engaged, they perform better at work. SDT is a helpful theory when conceptualising workplace performance and can be particularly useful when applied to goal setting.
Leaders and employers should engage in basic needs supporting behaviours to help team members satisfy the above core psychological needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence; in aid of encouraging employee engagement and well-being and as a consequence, enhancing performance.
If you need further assistance individually or within your organisation to address motivation and engagement, The Mind Room offers Coach as a bespoke service, designed to cultivate impactful leaders and high performers.
Coach, our coaching service designed to provide clarity and perspective for leaders, teams and businesses. Support your people to lead, perform, think well, feel confident and make great decisions.
Values Card deck, developed by The Mind Room, this tool helps to explore important life domains and values. Developed by psychologists and based on research, practice and user experience. Designed for fit minds and flourishing lives.
Wellbeing Strategy, our evidence-based plan for your people and business to thrive.
Promoting Motivation, Health, and Excellence, Ted Talk by Ed Deci
Online Library, The Mind Room
Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation, Paperback book by Ed Deci