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Stephen Walker

Motivation Matters


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Ramp up engagement with the ‘motivation tee’


Interested in employee engagement? We’re running a one-day conference on September 10th in London focused on the business side of engagement and how you can drive value across the whole organisation. Hear from people-focused CEOs, board-level HR directors and people experts and come away with practical, actionable tips to improve engagement efforts in your organisation. Find out more today!

I was shocked when a successful, sensible, forward-thinking business owner told me that employee engagement strategies could improve performance by just 10% to 15%. Where did this mistaken belief come from? Has the management consulting industry made a muddle of these strategies, by confusing cause and effect, so that the awesome power of the approach has been masked?

More importantly, what can we do tomorrow to rebuild belief in employee engagement as the way to build effective organisations delivering services, making profits, generating secure employment and paying well?

It is time to get back to basics.

Effective work

The outcome of a successful Employee Engagement strategy is to get more work done. People are employed to work so success must be measured in those terms.

Process innovation by the employees is a key driver of engagement, motivation and effective work rate.

Small improvements in basic processes accumulate to deliver significant reductions in work content.

The process improvement means an hour’s labour delivers more work done today, more than before the improvement.

Effective work is how much work is done today compared to before. “Before” should be based on your three-to-five year strategic planning timescale.

Behaviour change timescales

Employee engagement interventions change the relationship people have with their work.

People carry memories of their experiences with them, from parents, school and previous employers, all creating positive and negative beliefs.

To change their behaviour you have to be heard above the hubbub from their previous experiences.

This takes time and strangely, from experience, the time constant of change is 9 months.

So 90% people change in 18 months.

Don’t expect an employee engagement intervention to deliver quick results. People are slow to change.

The Motivation Tee

This model builds on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and has the additional value of “Effective work rate” to show the value of bringing people up the Tee.

People’s willingness to work, their motivation to work, is driven by the rewards that satisfy their unmet needs.

The majority in the developed economies are situated in the Social and Esteem-needs bands.

The Behaviour change curve showed the individual journey time people take to move up the Tee. The employee engagement intervention will move people up at different rates. That journey can take several years for some.

I have not shown a scale for Effective work. The ratios as you move up the Tee are from my experience of employee engagement interventions, conducted over several years. 

The model’s importance for engagement strategy

Few have lives of unblemished good fortune. Events happen to disrupt our lives. These events send our motivation to work tumbling as we worry about a family illness, a financial crisis or a speeding ticket.

The engagement strategy draws people up the Tee while life events are pushing them down. You have to be sure your strategy is effective enough to overcome life’s negative events.

There are four principal benefits of the Tee Model:

  1. It shows the Employee Engagement journey and clarifies the drivers for success.
  2. It shows the dramatic increase in work rate, with its monetary value, possible in a few years, with an effective strategy.
  3. It shows the value of managing individual ascents and descents of the Model to avoid losing months of improvement.
  4. It shows why badly designed incentive schemes, with the corollary of disincentive, keep people in a low effective work rate band.
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Stephen Walker


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