There is an engagement crisis. And money cannot solve it. Maybe money can make it even worse. The new currency for engagement is called attention. It’s the single most effective antidote against disengagement.
What do people need?
If you do not give people the attention they need, they develop a tunnel vision. They radicalize. Maybe this is far fetched: but also burn-out is a form of radicalization. People who do not feel recognized, will work hard to get the recognition they need. People consider this often as engagement. Yes, from the outside, they look engaged. But they are really crying on the inside. They yearn for that emotional currency called attention.
A manager asked me recently how much empathy one should show to people. My answer was simple: as much as needed. But how much is needed? That depends on the person and the situation. A leader must be able to give people the attention they need to be successful. And make no mistake: even the most seasoned professional needs it from time to time.
You can throw all the money you want. It won’t help to keep people engaged. Engagement is sustained by attention and recognition. Throwing money at someone, might have the adverse effect. He will take the money and run, but with a sordid kind of feeling. You cannot buy engagement. You should not even try. You will end up with mercenaries, disengaged and disgusted people. There is nothing one gets used to so easily as a pay check.
Remember to never give bread to someone who is thirsty. It doesn’t go down well.
So if you really want to improve engagement within your team, give people the attention they need and the recognition they deserve. It’s a very simple recipe. And we all know that this is not enough, but it’s the best place to start. Attention is the new currency.