5 Top TED Talks for Insight on Employee Engagement

Whenever Gallup’s research comes out, it highlights the low levels of employee engagement that continue to burden organizations and cause leaders to scramble to do something about it. If only 33% of the workers are engaged, there are real problems with productivity, turnover, and a host of other factors that cost organizations more than $605 billion a year. As everyone seeks new ways to improve engagement, it may be helpful to look at what we already have learned through some of the best TED Talks. The following five talks give some great insight into what do to improve employee engagement.

  1. In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk regarding how leaders inspire us, he focused on the importance of how organizations all communicate from the inside out when it should be the opposite. He explained that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.  That is important because people will want to do business with others who share their values. Sinek explains it is biology and not psychology because we need to understand the part of the brain that controls behavior. This is important because we need to hire people who believe what we believe so that they are emotionally committed to the job.  People want to work for people who inspire them.
  2. In Shawn Achor’s TED Talk, he explains the happy secret to better work. This is a fun talk because of Shawn’s playful. What is important about his message is that he points out that how we process things internally impacts our reality.  If only 25% of job success is predicted by IQ, it is important to study the rest.  One important factor is how people look at stress. If they view it as a challenge, they are happier and more successful.  People can train their brains to be more positive.  This may require journaling and random acts of kindness to create ripples of positivity.
  3. In Dan Ariely’s TED Talk about what makes us feel good about our work, he focused on the journey and what makes people want to keep challenging themselves. When people feel heard at work, they are more likely to produce. If work makes people feel like Sisyphus who had to keep pushing that same boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down and start again, they lose their drive.  When leaders cancel projects, workers get depressed; therefore, leaders need to understand the importance of meaning so that workers care more about what they do.  Sometimes having people work harder makes them love what they do more. If things are too easy, there is no pride in the experience.
  4. In Dan Pink’s TED Talk, he examines the puzzle of motivation because traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. He shares the results of several experiments that demonstrated that incentives could have the opposite intended impact, especially when tasks are more complicated. Providing money or other incentives to improve right-brained conceptual tasks will probably not work. Too many organizations are basing decisions on people and talent based on outdated and unexamined information instead of focusing on intrinsic motivation. He explained that for people to be interested and feel important, they should have autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
  5. In Jason Fried’s TED Talk about why work doesn’t happen at work, he suggested that most of the best work does not occur within the office. This is because there are so many disruptions. He likened the process of work to the process of going through the levels of reaching a deep sleep. If we get interrupted, we should start all over to get to that deep level.  The biggest interrupters at work are what he calls M&Ms, which stands for managers and meetings.  He explained that a manager’s job is to interrupt people.  He made some suggestions including having days like “No Talk Thursdays”, using email and IM’s, and canceling unnecessary meetings to let people have more time to get work done.

Sometimes some of the most useful information has already been written or spoken.  It is important for leaders to take some time to remind themselves of some of these things that drain the life blood from their companies.  If leaders can hire people who are their values, help them learn to train their brains to be more positive, make word challenging and rewarding, give them autonomy, mastery, and purpose, and just back off a little at work to give them some room, that could be a big step toward improving employee engagement.

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