The Neural Basis of Engagement

Understanding how the brain works delivers valuable insights into improving employee engagement and unlocking individual and organisational potential. Here Minerva’s Deborah Hulme shares her thoughts on neuroscience and what it brings to our modern business environment.

High employee engagement is consistently correlated with performance and increased financial return

Employee engagement is described using a variety of colourful phrases across the business world.  We consider it to be the emotional connection a person feels for the organisation, a human energy that extends much further than job satisfaction and beyond motivation.

Whilst high employee engagement is significant within our organisations, consistently correlated with performance and increased financial return, it is an accolade that continues to evade many of us, despite the time, focus and resources dedicated to it.

Understanding our brain’s response to threat is an important step to improving engagement levels

In a threat state the brain activates our fear response thereby reducing creativity, productivity and increasing our mental fatigue

In 2008, neuroscientist, Evian Gordon, undertook one of the largest meta-analysis of brain research in the world, subsequently proposing that the organising principle of the brain is to minimise danger and maximise reward.  Since then extensive literature has reinforced the importance of the threat/reward response with commonalities emerging between employee engagement and the neuroscience findings.

The more engaged we are the more our reward circuitry activates

So much so that it is now possible to map the neural basis of engagement to the brain’s reward and self-regulation centres, the more engaged we are the more our reward and self-regulation circuitry activates.  This in contrast to the threat state which fires up the limbic system, activating our fear response thereby reducing creativity, productivity and increasing our mental fatigue.

We now know and can pinpoint why traditional carrot and stick approaches do not work. We understand the importance of modelling the right behaviours.  We are clear on the importance of creating work as a social environment.  We can change our mindsets around what we do and how we do it, our performance management systems, the giving and receiving of feedback, the communications we send out and the way we recognise and reward those who find the courage to speak up and think differently.

If we upskill with the new insights and build on what we already know we will move the dial on employee engagement and make a big difference within our working world.  To our businesses yes but more importantly to all the individuals that make our businesses.

Deborah Hulme, Director & Neuroleadership Practitioner, Minerva Engagement

Building on our foundation experience in internal communications and employee engagement the Minerva Engagement team combines insights from the neuroscience community to provide a deeper understanding of how to support teams, drive engagement and enable effective change. For more information on how we can support your business click here