During one of my many visits to the hospital, I came upon a nurse who clearly loved her job. I was there for an outpatient procedure, for which she had to start an IV. When she found a good vein in my arm, her eyes lit up and she smiled. She was pleased that she was going to be able to get this IV started. Her colleague teased her lightheartedly about it, and she loved it.
It made me think. As a patient, I felt good knowing that I was in the hands of someone who loves her job. It meant she was more likely to care about my care. It also means that whatever combination of intrinsic motivation, training, and rewards that converge in this nurse resulted in something that Employers everywhere are looking to replicate: Engagement.
Employee Engagement is the Holy Grail of the HR world, with any number of HR professionals promising their clients that they know the way. I have only ever had one job where I was not engaged as an employee, and that was a special set of circumstances. Because I’ve usually always been engaged, it’s hard for me to agree 100% that engagement is something that can be engineered through the latest flex-time/RRSP-matching/company picnic scheme. What I can say with 100% confidence is that in the jobs where I have been most engaged, one or more of my bosses/mentors took time to connect with me. They coached me. I understood how my work fit into the big picture. I knew that my work was valued, and that I was valued as an individual. Also, I’ve loved my work.
It makes me wonder: was that nurse intrinsically motivated by veins? Was she born asking friends to let her poke them? Or is there some elaborate strategy in place in that hospital which makes her like veins? Perhaps her motivations had nothing to do with veins, but with simply accomplishing her goals. Had she somehow managed to incorporate her work goals into life goals?
That’s the dream, right? For your work goals to mesh with your life goals. When that happens, work isn’t drudgery – it is a means to your own fulfillment. What’s that saying? Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. It may be cliche, but it’s true.