Three-Factor Theory: Create Enthusiasm in Your Work Environment



“If you work in an urgent-only culture, the only solution is to make the right things urgent.”Seth Godin

What does it take to create a workplace environment where employees feel engaged?

That’s what the Three Factor Theory attempts to answer.

The Three-Factor Theory is based on three decades of research on employee engagement and the results are relevant around the world.

In Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward, Jeremy Kourdi shares some deep insight into the Three-Factor Theory and how you can increase employee engagement, or bolster your own engagement on the job.  For example, If you’re not happy on the job or you’re not feeling very engaged, you can use the Three-Factor Theory to explore why, and you can use it as a lens to figure out what’s off.

Not Just Satisfied…Enthusiastic Employees

If you can meet the needs outlines in the Three-Factory Theory, you can create a thriving workplace with enthusiastic employees.

Via Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward:

“Three-factor theory is based on the premise that workers have basic human needs that managers can and should work to address.  Creating an environment in which these needs are met results in not just satisfied employees but also enthusiastic employees.”

Equity, Achievement, and Camaraderie

The three needs according to the Three Factor Theory are equity, achievement, and camaraderie.

Via Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward:

“During the last three decades of the 20th century, US-based Sirota Consulting surveyed 237 organizations worldwide across a range of industries, receiving more than 2 million responses about what employees wanted at work (this is known as three-factor theory): equity (which means being treated fairly but not necessarily owning shares in the business), achievement and camaraderie.”

Timeless and Universal Across Industries, Demographics, and Cultures

The beauty of the Three-Factory Theory is that it’s universal, so you can apply it to any workplace situation around the world.

Via Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward:

“For most workers, no other goals are nearly as important.  Moreover, these goals have not changed  in recent times and they cut across demographic groups and cultures.  Establishing policies and practices in tune with these three goals helps to create employee engagement.”


Is it fair?

Equity means being treated justly and in relation to the basic conditions of employment.  Keep in mind, it’s also relative (For example, am I being treated fairly in relation to my peers and colleagues?)

Via Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward:

The basic conditions of employment are:

  1. physiological – such as having a safe working environment or manageable workload;
  2. economic – including pay, benefits and job security;
  3. psychological – being treated consistently, fairly, considerately and with respect.


Do you do work that matters?

Via Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward:

“This means employees taking pride in their accomplishments by doing things that matter and doing them well, receiving recognition for those accomplishments and taking pride in the team’s accomplishments.“

Sirota Consulting’s research suggests that this sense of achievement has six primary sources:

  1. The challenge of the work and the extent to which employees can apply their skills and abilities.
  2. Acquiring new skills and the opportunity to develop, take risks and expand personal horizons.
  3. Ability to perform — and possessing the resources, authority, information and support to dot he job well.
  4. Perceived importance of the job — knowing the work has a purpose and value, whether to the organization, customers or society as a whole.
  5. Recognition for performance — non-financial as well as financial.
  6. Pride in the organization — resulting from the firm’s purpose, success, ethics, the quality of tis leadership or the quality and impact of its products.


Do you like the people you work with?

Not surprisingly, the research shows that employees like to have warm, interesting and co-operative relations with others in the workplace.

Via Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward:

The most significant aspects of camaraderie are:

  • relationships with co-workers;
  • teamwork within an individual’s business unit;
  • teamwork across departments in a specific location;
  • teamwork and co-operation across the entire organization.

Equity is the Most Important Factor

If it doesn’t feel fair, that’s a flag.

Via Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward:

“Equity is the most important factor in shaping employee engagement.  When it is rated low, even if achievement and camaraderie are rated high, overall enthusiasm can be two-thirds lower.

Employee morale is a function of the way an organization is led and the way that leadership is translated into daily management practices.  Employee enthusiasm helps improve business performance, which helps improve morale and so on.”

Questions that Reveal Employee Engagement

Kourdi says you can reveal employee engagement through their answers to the right set of questions.  The more positive the answers are the more engaged the employee is likely to be.

Via Business Strategy: A Guide to Taking Your Business Forward:

  • Do you know what is expected of you at work?
  • Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work properly?
  • At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
  • In the past seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  • Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
  • Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
  • At work, do you opinions seem to count?
  • Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
  • Are your fellow employees committed to doing high-quality work?
  • Do you have good friends at work?
  • In the past six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
  • In the past year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and develop?

As one of my great business mentors put it, “You can survive anywhere as long as there’s goodwill and integrity.  Without goodwill and integrity, all bets are off.”

The other thing to keep in mind is that if everyplace you go, the grass always seems greener somewhere else, or the grass below your feet turns brown, remind yourself that engagement really is an inside job.

Don’t let you stop you from showing up with enthusiasm and expressing your creative genius on the job.

Whether you work at your play, or play at your work, get your game on wherever you go.

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Image by Davidlohr Bueso.