Dale Carnegie knew 100 years ago how to motivate people to strive for success. He was a master of self-improvement and ever the optimist. The guy behind the whole "you get a lemon, make lemonade" logic also said:

"People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing."


"There is little success where there is little laughter."

Carnegie knew what he was talking about back then, though it's taken science until now to prove how the best methods that motivate employees to engage in their work are those that integrate the positive outlook Carnegie embraced.

Why Motivation Matters

Engaged employees are motivated employees. Motivated employees are creative, innovative, happy workers who stay at their jobs. If that was too many adjectives and not enough facts, these numbers say the same thing:

Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. an estimated $500 billion in lost productivity every year.

Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%.

$11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover.

What Science Says About Motivation

Developments in the emerging field of neuroscience and functional magnetic resonance imaging show how dopamine is part of the magic of motivation. Dopamine is a chemical that makes you feel pleasure and joy. Dopamine has long been known to be a key player in the reward circuitry of the brain, playing a vital role in motivating us to do things that feel good like eat, have sex, and be a part of a community.

Serving a slightly less exciting but still important role in the workplace, dopamine is the "reward" we feel when we reach a goal, are praised, and feel valued. Feeling as if we are part of a team, a sense of belonging and camaraderie are all social motivators that trigger dopamine release. When something feels good, we are motivated to do it again. And again. And again.

The Obligatory Study

These things require study, so Dale Carnegie Training and MSW Research evaluated 1,500 employees for engagement in the workplace.

They found that feeling valued is the basic emotion that leads an employee to be engaged. And they noted that engaged employees exhibit these traits:

  • Enthusiasm about work
  • Inspired and motivated by their leaders
  • Empowered to do their work their way
  • Confident they can achieve excellence

They also found three key drivers of employee engagement to be: their relationship with their supervisor, belief in senior leadership, and pride in working for the company. Finally, they recommended five tips to promote employee engagement:

  • Senior leadership must articulate a clear vision to all employees.
  • Employees should be encouraged to communicate openly and influence the company's vision through their input.
  • Direct managers should foster healthy relationships with their employees.
  • Senior leadership should continuously demonstrate that employees have an impact on their work environment.
  • Managers should show employees that they are valued as true contributors, giving them a sense of empowerment.

Communicate employee value, build healthy relationships and reward good work. Incorporating these principles into company policy will engage employees, build motivation, and foster the type of fun, positive environment needed to create the success Dale Carnegie always knew was possible.