Introduction to the SCARF Model: A Framework to Enhance Employee Engagement

Mark Bridges
4 min readJul 29


The most crucial ability for someone starting out in an entry-level position or looking to go up the corporate ladder is leadership skills. Every successful company is built on capable and competent leadership.

A productive workplace is more likely to be created by leaders who can deal with a variety of personalities and behaviors. They must know how to handle staff members in ways that increase their levels of engagement and cultivate an environment that encourages team work and collaboration.

Employee engagement is the measure of how emotionally invested, enthusiastic, and dedicated people are to their jobs and to their employers. Employees that are engaged tend to be more motivated, effective, and content with their employment. They are prepared to go above and beyond, give their all, and actively take part in accomplishing company goals.

Leaders can recruit and keep top talent, increase productivity, and promote corporate development by putting employee engagement first. Before expecting the required level of commitment from the workforce, employee engagement calls for a thorough analysis of their psychology and habits.

The SCARF Model focuses on this. Created by neuroscientist David Rock in 2008, the framework assists organizations in using empirical research to manage teams and the workplace and discover the conditions necessary to foster employee engagement.

The model includes 5 main drivers that significantly affect our actions, degrees of commitment, and engagement:

  1. Status
  2. Certainty
  3. Autonomy
  4. Relatedness
  5. Fairness

Rewards and Threats are two essential components of the human brain that the SCARF Model successfully represents. Rewards are things that elicit pleasant emotions in us, such as creativity, affection, or optimism. Humans respond to rewards by becoming more focused, solving problems, and coming up with more ideas.

Threats, on the other hand, elicit negative emotions within us, such as anxiety, dread, or discomfort. Our reactions to dangers can be described as fight or flight, terror, or a reduced capacity for idea generation.

Now let’s get into more details of these drivers.


Our standing inside the company is determined by how we compare to others. We naturally have a propensity to prize status. Any changes in our status have a significant impact on the reward and danger circuits in our brain. Employees’ danger response is activated and produces stress hormones when they consider their position declining, according to studies. On the other hand, as our status rises, our levels of dopamine rise as well, which elevates our mood.

Status affects an employee’s overall wellbeing. Employers might maintain their employees wellbeing by implementing thoroughly planned, participatory performance reviews and acknowledging their efforts in public.


People suffer greatly when they don’t know what will come next since it requires more intellectual power. When we are unsure of something, our brain is built to start overworking itself as it seeks to make sense of the unexpected. When we are uncertain, we become fearful, disconnected, distracted, and act strangely.

Helping others accomplish their goals in the midst of uncertainty and teaching them how to avoid feeling threatened in uncertain situations are the core principles of effective leadership. The division of tasks into smaller, more manageable components helps workers feel confident about their jobs. People are more confident when there is open communication with the workforce and clear expectations, agendas, guidelines, roles, and timetables.


The need for autonomy is one of the primary psychological forces that influence how people behave. The experience of having total control over one’s actions or behavior is known as autonomy. Individuals feel nervous and uninspired as soon as their autonomy or authority is at danger. They are unable to reason and behave rationally as a result. Conversely, a feeling of enhanced autonomy boosts confidence and reduces stress.

Leaders and supervisors must avoid micromanaging employees in order to combat this and instead offer them more freedom and power. They ought to let employees choose their own timetables, rely on their own judgment, and try out novel concepts.

Interested in learning more about the other drivers of the SCARF Model and strategies to keep the employees engaged? You can download an editable PowerPoint presentation on the SCARF Model here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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Mark Bridges

I blog about various management frameworks, from Strategic Planning to Digital Transformation to Change Management.