I think it's safe to it's well known that Gallup statistics indicate we are at very low rates of employee engagement - and have been for some time. And because engagement has been tied to motivation, productivity and organizational performance and profit, there are many engagement strategies being touted on the market.
Many companies are shifting to employee-centric initiatives, to increase the happiness or satisfaction of the employee. Some offer a work-life balance style, including flexible hours, remote working options, options in benefits, and more.
Others have looked at creating a more comfortable work environment, with open spaces, lounge chairs and even nap pods, coffee areas, ping pong or games areas, and often included in this - free snacks.
But are these the best strategies for increasing engagement?
Engaged employees are not necessarily engaged because you have improved their working conditions. It helps to remove stress, and likely increases levels of creativity as well, but won't always increase engagement in the work they are doing or with the people they work alongside.
Research has shown there are three basic human needs that need to be met, if we ever want to increase motivation and engagement. These are autonomy, relatedness, and competence. And what is perhaps most important, is that all three need to be met - without even one, the others will diminish.
Autonomy is...our need to perceive that we have choices, that what we are doing is of our own volition, and that they are the source of our own actions.
Relatedness is…our need for connection to the things we do, and to feel that we are contributing to something greater than ourselves, as well as connection to others without concerns of ulterior motives, our need to care about and be cared about by others.
Competence is…our need and ongoing pursuit of increasing knowledge, to feel effective at meeting every-day challenges and opportunities, to demonstrate skill over time, and to feel a sense of growth and flourishing.
What is beneficial about this is that, as a leader, you can create environments for your team where all of these needs can be met. You don't need to wait for some HR initiative or organizational management strategy to roll out, or gain more training to make some shifts.
I will tell you that I have worked in environments at both ends of the spectrum, when it comes to having these intrinsic needs met. By sharing I hope to validate what research has shown, and help you reflect on your own situations throughout your career and the reasons you may or may not have felt engaged with your role.
At the top end, I worked in a synergistic team, where we all worked very collaboratively when it came to strategizing our project plans and making decisions. We interacted at a personal and professional level, and exchanged ideas and feedback in a very open and trusting manner.
Although our team had a formal reporting structure, this didn't stop anyone from fully engaging and challenging each others thoughts, nor from correcting each others' mistakes or offering alternate suggestions.
Our work was very satisfying, we got a lot done, with each of us finding flow on our individual contributions, and with those pieces coming together - because we had worked the overall strategy together.
We never faced work stoppages or delays because something was missed - we stopped only when there were differences of opinion - and this was to hash out and agree upon the best path forward, so we could carry on with the work.
Funny thing, when people ask me about what my role was within that team, my default response is to start with "we" - because it was, in fact, a "we" environment.
In actuality, my role shifted from junior to senior to leader over the years I was with that team, with some distinct changes in formal accountability along the way. But when it comes to our work accomplished, I do actually struggle with defining responsibilities that were solely mine, and I am fine with that. We performed as a team, and we all contributed to achieving our goals.
This was the most inspiring and engaging job I had ever had and would have it back in a heartbeat if given the chance. It is an environment I endeavour to create for any future team that I have.
On the flip side, I have worked with a micro-managing person (forgive me if I struggle to call him leader), who never offered insight as to direction of our team, nor our roles.
He distinctly kept us in our silos and had all work pass through him, and always challenged every proposed strategy or decision each of us made.
Looking back, I think he argued (like a lawyer) so that he was assured the choices made were right, but he always took things too far. None of us had autonomy in anything we did, and he made everyone feel incompetent.
I didn't last very long in this role. As a person who is naturally collaborative, and having had very autonomous roles through most of my career, this was not an environment I could survive in. I quickly became depressed and unmotivated. I dreaded coming to work every day.
Where in the spectrum does your environment fall?
Companies have long been approaching motivation and engagement of employees the wrong way. Research over the past 60 years has not only proven this, but they have also shown better ways of doing this.
Challenge your knowledge about engagement and motivation with this mini-quiz. Better yet, watch this webinar on the topic. Maybe you know it all already, and your team is doing amazing things…or maybe it will reveal that you could learn a thing or two!
Are you creating a space where your team can flourish and flow?
What will you do to improve?
"Why Motivating People Doesn't Work...and What Does" by Susan Fowler
"Employee Engagement Insights and Advice for Global Business Leaders, State of the Global Workplace" www.gallop.com
Engagement. One of the primary keys to determining all of your project requirements. A way to bring people together to collaboratively solve the challenges your project may be tasked with. A way to energize your workforce, to motivate and increase productivity, workplace satisfaction and more.
Can there ever be too much of it?
I read a recent article in the Harvard Business Review which indicated that too much collaboration was one of the causes of burnout. But when you dive into the details of the article to discover what they meant by this statement, it becomes clear that their interpretation of collaboration is more aligned with micro-management and consensus. That, in order to progress with any work you are doing, everyone needs to approve.
Collaboration does not need to mean consensus, nor does it need to be embedded in every step of every task you are responsible for. But it is great for figuring out what the best solutions are, ensuring schedules and budgets are aligned and compatible, minimizing risks, and to keep everything on track.
In my opinion, getting a high level of engagement on your project or within your organization can never be a bad thing. Bringing minds together, when they are open, honest and free to voice their opinions, can result in some very positive outcomes. Some of the best ideas and solutions can be discovered, plans can be developed in a much smoother sequence, where potential issues can otherwise be avoided efficiently and effectively.
You do, of course, need to ensure that everyone comes to an agreement, and is aligned on the final scope of work to be accomplished. You also need to be sure that scope isn't creeping once a project has commenced - approved changes aside. And of course, you need to balance the right amount of collaboration with folks taking responsibility for completing their assigned tasks within the overall plan. But this is a regular part of projects, isn't it?
I find asking questions, and then listening, to be one of the quickest ways to engage people. Everyone likes to be heard, their opinions appreciated. And different perspectives contribute new knowledge for all of us - we become a little bit smarter with each share.
In my latest webinar, I spoke about the necessities to achieve soaring performance, an obviously popular topic since we reached near full capacity for the live session, and I've since been interviewed on the topic!
It was about how collaboration, and using particular methods and tools, can facilitate bringing people together in an open dialogue. How collaborating, and engaging your team members to use their knowledge, strengths and capabilities, triggers their intrinsic motivators - satisfying their basic human needs.
I engaged my audience from the start, and at various points throughout my talk, and perhaps this should be cause to pause - since there were so many people engaged and responsive, we bogged the webinar system down! Slides were not progressing with my audio, and sometimes the chat would freeze. So perhaps just one instance where too much engagement can be a bad thing!?
At any rate, I loved this last webinar. With so much engagement, I gained positive feedback on the presentation, I found out some things I could improve upon, and also learned where more support could be provided. And I'll be able to follow up, now, with more value-add support for my followers - all of you!
Thanks for being such a great and responsive community, and as always, keep asking questions!
P.S. You will not find the evidence of the bogged system now - the recording which clearly indicated a problem - your projectmanagement.com hosts have now resolved the problem - a BIG THANKS!