A happy work environment boosts creativity, positivity and productive colleague partnerships. A successful team is an engaged team – where members are actively and positively stimulated by their work.
Having a positive and engaged relationship with our work not only positively affects its quality, but significantly boosts our general well-being. Yet, shockingly, a Gallup’s ‘State of the Global Workforce’ report suggests that 85% of employees do not feel engaged in their job.
Below you will find some techniques for employers and managers to improve engagement amongst their staff, for an energised and content team.
- Introduce strength-based management
- Build trust and autonomy
- Offer opportunity and growth
- Recognise good work
- Allow time for fun
- Address frustrations early on
So, let’s jump into the details!
1. Introduce Strength-Based Management
Explore with your employees what their individual strengths are, and build individualised task-sets that make the most of their assets. This can be done in the following way:
- Actively observe from a position of the manager what is being done well or not so well
- Collaboratively discuss with your employees their strengths and weaknesses
- Discover which tasks energise your employees the most, and embrace these
Consider introducing job-crafting into your management strategy. Job crafting allows for an element of flexibility in formal roles; it means allowing employees to mould their task-set to how they see they can best contribute to wider goals. To discover more on job-crafting, check out Mind Tools’ overview.
Basing job content on strengths will lead to higher engagement, productivity and job-satisfaction in individuals. With each team-member working to their strengths and being content in their tasks, you will notice a better-functioning team with fewer tensions.
2. Build trust and allow autonomy
An important step in building trust is allowing your staff a level of autonomy, not only in crafting out their task-set (see point 1) but also in how they carry out tasks. In other words, trust that your employees will deliver results via their own ways, styles and capabilities, and avoid micro-managing at all costs.
This will allow space for individual sparks to shine through and will encourage employees to take ownership of their work. As a result, team members will be more actively and naturally motivated by their work, and likely to show greater care, responsibility and pride in the quality of output.
Building trust is a key factor of a well-functioning and engaged work-team. Trust can combat stress, it builds stronger working relationships, and positively affects our decision making and self-confidence, as Harvard Business Review explains in their account of the science behind the importance of trust at the workplace.
3. Address frustrations early on
Unaddressed frustrations fester and suck away people’s energy. They will inevitably counterbalance any efforts to keep staff engaged. Optimising employee engagement means addressing not only the positives but also the negatives. Ideally, managers should nip issues in the bud early on.
Yet, addressing difficulties is what many organisations, including non-profits, struggle with. Often due to the culture or due to lack of training and role models, managers aren’t sure how to do it constructively. The good-old ‘sandwich technique’ feels contrived and many fear – rightfully so – getting tied up in lengthy and tiresome discussions that’d only inflame tensions. Employees feel all of this underneath their skin and shy away from signalling issues, fearing they’d be seen as complainers.
One way of making a change in this area is by reaching out for external help. Powerful facilitation techniques exist that create a safe space for teams to painlessly explore what’s not working well – whether in the area of interpersonal relationships or at the operational, organisational or strategic levels – and then move forward to conceiving solutions and action planning.
Professional training can help managers learn how to give negative feedback constructively and how to turn challenges into opportunities.
Just as we air our bedrooms every day to improve our sleep, creating an open culture within an organisation, where people feel safe and invited to honestly bring forward what’s now working well, is one sure way to take care of the well-being of employees and keeping them strongly committed to the organisation and its mission.
4. Offer opportunity to grow
It is important that employees feel competent in their current role, but it is also essential for people to feel that they are progressing in their career and developing on a personal level too.
Open networking opportunities to your junior staff members and direct them towards webinars and events that will benefit their progress. Moreover, as a manager, you are uniquely positioned to support your team members with career advice, based on the strengths and potential you perceive in them. Take time at least once a year to discuss this, and hold exit interviews with short term staff and trainees.
Also, give people the opportunity to experiment and harness new skills. For example, it is possible to create agile team structures where specific roles and responsibilities, such as coordinator, can rotate for different assignments. This way a range of team members can test and develop leadership and management skills without, or prior to, a formal promotion.
Offering training and learning opportunities is another great way to support staff’s career development. Training programmes that build skills related to job content or soft skills will reassure employees that as they contribute to your organisation, they are also progressing in their career. Training programmes will give your team a fresh challenge and motivation to succeed. Incorporate employee development into each role by allocating working hours for training and personal career growth.
5. Recognise good work
Appreciate the contribution of your employees and show them that you do. Openly recognise their efforts and let them know when they are doing well. Sometimes manager focus feedback on areas for improvement and forget to acknowledge success. When something has gone well, be generous with praise, both one-to-one and in front of other team members. Celebrating success makes people feel valued and increases their engagement at work.
To enable recognition of achievement, each team member and the team as a whole need a set of objectives: weekly, monthly or bi-annual. Clear goals give direction, aid prioritisation and open up internal conversations, which facilitate and harness success. Often employees struggle to see how they are progressing in their job because there aren’t clear milestones set up to provide the basis for developing a sense of accomplishment – so it is easy to end up feeling like the job is never done.
Organise regular bilateral meetings so that you review and measure each team member’s progress, as well as both share and hear each others’ thoughts on what is currently going on. Acknowledging good work will boost self-confidence and motivate further efforts. You may also find that it is much easier to deal with areas that need improvement when the positive elements are consistently being recognised.
6. Allow time for fun
Whilst your team is brought together for work, less formal, fun-based activities will allow your team to bond outside of the meeting room. This will enhance the commitment that each employee feels towards their work and your organisation. Host an occasional quiz night or book club, or simply meet for a walk, dinner or longer lunch – team members can even take turns in organising the fun!
Also, make sure people have fun during their work. Sounds counter-intuitive because “this is work?” Well, where there is fun, there is also a lot of positive energy – and it does not mean that we are sloppy and can’t deliver good results at the same time. Hard work, creativity and team-work can all be complemented by igniting enjoyment as well. Asking your staff what parts of their job they have the most fun doing are the best way to gauge where they are engaged, and where their strengths lie (see point 1).
By optimising employee engagement, you will not only find a happier team of employees, but you will soon begin to see enhanced results for your organisation!