Leaders often bemoan the fact that employees are disengaged, and it’s true – they are often disengaged. Many are bored, lack interest, seem passionless, and don’t invest energy in their tasks. Sadly, some organizations don’t do anything to help themselves or their employees. Sure, they try, but it’s usually by offering incentives that don’t get at the root of the problem.
Do a quick google search of ‘creative ways to engage employees’ and you might find things like: provide cupcakes, bring pets to work, or set up a reward system where employees can redeem points for things like flowers, gift cards, and appliances! The list is imaginative, but not necessarily sustainable (Who wants or needs cupcakes every day?). More importantly, these incentives don’t get at the source of employee disengagement.
Through our consulting work with various organizations, we have found many strategies that work to enhance workplace performance and job satisfaction. The following are some ideas for you to consider and then decide how to best make them a reality in your workplace.
1. Focus on Job Enrichment
In an attempt to make work more challenging, some managers will require higher outputs of the end product – rather than producing 10 widgets per hour, an employee is expected to produce 25. This does make the work more challenging, but it is not the right kind of challenge. As an alternative, managers should strive to provide opportunities for people to move more deeply into what they enjoy.
2. Remove Useless Tasks
Removing useless tasks may sound self-evident, but if you examine the responsibility of your team you may find that some tasks have no organizational value. How many employees write reports that no one reads? How many documents do people print that are already stored electronically? How many times are you, as a leader, asked questions regarding information that is readily available or could easily be made available? Use these questions to help you step back and see what could be done more efficiently at your workplace.
3. Give Complete Units of Work
When it’s reasonable, allow employees to complete a unit of work. Your goal should be to avoid the assembly line experience where an employee’s day consists of handing off a small completed portion of a larger task. Allow employees to see a task through from beginning to end. This will allow them to experience a sense of meaningful completion. For example, have staff members who write reports also present them to management.
4. Provide Well-Defined Goals
Verbalize your expectations and repeatedly review them. Employees should know what their most important tasks are. It is also vital to clarify the level of performance required for success. Weekly, monthly, and daily goals should be clear. When our expectations are well defined, it helps employees deliver quality results, giving them a sense of accomplishment knowing they have met the expectations of the job or task.
5. Offer Ongoing Feedback
Well defined goals make it easy to give ongoing feedback. In addition to whatever your formal review is, it is important that feedback also be informal and ongoing. We learn and improve with feedback – the more feedback our employees receive the more they can improve. Employees cannot reach their potential without support and input from their supervisors. Athletes need coaches, gifted musicians need teachers, writers need editors, and employees need feedback.
Increasing workplace satisfaction requires us to realistically assess what is happening in our workplaces and then imagine how to make it better. This is a constant endeavor which is well worth our efforts as we strive to motivate and engage our employees.