There is increasing evidence that employee engagement is vitally important in ensuring the productivity of the workplace.
Yet surveys repeatedly find that the vast majority of workers are either somewhat or actively disengaged, therefore, it is critical to invest in employee engagement. While investments in long term strategies for employee engagement are extraordinarily useful, there are simple techniques that can be employed in the day-to-day which can help employees to self-regulate their own engagement in their daily tasks.
Through taking a “bottom-up” approach, influencing the individual employee in terms of what resources they have available to self-engage on a daily basis, employee engagement can be readily achieved in a cost-effective manner.
A body of research identifies self-management behaviours as those that help an employee to self-facilitate motivation and structure the workplace environment. (1) The following are recognised forms of self-management behaviours:
- Self- observation: awareness of work behaviours which may lead to reflection and improvement
- Self- goal setting: effective when goals are specific, achievable, and measurable.
- Self-cueing: writing down list of tasks which need to be achieved, helping employees to reorient to the task at hand
- Self reward: Reinforcing achievements with desirable traits
- and self-punishment: tough self-talk when performance is less than desired.
Together these self-management behaviours will help to reinforce positive work traits, whilst discouraging lack of drive and commitment, ensuring an overall balance of successful performance.
However, employees are not able to engage in self-management behaviours if they’re not provided with the autonomy to do so. Therefore stepping back, providing less external control, can enable an employees to engage new self-management behaviours in order to feel more competent at work.
Additionally, evidence shows that effective job resources are needed for employees to engage in this self regulation. (1) These include decision latitude (the ability to decide when and how to do tasks that contribute to the workplace), social support, performance feedback and regular opportunities to use their skills. For example, it has been shown that flight attendants were more engaged on days when they received more social support, and that fast food operators at a restaurant performed better on days when they received more opportunities to act autonomously and coaching to develop their skills. (2) Furthermore, it has been shown that self-management techniques improve not only in the short term during the days in which actions to improve resources were utilised, self regulation behaviours were also increased in the weeks following. (1)
Finally, to promote self-management behaviours, as aforementioned, a manager should enable employees to have the autonomy in the workplace in order to put these strategies into place. To make the message super clear, hold a self-management workshop to inform and role-play these behaviours in a simulated environment. Then, ensure that you provide the resources your employees need to practice these behaviours, including regular constructive feedback, and opportunities to use their varied skills. Finally, keep it fun, and make sure that employees do not perceive these behaviours as a chore or a withdrawal of support by management. Ensure an open-door policy with all employees, so that they can feel free to discuss any issues at any time to keep the sense of support well-established.
- Breevaart K, Bakker AB, Demerouti E. Daily self-management and employee work engagement. J Vocat Behav. 2014;84:31-8.
- Xanthopolou D, Bakker AB, Demerouti E, Schaufeli WB. Reciprocal relationships between job resources, personal resources and work engagement. J Vocat Behav. 2009;74:235-44.