5 common mistakes made by management which result in unengaged employees

Engagement of employees is currently a highly discussed topic in human resource management, and yet repeated studies find that employee engagement is chronically low in modern workplaces.

Gallup reports that the number of engaged employees in Australian workplaces is as low as 24%. The benefits of employee engagement are well-known, so how is it that we are getting it wrong so much of the time. One answer could be found in management at a local level, which can be due to a variety of factors, as explained below. If you’ve pulled out all the stops in terms of organisational change to influence employee engagement and you’re still not seeing results, typically you’ll find that management is the key to rectifying the issue and ensuring success.

  1.       Lack of consistency

Clarity and consistency in terms of goals to be achieved is one of the key aspects of employee engagement. It is not fair to be ambiguous or inconsistent in your directions and wonder why your employees disappoint with what they produce, or are ineffective in their teamwork. Provide clear, consistent instructions for what you want to be achieved, and all will be on the same page and productivity will be much improved.

  1.       Favouritism

Nobody likes a brown-noser. Realistically, this doesn’t work for engagement of anyone in the workforce. The favourite employee will be comfortable with their current level of work and will not strive to improve, because why would they? They have all the perks without having to strive. Additionally, the other employees will resent the favourite, and will be disengaged by the idea that they can’t improve their standing, so they won’t bother to work hard either. The subsequent toxic culture will be bad for both company productivity and employee wellbeing. Of course, you’re going to like some people more than others, this is just human nature. Ensure that you don’t let it affect how you treat your employees, however. Reward incentives based on merit, and remain impartial in your language and feedback.

  1.       Micromanagement

Again, nobody likes a micromanager. Step back and realise that if you have set clear and consistent company values and goals, your employees will make good decisions, as if you made them yourself. Autonomy in the workplace is another key feature of employee engagement, as employees feel rewarded by the ability to take initiative and make their own decisions. What’s more is that they own their work, turning up every day, knowing they have something to contribute.

  1.       Lack of open communication

Following on from the last point, effective trust can’t be established without effective communication. Have an open-door policy, and ensure that employees know that they will be listened to. If they come to you with complaints, this is best achieved by actioning their solutions. You must also give regular, unbiased and constructive feedback.

  1.       Burnout

Finally, it is easy to understand why some employees might be burnout if their managers are also disengaged. Managers who don’t use vacation days, workplace perks or send weekend emails, are likely to be setting an example for their employees to do the same. The solution is in offering more training and support. Teach that more hours do not equal more productivity, and incentivise more efficient work, rather than spending more time at work.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Job crafting: tailoring roles to meet an individual’s strengths

It cannot be understated; how important employee autonomy is for engagement.  Providing employees with autonomy means not micromanaging, and setting clear goals to allow employees to dictate exactly how they reach those goals. It seems counterintuitive, as a leader, to let go of the reigns and allow your employees to make their own decisions. However, the benefits of this strategy are well proven, and greatly improve the engagement of your employees, along with their productivity.

So, what is job crafting?

Going one step further is the notion of “job-crafting”. This where employees reimagine the roles of their job, to align more strongly with their strengths and values. For example, a janitor who works within a hospital can voluntarily take on roles to improve patient care, such as shifting artwork for a change of scene, or developing patient rapport by giving a kind smile whilst going about their business. Or in the case of a lawyer, who meets with the product team of their company to be proactive and avoid legal challenges before they arise, rather than just responding to them. This is based on the work of Google, who piloted the strategy, and have now encouraged others to implement it. Studies show it can increase satisfaction and engagement dramatically, and in turn will also improve employee performance.

So why not follow Google’s successful footsteps and implement this strategy? You may find your employees are already crafting their roles, in some small way. Bringing it out into the open can help you to make job-crafting have a great impact on your workplace. Use the following steps to implement job-crafting in your company:

         Encourage autonomy

An easy way to start the job crafting process is to allow your employees to work out how exactly to achieve the goals you’ve set. There is no need to dictate exactly how you want each goal achieved, and by which steps. The added initiative that your employees will be able to take will give them drive and will improve their engagement overall.

         Plan job-crafting in performance reviews

The evidence is out for performance reviews. Instead of boosting employee’s performance, they tend to focus on the negative, and create resentment and further underachievement. A more useful strategy is to give regular, short bursts of feedback, for good and for bad work, so that feedback and constant improvement is a part of everyday work. Additionally, by creating an open line of communication with your employees on a regular basis, the overall rapport will be improved in the employer-worker relationship, improving trust and therefore improving engagement. Therefore, choose to spend the time taken in performance review to discuss the direction of each employee’s role to suit their individual strengths and needs.

         Job crafting “swap meets”

One quick way of developing roles to suit employees whilst ensuring all tasks are assigned for someone to complete is to hold a “swap meet”. The idea is that everyone swaps they assigned tasks to make their job-lists more favourable. One worker’s trash is another’s treasure.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Maintaining the lines of open communication: the neural network of an effective company

The brain and its neural system are the subjects of much human curiosity and interest. While countless resources are spent on technology investigating the neural system, the processes of cognition, emotion and reasoning are the subjects of children’s films such as “Inside Out”. The brain and the nervous system behaves like a colony of individual organisms, each neuron providing its own reality to contribute to higher consciousness. In a similar way, each individual member of your team is like an individual nerve cell, and your company is made up of each of these inputs. When communication is smooth between each level of the company, like an effectively functioning neural network, the overall processes of the company will be efficient and the output will be productive. Follow these steps to ensure the effective functioning of your “neural network”:

  • The Brain (cerebrum + cerebellum)

The cerebrum (structures of the brain under voluntary control) represents management in this analogy. This is the place where all inputs are processed and a decision is made about which action to take, which is then communicated down to the peripheral nerves. However, just as the nervous system needs a centre called the cerebellum to adjust for slight deviations in the environment producing balance and smooth movement, it is not wise for management to act in isolation from the rest of the company. Management should endeavour to give some autonomy to your employees to ensure processes run smoothly according to changing conditions.

  • Hormones (the neuroendocrine system)

Another aspect which helps the nervous system to function effectively is the input from hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and adrenalin. Anyone who has ever been on antidepressants will know about the common side effects of nausea and diarrhoea. This is because, just as the wiring of the brain needs the right concentration of hormones to work well, even the nervous system which helps the gut to work (the enteric nervous system) is affected by these hormones. Similarly, if your workers are not provided with the correct conditions to work in (for example: recognition, incentive, social collaboration), they will be dissatisfied and not engaged with their work. This will lead to overall lack of efficiency and productivity. By providing the right culture for your workplace, you are providing the “hormones” for your workers to effectively perform their job.

 

  • Greasing the communication network: the “myelin sheath”

You may have heard of a condition called “Multiple Sclerosis” (MS). Understanding this condition requires a little knowledge of the anatomy of a nerve cell. The nerve cell has a few to many “axons” of varying lengths which carry electrical signal along them to connect to other neurons to pass along a message. Encasing these axons, is a substance called “myelin” which insulates the electrical signal, enabling it to conduct more efficiently along the axonal fibre. In MS, this myelin is eroded by the body’s immune system, producing faults in the connections between neurons and failure to effectively transmit messages. The communication within a company can eroded by lack of trust between employees and management, producing flaws in message transmission. Avoid this situation by maintaining an open-door policy to encourage effective communication, and maintain clarity and transparency in decision making to prevent gossiping and fear-mongering.

 

Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shift: the increasing need for employee engagement

You may recall the basic image of a duck which transforms into a rabbit and vice versa. Depending on the structure of your brain, and whether you exhibit left- or right-hemisphere dominance, you will interpret this picture differently, as a duck, or a rabbit. Regardless or your predisposition, you will likely even notice a “shift” in your interpretation of the image, and depending on how effectively you have trained your brain to switch between left- and right-hemisphere processing, you may experience the shift occurring multiple times in your consideration of the image.

This picture, was first introduced by Thomas Kuhn in 1962, who used it to describe the “paradigm shift”. It even appeared in an episode of “How I Met Your Mother”, when the gang tries to convince Robyn she will begin to see her new co-worker in a new light of romantic potential (whether the duck or the rabbit represents the potential becomes completely confused, and I cannot now recall exactly which is which). Classically, Kuhn referred to a “paradigm” as a shared entity between a group of a scientists, to the exclusion of others. The “shift” was a deviation from the assumption which underpinned this paradigm, challenging the basic understanding of a theory. It goes to the heart of what Einstein said, that it would only take one thinker to demonstrate his work wrong.

The “paradigm shift” represents a difficult but necessary lesson for managers to learn in today’s evolving workplace. With a greater reliance on technology, a more distributed workforce and less motivation by money, management must adapt by focusing more on its people. The following are three ways to effectively engage employees in the modern dynamic work environment:

Provide more autonomy

Employees demand more autonomy in the workplace: to be able to influence the processes they work with so that they can achieve the tasks they require. You may feel that this is an untenable position, that the job that you provide demands to be done in the way you have requested. But this attitude will not get you far. If you want return on investment, if you want quality of performance, you must pay attention to employee needs, as unengaged employees simply do not perform well.  Furthermore, a bottom-up approach works. If you have many engaged, intelligent, creative thinkers working for you, designing the systems you have in place for maximum effectiveness and efficiency, this is always superior to management calling all the shots. You are much less likely to get it right by yourself.

 Create a culture of trust

This step goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. If you give your employees trust and autonomy, they feel respected, their self-esteem increases and the general engagement and productively also improves. You can further establish this culture of trust by keeping the lines of communication open always, letting employees know they can contact you anytime with difficulties.

Acknowledge accomplishments

Finally, acknowledge the hard work of your employees. It is not enough to remunerate your employees and think this is enough thanks. As aforementioned, today’s employees are less motivated by money. Provide your employees with a public acknowledgement of their success, and encourage a culture of employees congratulating each other for their accomplishments as well.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Maximising employee efficiency through creating a fun working environment

Positive and vibrant company culture has become an increasingly sought-after attribute. Not only are employees in the search of a company that will develop their skill-sets,  challenge them professionally and remunerate them accordingly, employees are on the hunt for companies that can promise a vibrant team of like-minded individuals. Companies which can offer this strong positive company culture enjoy many benefits from investment in this principle. Company culture has significant implications in all other areas of company performance, leading to efficiency and productivity by employees at work, through increased engagement. Furthermore company values can extend into the brand which consumers associate with your company name, making your product more attractive and competitive on the market. One only needs to think of companies like Google,  Apple and Twitter, and immediately positive emotions of fun and enjoyment spring to mind. This is what creating a fun and vibrant culture can do for you!

Promote Fun

Don’t lose sight of the need to create opportunities for fun and enjoyment in the workplace. Take note of the general office vibe, and if it is suffering, ensure to give employees a break for a chance of some enjoyment. The team will be friendlier, more connected, and more engaged with their work. This doesn’t have to be difficult, it can easily be achieved by incentivising goals with prizes or footing the bill for happy hour occassionally.

Have a clear direction

One simple action to avoid a lot of frustration for employees is to ensure that the overall company direction is clear. The negative effects of a lack of clear direction have wide-ranging consequences such as decreased motivation and general unhappiness. As a leader, create a clear set of goals and ensure they guide both your decisions and those of your employees. This will create a more cohesive team, and provide a source of motivation and pride in the company values.

Encourage autonomy

This may seem contradictory to my last point, but in fact, greater autonomy for employees breeds greater motivation and greater productivity of the company in turn. Allowing employees autonomy does not mean that your company will be anarchy. If employees have a clear sense of direction of the company goals, they will use these to define their decisions, and they will make decisions as if leadership made them. Do you want one brain in control of the company and a bunch of mindless drones?  or do you want a team of highly engaged, thinking, motivated employees who are all using their intelligence to better the company? I think you know the answer.

Engender a culture of recognition

One further aspect of a strong and positive culture is a focus on recognition. It is well known that incentivising company goals makes productivity increase dramatically. But one way to make productivity reach even higher extremes, is to recognise your employees’ achievements publicly in front of their coworkers. Even better is to encourage your employees to acknowledge their coworkers good works by having a weekly shout out, or allowing employees to gift each other free coffees via workplace chat apps like slack.

Through creating a culture of fun, recognition, and free-thinking, Your employers would be more motivated more engaged and more efficient at work. Achieve success through a culture of fun, facilitated by recognition and affirmations.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Volunteering: a fulfilling strategy for employee engagement

Employee engagement is ever-increasingly important in the postmodern technologically-influenced workplace. Yet, the evidence suggest that overwhelmingly, employees are not engaged in their roles. The reasons for this are multifactorial, but one example is lack of greater connection to the world around them. Ideally, a role can be productive in a way that enables an employee to feel they are serving a greater good, that their work be useful to greater society.

Mostly this is true in many industries, but it is not especially obvious in some cases. Sometimes, an employee can become trapped in the everyday monotony of the workplace and finds themself only working to collect a paycheck. If the reasons why the workplace is effective in greater society are not immediately evident, a great strategy is to engage your team in volunteering. This is supported by a 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey which found that adult employees aged 21-35 who are frequently involved in workplace volunteer activities are nearly twice as likely to very satisfied with the progression of their career. Additionally, volunteer programs improve the corporate responsibility impact of your company, which in turn, improves its brand and favorability in the eyes of clients.

Improved Productivity

Volunteering as a workplace works becauses employees strengthen their commitment to work together towards a common goal. This improves productivity because each individual worker is steered towards the sense of being part of something bigger, and inspiration to do their part in order to not let the team down. The reward in terms of employee engagement and productivity can be reaped almost immediately.

Social networking

The impact of volunteering on social networks is immediately discernible. Not only will teammates social connections be improved towards one another, but they will meet other like-minded individuals from the community to socialise with, in turn, improve their broader social capital. This will not only benefit them in the short term to improve their wellbeing and reduce isolation, but this integration between your workers and the broader community with the visibility of them taking part in a volunteering role will improve the brand of your company.

The Sweet Spot

Too much investment in volunteering can be a negative, however. When volunteering commitments are too time consuming, individuals can be burdened and irritable with the politics involved. The “sweet spot” is for employees to be involved in 2 – 10 hours of volunteering weekly. Volunteering Australia stated that an hour of volunteering was worth $27.45 in 2010, and therefore, you can boast $527,040 per annum if you have 50 employees donating 8 hours a week of their time.

Case Study: Orange Sky

This is an organisation which provides mobile vans for homeless persons to shower or to wash their clothes, a simple luxury most of us take for granted. The time commitment is on a once-weekly basis, and the volunteering is rich with fulfillment and human connection. Homeless persons often have interesting stories to tell and your employees will benefit greatly from the social connection. So get your company involved and enjoy the fun and the benefits to the bottom line!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

How to give Constructive Feedback senstively to avoid crushing Employee Engagement

It is said generally that praise should be given publicly, but criticism should always be private. This is particularly true in the medical culture of teaching junior doctors, where any criticism of technique should not only be conveyed out of earshot of peers, but this should also be avoided in front of patients. Providing sensitive feedback to a subordinate is an artform, but it is crucial in order to maintain that individual’s dignity and to keep their engagement in tact. So how can you provide tactful criticism that won’t get your employees offside? There are some tried and strategies to ensure you don’t mince words.

Maintain positivity

As a leader, your feedback should always have a positive tone, even when the subject matter is critical in nature. When you need to change the strategy of an employee, for example, it is unacceptable to say “that’s stupid!”, rather you should phrase the criticism as a guiding question such as, “I like your intent with that thought, but could you think of a way to make that idea more realistic and achievable?”. By remaining focussed on the goal at hand, you avoid a negative, personal attack, and instead, keep the tone more positive.

Convert criticism to constructive feedback

You are unlikely to affect real change if you leave an employee feeling bitter and embarrassed, they are likely to become even more resistant to change. For example, if you tell someone they have a “are lazy or incompetent, they are much more likely to get emotional and stubborn towards improvement. However, if there is a genuine problem, you have to say something. The strategy to take here is to begin from a different angle. Constructive feedback should be impersonal, matter-of-fact and timely. The value of behaviour change from the outset should also be made clear. For example, if you give a specific behaviour like, “I’ve noticed you’ve been late three times this week, which is likely to make your coworkers resentful of having to pick up extra work for you. What can be done about this?” This is an approach which is much more likely to get a favourable response and actually result in the change you want to see.

Difficult situations

If you come across a really difficult situation in which you have to give negative feedback, it is best to apply these techniques to the letter. It also really helps to be well prepared to provide this feedback. Specifically:

  1. Prepare facts, figures, information. Anticipate what emotions will need to be dealt with and prepare a response.
  2. Give constructive feedback – in a carefully considered manner, using the information above’
  3. Deal with excuses – patiently and respectfully
  4. Ensure that it is possible for your employees to put into place the promises they make to rectify the situation.

Finally, give constructive feedback early. It will make the whole process easier, and will likely get on to a problem behaviour early before it becomes a giant festering mess. The more you deliver feedback earlier, the less negative feedback you are likely to have to give.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.