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.

Work smart, Not hard: The personality features of efficient workers

Bill Gates once famously said: “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job, because he will find an easy way to do it”. At face value it appears that Bill Gates is praising laziness as a personality trait. When one of the world’s richest people says something of this gravitas, people place a great deal of importance on their words. One of the dangers of this amount of influence  by one person, is that, as an unintended consequence, somewhat simpler members of society will take things too literally. So, was Bill Gates really suggesting that lazy people are actually the smarter people in society? No, there is a much deeper meaning to what Bill Gates was actually saying. Before before you start using this quote to defend all of your lazy actions, let me explain further.

Working Smart:

Ultimately when Bill Gates talks about laziness in this statement, he explains that the goal of a good worker is to get to a point where they can have more time, freedom and money to be lazy and to have more choices in life. A successful person will work hard for a short period of time, create an innovative solution to the problem to make it more easy to work with, and then have more time for relaxation or leisure later.

Working Hard:

This is in direct contrast to other types of workers who are more likely to come to work everyday to follow the same processes each day to achieve the same tasks, even though the work is repetitive and inefficient. Nobody can say that these workers do not work hard,  but they lack the creativity and innovation to challenge the status quo to better the company and make processes more efficient.

Autonomy and clear direction:

So how can we encourage efficiency in our workers? The first step is to allow autonomy. Workers that cannot act on their own judgement are not free to challenge the status quo to recognise inefficient processes and use creativity to generate novel solutions. At first this will feel like a risky venture, and it requires a strong company culture. It is imperative here to ensure that the company values are well set out, and that all workers are clear of the company goals. With these steps in place, you can reliably hand over autonomy to your employees, because they will be able to be guided by these values when designing efficient solutions, and the resultant decisions that are made will be similar to those which management would make. In fact, the decisions made will ultimately be better for the shift in autonomy, since those workers who are directly faced with the inefficiencies that the company suffers from will be more likely to come up with effective solutions that suit their more productive work.

Certainly, the words of Bill Gates are a useful quote: thought-provoking and inspiring. They may even make a great Monday morning inspiration email to send to your employees! Just don’t forget to explain their meaning, and follow it up with some considered structural changes providing more autonomy to employees and ensuring company values are clear.

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.


How to engage employees in traditionally unpleasant roles

Recently I met with someone who works in waste management at their local council,  and upon chatting to them about their work, I found they were incredibly engaged and motivated to do a great job.
Traditionally we have seen working with waste as an unpleasant role. Garbage truck drivers are often portrayed as the lowest rung in society. In addition to this, working in a local council can be fraught with bureaucracy, bringing endless frustration to its employees.
Waste management isn’t sexy, and would seem unpleasant. Though my interviewee is not a garbage-truck driver,  and he absolutely loves his job. I asked him about the reasons why his workplace was such a rewarding and fulfilling environment, and he shared an interesting perspective of how management can make even the least palatable-sounding of jobs enjoyable.

Here’s how to engage employees who are in traditionally unpleasant roles:

Support from management

A strong willingness to support employees by management was one of the first factors described by my interviewee. He stated that this was clear early on in his role, that during learning the ropes he was very comfortable with the level of support provided by management.
He also suggested that he didn’t feel pressure to take on new responsibilities before he was ready, being able to step up to answering calls on his own terms. In addition, open lines of communication have continued to help him feel supported in his role, and he feels his career development is well supported by training programs and certificates.

Team environment

The team environment in his workplace is solid, with the workload shared between members. Roles and values are clear, to ensure no one is confused about their responsibilities. And there is a great sense of camaraderie, with everyone working toward a common goal.

A culture of acknowledgement

There is also a strong culture of employee acknowledgement. Management makes the effort to set aside time to acknowledge the work of the team and will acknowledge individual efforts as well, though not publicly. Colleagues will acknowledge the efforts of co-workers also, but this is more informal that a structures part of the company culture.


Some flexibility exists in terms on when and what tasks are performed by employees, which my interviewee described as a motivating factor at work. He stated that this motivation increases efficiency and speed of achievement of tasks. Additionally, management is clever in that when tasks are assigned, this is done with employee strengths in mind. My interviewee described being good at meeting and greeting, so many of these roles in the public eye are assigned to him.

Greater meaning of the employee’s role

Finally, my interviewee feels his role plays a broader context in society. Particularly in this pre-climate change world, he is proud of the work he does towards protecting the environment and sustainability. The sense of meaning and fulfilment is what employees often need for a greater sense of engagement and passion for his role.

Overall, this is a great snapshot of how management can effectively support the roles of their employees to improve their motivation and engagement. The only thing that appears to be missing to be is a public acknowledgement platform that employees can use to congratulate each other on their good work, as public acknowledgement has been shown to be more effective.

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.


The “Glassdoor” Phenomenon: How to put your company culture in the best light

In contemporary society, decisions are simply not made without visiting a review site. From Yelp to Trivago to iSelect, there is an app or a website to help you make any decision you might possibly want to make. This has now extended into the job search market, with the review website becoming quite a force to reckon with. This billion dollar company not only gives an anonymous platform for employees to review the salaries they make at certain companies, it also gives opportunities for review of the work environment including culture, favorability towards the CEO and professional development options. This platform not only speak to the need for transparency by employers,  it also highlights the importance of investment in culture rather than just providing the bare minimum in terms of employee benefits. Love it or hate it, this style of review website is here to stay, so it is wiser to get ahead of the curve and invest in culture for a great review, rather than ignoring it or becoming frustrated about it’s presence.


“Glassdoor” angst is now rating higher for internet traffic than any career site, including those who actually offer jobs. For many employers this spells disaster, as transparency is something  that makes them incredibly uncomfortable. The aspect which allows a stranger to rate a CEO publicly is particularly stressful for those in these positions of power. But having access to this kind of information, i.e. what people say about you behind your back could really help you to understand your brand and actually improve this based on real time advice.


What has taught us?

Essentially, through this website we have found that culture is key. Those companies to rate highly overall overwhelmingly also rate highly in terms of culture according to the website. Even factors such as location and cost of living are not such highly impacting factors as company culture when considering motivation of potential employees to choose one company over another. Feedback received by the website from employees finding their dream job using this service shows that this kind of transparency about culture actually enhances the ability of employers to find the “right fit” for their company. Having a strong culture and Company values will help your future employees to self-select themselves for appropriateness of the role. Reducing “bad fit” of employees can be extremely powerful, as it inevitably reduces employee turnover, which if high, can be exorbitantly expensive in terms of cost of hiring and training.


So what can you do?

The important thing to do is to address the root cause of any problems. Human resources should not be seen as an entity simply to do the hiring and firing. HR Professionals are worth their weight in gold, if they can effectively mobilize social media and respond tactfully to bad reviews. Whatever you do, don’t fake good reviews. Target groups of employees have responded to these fake reviews stating that they are obvious and do not make them more likely to choose one job over another.  In fact they make it more likely for them to steer away from this company, as the fake reviews damage the trust that employees feel they can have for this organisation.

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.