Improving Employee Engagement

In a recent posts, I’ve mentioned employee engagement (more on the topic here, here and here)…I’ve had a few emails from readers asking me to give some examples of how they could go about engaging the people on their teams.  There are no ‘right’ answers for this because every person is different, but as a general rule, the following factors would help:

  1. Trust your team.
  2. Make sure your team knows that failure IS an option.
  3. Make your team members accountable for their actions

Let’s look at each of these factors in more detail.  Before you continue, please realize I am not an organizational design expert nor human resources expert…these are just some basic techniques that I’ve used in the past.

Trust your team

Trust your employees.  If you trust them to do their jobs, they’ll deliver.

Treat your team like the adults they are.  Stop using the employment model from the Industrial Revolution and let your team decide when and where they should work.  Look into Results Focused systems (such as Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE), etc).

Make sure your team knows that failure IS an option

Failure will happen.  If you ensure that your team knows that it is OK to fail, and that you expect them (and yourself) to fail, you’ll be amazed at what they’ll be able to accomplish.  I touched on this subject in a previous blog post titled “Learning From Failure“…an excerpt from that post is:

According to a story recounted in a newsletter from the New & Improved website, Warren Buffett, the semi-celebrity CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, says that the act of making a mistake (and failing) is essential to the decision making process.  As an example of this, Mr Buffett once told David Sokol, the CEO of a Berkshire Hathaway controlled company, that:

David, we all make mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, you can’t make decisions.

This comment was after Mr. Sokol told Buffett that they would have to write off $360 million for the year due to a project that didn’t work out as expected.

If you truly want to engage your employees, making them understand that failure IS an option is key.  If they know that they have the right to fail, they’ll put their heart and soul into their efforts.

Hold your team members accountable for their actions

At first, this may seem a bit out of place, but I promise you, it will help.  Think back to a time when one of your team-mates / employees / friends / etc weren’t pulling their weight on a task.  What was your reaction to finding out that they were able to ‘get by’ without doing as much work as you?  If you are like most people, you were a bit disappointed in the person responsible for managing / leading that task.

It’s very difficult for any person to maintain a positive attitude and love what they do if they feel like there are people who aren’t pulling their weight.  If you ensure that all your team members are held accountable for results, and that they must hold you accountable for results, then you’ll have a much happier team.

Conclusion

The three factors listed above will not immediately turn a dis-engaged employee into a happy and engaged one, but they will help you down the road of build a steady foundation for your team.  By trusting your team, holding them accountable and communicating that failure IS an option, you’ll have a team of people who are willing to dig deeper and do a bit more for you and the organization.

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Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It

I had some time this weekend and used it to catch up on some reading.  One of the books I read was Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson’sWhy Work Sucks and How to Fix It“.

Great book….but I wonder if the people that need to read it will read it.  I’m talking about the CEO’s and other leaders of organizations who need to be on board with the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) mentality to actually fix the problem of why work sucks.

According to the book, work sucks because we are all still stuck in the industrial age mentality of what it means to “work”. I agree.  You no longer need to be ‘in the office eight hours a day’ to do your job….in fact, I can’t think of any knowledge worker position in existence today that shouldn’t be allowed to move into a ROWE position….if you can think of any, feel free to leave me a comment.

The biggest piece of knowledge that any manager/leader should take away from this book is the following:

Trust your employees. If you trust them, they’ll deliver.

A ROWE doesn’t work unless there is trust. Managers must trust their team to do the job.  Team members must trust each other and they must trust their manager.

NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher as an advanced review copy.

Why does Work Suck?

If you’d like to know the answer that question, I have a new book for you to read: “Why Work Sucks” by Cali and Jody.

This book (which I haven’t started reading yet…but I plan to start soon) seems to follow the Ricardo Semler approach to organizational developing as outlined in “Maverick” and “Seven Day Weekend“.

The book introduces the concept of a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). An excerpt from Cali and Jody’s website describes ROWE as:

In a ROWE, people are paid for a chunk of work, not for a chunk of time. This simple idea creates a workforce that is energized, focused, disciplined, and happy, and it’s already transformed the corporate work culture at Best Buy – a Fortune 100 retailer.

Their Book Page has this to add:

In a “Results-Only” company or department, employees can do whatever they want whenever they want, as long as business objectives are achieved. No more pointless meetings, racing to get in at 9:00, or begging for permission to watch your kid play soccer. No more cramming errands into the weekend, or waiting until retirement to take up your hobbies again. You make the decisions about what you do and where you do it, every minute of every day.

Results Only Work Environment’s (ROWE‘s) are an ideal situation for any organization who wants their employees to truly be happy. This environment makes it OK for employees to go grab a coffee with a friend at 10AM or go run a few errands whenever they need to.

ROWE seems counter-intuitive to some people…but makes perfect sense to anyone who’s ever sat through a 8 hour day thinking about how they will get their errands accomplished for the week.

One particular area that I’m interested in exploring, and what has touched off my book idea, is integrating ROWE with a common sense approach to business.  How do we remove the layers of bureaucracy that exists in many organizations (e.g., adherence to antiquated procedures, 4 hour meetings with no outcome, etc).

Specifically, I’m interested in exploring the topic of ROWE in the IT space.  How would this type of environment work in an IT organization with the strict focus on process and procedure? How will a project based IT organization adapt to a results focused environment where people have the freedom to work when and where they want?

Look for more thoughts on these questions in the future.  Until then, read more on ROWE and Semler’s approach to organizations with the following articles.