Sep 13, 2007

Engaging Employees at work

It's been a long time since I linked to DD's posts, and the latest one which reviews a HBR article on the subject of employee engagement is a great example of the high quality blog posts we have become addicted to :-)

As he says:

In effect, people can be engaged in the long term, but still have bad days. When people are having good days, they are found to be more productive. So the question is to understand how you can create a continuous stream of good days? Amabile and Kramer give us two good ideas of how to increase those good days. First, enable progress, and second, manage with a human touch.

So what does enabling progress mean?

Good days consist of progress. From the management perspective of having a steady stream of good days, this means providing clearly articulated goals and objectives. Nothing kills a producer more than finding out after the fact that he/she has been spinning wheels on something that actually wasn’t important. Second, this means that once the manager has articulated a direction, priorities and deadlines, allow your talent to stick to the course. If your continuously re-prioritize or interrupt work for other tasks, you are continuously devaluing the work they are performing. The bottom line is that if management expects your talent to love their work, management needs to demonstrate it’s importance.

This is such a basic building block of management skills, that its scary how in facilitating management programs managers admit that they have to re-prioritise work because "people up the chain" keep doing that. Similarly when I do the program for the same manager's subordinates the response is similar -
  • "I don't understand what the organization wants from me"
  • "We work from week to week priorities"
  • "I am so immersed in what I do everyday that I don't care what my yearly performance plans are. It hardly matters."

Are these the same reactions your people have when asked about what are the biggest key achievements? If you can't articulate the three biggest key achievements you need to achieve from yourself as well as from your team mates individually then you are probably doing a bad job of managing. I have heard managers say "But all my 22 responsibilities listed in my job description is important!" If you think so too, then it's time to corner your manager and say "If you could get just 2-3 achievements from me out of the 22 listed, what would they be?"

The answer might surprise you.