Ways to productively engage people at work

ONE of the greatest challenges most organisational leaders face is that of engaging their subordinates productively in the workplace. The world and in particular the workplace is becoming increasingly prone to the disruptive changes the universe is going through. The fast changing world requires an adept leadership to cope and sustain viability. In this instalment I will explore some of the least thought about ideas of creating a productively engaging work-environment. I must admit “Engagement” is a very trendy word, and yet it is so oftenly misconstrued.

By Robert Mandeya

However, because of its (over)use, people are making it harder to understand and think about than is necessary.

Understanding people needs and wants

Let us talk about what people really want in their lives. Because when they have these at work, they will automatically and effortlessly be engaged in their work. Just to caution a lot many out there, the issues l discuss here are some of the most powerful ideas, which do not include the items most people think would be at the top of the list in their minds.

Creating meaning

People want to be a part of something useful, valuable, and bigger than themselves. Help people see how what they do makes a difference for others, for the community, the world or whatever. Make sure people can see the mission of the organisation and how they can fit into it. Even more importantly, help them see why this mission is important. In many cases organisations just have mission statements hung on their walls but few take time to explain the essence of that mission statement to the members of that organisation. They hardly ever do a proper and thorough on-boarding exercise of members into the organisation.

Articulating expectations

People want to know what is expected of them and what behaviours are valued. When people know what is really expected, they work with less stress and higher confidence and productivity. Do your team members know what you expect of them? Do they really know? Have you taken time (lately) to discuss and clarify the expectations and needs of the work? Many a time people are thrown into the deep end. Expectations are never clearly shared or explained. We often take it for granted that when someone has the required qualifications and skills they automatically know what is expected of them. This is a farfetched assumption.

Setting targets

People are naturally competitive (if only with themselves), so help them compete by giving them (or helping them create) goals. Whether the work is highly creative or more mundane and repetitive, goals drive satisfaction and fun. Do your people have clear targets to shoot for? Without clear targets people aimlessly or routinely go through their tasks without purpose. It becomes more obligatory than creating an value out of their efforts. Achievement of targets naturally creates a sense of satisfaction in the perfomer.

Healthy relationships

Human beings want to feel connected to other people, and work is a logical place to have that need met. A after all, we spend more hours at work than in any other activity.

Does the working environment allow for and promote the development of strong working relationships? Do people feel a personal connection to you? In my previous instalment I explored how team activities can be used to boost morale in the work place. Organisations can also introduce creative thinking activities in the workplace. Creativity allows workers the ability to perform tasks or to solve problems in new ways that can oftentimes be more beneficial to a business as a whole. Often, creativity can help to bring a fresh change to a work atmosphere that can inspire workers to be more productive, find joy in their work and to feel reenergised and determined to succeed.
Valuing people input

The people who do the work have a valuable perspective. They have ideas, and they like to share them. You do not need to implement every idea, or accept every solution suggested; but if you openly ask for and value those ideas, some will make a difference. And the process of asking will engage people in powerful ways. Are you making it easy (and expected) for people to share their ideas? Just valuing people’s input without necessary implementing it will challenge people to always come up with better ideas.

Believing in your people

People want to be around people who believe in them. We will do our best work when we know that those around us want the best for us and believe we can achieve the best. Do you believe in the capacity and potential of your people? If so, do they know? If not, why not? When it comes to keeping employees happy and productive, companies such as Google lead the way.Google has a culture of believing in its people. Some ideas will stick, some will not, but what is certain is you will learn a lot from the process along the way.

Giving people some freedom

“We are talking about human beings here, not robots” and people naturally don’t want to be robots. Even in the most regulated and procedure-driven job, there is room for freedom and personal choices. Are you giving people the chance to express themselves and make adjustments, while still reaching the quality and quantity targets a job requires? The good news for every leader or manager reading these words is that you can create an environment and lead in a way to provide more of these. These are in your control, regardless of your industry or company culture. Finally this discussion won’t really surprise you, because it includes many of the things you want too, does not it? Keep that in mind and remember that your people are people, and we all want more of these things in our lives and work. When you provide them, engagement ensues.

Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw, info@lird.co.zw or +263 772 466 925.