Planning For Employees’ Return to the Office? Don’t Overlook Differences in Employee Opinions

Employee trust and appreciation are on the rise.  The COVID pandemic presented leaders a substantial opportunity to put their employees first, to communicate often and with authenticity.  This has paid off in building trust and connection among employees, their managers and leaders.

With companies planning for the return to the office, maintaining these improved connections is paramount.  One aspect of returning to the workplace you may not be thinking about is the span of opinions your employees have about the virus and how they will treat others whose views differ. You can lose your bump in engagement by not reinforcing respect in the office when it comes to employees’ diverse behavior, opinions and actions on the virus and safety guidance.

 

Learn from the media’s mistakes

If you haven’t completely stopped watching and reading the news, you’re aware of the conflict between people who diligently follow the guidance given to protect vulnerable populations and those who resist wearing the protective equipment.  One cause of the conflict is that the directives given by health experts and our state, local and federal governments are inconsistent.

Complicating the guidance given is media headlines that convey an incomplete description.  Recently, a USA Today headline read “New Jersey will require face masks to be worn outdoors, governor says.”  Missing from the headline and first four paragraphs of the article was the critical additional information “if you can’t socially distance.”  Disputes on social media were rampant.  The initial headline and that of many news stations caused fear among those who feel vulnerable contrasted with outrage from the people that don’t believe you need a mask everywhere.

 

Preventing conflict among employees

For business leaders, have you considered how this could play out in your workplace when employees return to the office?  People have very different fears and opinions for many reasons.  Employee conflict around issues of safety and preference can erupt when least expected.  Some employees will be extra cautious by wearing masks when they’re not required and others will want the restrictions lifted as early as possible.  This can cause disagreements and ridicule among employees if not openly addressed.  You want to avoid situations where employees are mocking a colleague for being extra cautious or blaming someone for not caring about others.

 

What you can do to reduce employee disagreements

Employees tend to be on their best behavior in the workplace but there are actions you can take to limit teasing or accusations from eroding the improvements you gained in employee trust and appreciation.

  • Be clear on your mandatory expectations and where there is flexibility.
  • Be upfront with employees on unacceptable behaviors and the consequences.
  • Hold managers accountable for enforcing the expectations as soon as an issue arises.
  • Provide a resource for employees to go to for consistent, accurate information.
  • Let employees know that the health and safety guidelines will be adjusted over time and no changes will be effective until the company notifies them.
  • Reinforce importance of respect in the workplace.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.

You want to avoid contention, blaming and ridicule during this very sensitive time.  And you want to enhance the positive culture you’ve gained so your employees like coming to work and building on their and the company’s success.

Improving Communication Strategies for Leaders in COVID and Beyond

Susan O’Connor joins Kristen Walker of Clearview Consulting to discuss common communication issues that have made it more difficult for companies to connect with their employees during the social isolation and what leaders can do to help their employees get the information they need.  Click on the link below.

Improving Communication Strategies For Leaders in COVID and Beyond

 

 

The Power of Leadership:  Your Employees See You As A Trusted Source Of COVID-19 Information

If you’re not openly communicating with your employees on the impact of COVID-19 you’re making a mistake.  Frontline managers and business leaders are in a position to build trust, establish a culture of support and show empathy during this pandemic. The benefits of good communication now can payoff for years to come in strong employee engagement and trust.

Employers as trusted sources

Employees are relying on their companies as trusted sources of COVID-19 information according to an annual Edelman Trust Barometer.  The global communications firm surveyed about 10,000 people from 10 countries including the U.S. on virus-related communications March 6-10.1  Employers rose to the top as the most credible source of information employees are receiving, over non-government organizations, the mainstream media, the government and social media.

Many companies took the lead to increase their communication to employees once businesses started shuttering offices and plants—reassuring employees their health and safety were of utmost importance; providing them information, resources and equipment they needed to work from home if possible; and furnishing updates on the business impact of COVID-19.

Return to work communications

Another shift is taking place in the content of communications with planning the return to work (physically), what the new normal for work could be and how to protect employees in the office or plant environment.

The physical workspace will change.  Employers are talking about rotating in-office workers—one week in, one week at home; shortening the work week or the exact opposite–allowing the flexibility to work any of the seven days of the week; retrofitting common use areas like collaboration spaces, restrooms and conference rooms; rethinking building HVAC; reconsidering travel.  Employees are concerned about these changes and want to hear more.

Frontline manager communications is changing

Many companies are reviewing their work from home stance now that it’s been proven that working from home can be done effectively.  In addition to working from home, leaders are realizing the importance of flexibility for their employees’ work priorities, family circumstances and mental health issues.  Many companies are placing more emphasis on communication and interactions between the frontline manager and his/her employees.  Consideration is being given to equip managers with the skills to accept the fluidity, and what may be considered personal nature, of their employees’ circumstances.

Whereas many managers were trained to keep discussions about their employees’ personal lives to a minimum, they are now obligated to ask about their health, family and mental health situations as it relates to their work. This can be uncomfortable for managers whose focus has always been on the work relationship.  Managers’ flexibility will be tested from the ever-changing daily situation of an employee who may have everything under control one day and then be unable to perform their duties the next.  Daily, meaningful touchpoints are necessary.  Long gone are the times of checking in once or twice a week if businesses are to shift work and priorities to accommodate what is taking place in the employee’s life.

Rely on your employees

Employees will tell you what they need given the chance and when they feel you can be trusted.  Feedback mechanisms should be a major component of your communications plan.  Focus groups, short surveys, virtual suggestion boxes, feedback from managers’ conversations should all factor into the direction your communications are taking.  Employees can be your greatest resource to problem solving the issues your business is facing to get back to growth. Involve and listen to employees, customers, suppliers, and others in and outside your industry.

Basically, the way we work will change.  And communicating these changes clearly and in a timely fashion is critical to a smooth-running business and a well informed employee.

3 take aways

Everyone is operating in the unknown right now.

  • It’s the perfect time to talk with employees and other business owners to get solutions.
  • Get on calls, hold virtual meetings, show empathy and compassion, get to know your employees on a deeper level.
  • Listen with your ears, listen with your heart, listen with your eyes.

Engage your employees now and build a bond that is hard to break.

1https://www.edelman.com/research/edelman-trust-covid-19-demonstrates-essential-role-of-private-sector

Finding Resiliency In Times of Change

Social distancing has turned the world upside down for most people.  Think about all the change that happened when states, then companies started to adapt the way they operated.  I’m sure you and everyone around you felt the uneasiness, uncertainty and may even have been afraid of what could happen personally and for your work.

Resilience is the ability to move through such change or chaos quickly using the least amount of energy reserves.  Many people equate resilience with “bouncing back” after being depleted.  With change being constant in our daily lives, living in a state of persistent depletion will negatively impact your cells, your body, mind, family and co-workers.  Consistently being in a state of high stress is not healthy or normal.  Stress depletes your cells, muscles and mental capacity internally and likely impacts your family and work relationships.  Fortunately, resilience is a skill that can be learned by anyone.

Preparation is key

You don’t have to wait to be depleted to prepare yourself with enough energy to adapt to changes/stress quickly and get back to living your best life.  Having energy reserves is like having money in the bank.  You’re being proactive and storing energy regularly to have it available when you need it.

Ways to build your resiliency

Here are 4 approaches to build your resilience that you can start today.  Ideally, you will embed these four approaches into your life BEFORE you have a major change or issue.  However, it’s never too late to start. As you practice these actions, they will become natural habits.

Consider your choices: We all have choices in how we deal with any situation.  You can act/react out of fear and negativity or you can choose to look for the positive possibilities in the change.  For example, you have a choice to learn about the COVID-19 virus or you can perpetuate the fear with everyone you talk to.  Sharing accurate knowledge about the disease is more positive than being so fearful you become paralyzed.

Reassess your perspective: Are you seeing the whole picture in a difficult situation?  Is it possible you’re missing information?  Seek clarity to make sure your perspective is accurate so you don’t waste time worrying about something that doesn’t exist.  How often have you assumed someone, maybe a boss, would be upset that you’re 10 minutes late in the morning because it took longer to get the kids to school?  Your manager was likely too busy with his/her priorities to notice.  That’s a wasted use of your reserves.  Do the best you can during the moment.

Prioritize positivity:  We create most of the stress we feel by allowing our negative thoughts to sabotage us.  How often have you had an argument with someone in your head and it never materialized.  Yet, you reduced your energy reserves to have that one-sided argument.  How often do you feel not qualified for a job?  How often do you tell yourself you’re not good enough of a parent?  Replace negative self-talk with positivity to build your reserves. Tell yourself that you’re the best parent you can be.  You are qualified for the job.  Push aside the negative voices and replace them with positive affirmations of who you are.  You will feel lighter and better about yourself.

Practice refueling:  Consider mental, physical, emotional and spiritual activities that make you feel good.  It can be as simple as sitting quietly for 15 minutes to change your perspective or breakthrough a mental roadblock you’re having.  Reading or exercising may help you recharge.  Find what works for you and give yourself the time to practice it.  Refuel your energy daily or as often as possible.  The energy you get out will be worth the investment.

Tips for success

  • Pick one or two of the above tactics and practice them every day.
  • Make small changes and build on them. Make the changes small so you feel the accomplishment and progress.
  • Pause occasionally to look around you and appreciate what you do have.
  • Spend time examining the values you hold. Have they changed?  If so, consider changing where you’re focusing your energy and time to reflect your current values.
  • Treat yourself kindly.

Changing your behavior to build energy reserves can be challenging.  However, you will feel the difference with each tiny step you take.  When you continue to build on each new habit, you’ll end up with more ways of energizing yourself that will benefit you to move through any change quicker and easier.  This is not to say that building your resilience will prevent you from life’s difficult challenges but having positive, healthy habits to draw on will better equip you to move through them.

Business leaders: Are you aware how fragile your employees are right now?

I’ve been talking with family and colleagues and am alarmed at the number of people working for mid to large organizations who are working harder, longer and with more distractions than ever. What is so concerning to me is that many of the organizations they work for are acknowledging the difficulties being faced and providing some additional time “off” or have lessened their work expectations. However, employees are still trying to work at peak performance while dealing with the havoc wreaked in their personal lives by the pandemic.

The stress of potential failure (whether real or perceived) is taking its toll on employee mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Our bodies aren’t built to sustain long periods of excessive stress without breaking down. These high performers, overachievers, workhorses are at risk for major fatigue in the coming months when a new normal emerges and they are expected to swing into the groove.

My question for business leaders is what more can you do to help your workers slow down, pause, take the time they need without worry or additional stress? Helping your employees take this respite now will allow them to come back stronger than ever when you get back to the new normal. They will engage, commit and be your biggest advocates if you take care of them now.

What will you do today, tomorrow and next week for your people?

3 R’s for Thriving During Coronavirus Times

Guest blog:  Paradise Workplace Solutions asked Gail Siggelakis, Speaker and Author of  The Affirming Way of Life: See the Good, Speak the Good, Spread the Good to write this blog on how to thrive during this difficult time with positivity and self care.

Life as it is now, for every single one of us, is something we’ve never encountered before. Many of us are working from home and may be caring for kids and elder parents at the same time; work and home life have blended. And some of us aren’t even working.

We’re unsure how long our quarantined lifestyle will continue, we’re missing the freedom of freely going places, and mostly, we’re missing being with all the people we love and care about.

We will get through this, but like every challenge we face, we need a plan and framework for managing. Here’s my approach to living in confinement that’s helped me still feel like myself. I call it the 3 R’s for empowerment and peace during these crazy times: resources, routines, and relationships.

  1. Resources (Inner): We need to take care of ourselves, so that we have the energy and positive mind frame to feel capable of handling the new stresses in our life, and to be there for the people who are relying on us. This means paying attention to our needs physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Ask yourself, when can I steal even thirty minutes for me? The beginning or end of the day are good times to carve out time for yourself.

Here are some things I do that enable me to feel inwardly balanced.

  • Physically: It’s really important to get exercise. Most of us had exercise routines before the coronavirus, and we know what a stress reliever it is and how good it makes us feel mentally and emotionally. I did Jazzercize and pilates and both programs have offered me online options that I’m taking advantage of. Here’s one link to many free online.

Get outside in the sun and fresh air daily, even for 15 minutes. Being in nature is so healing. My husband and I have begun sitting on our front stoop watching the sunset and enjoying the robins, wrens, and rabbits that make their home in the huge pine tree on our front lawn. In the 17 years we’ve lived in our home, we never knew we had such wonderful natural entertainment!

  • Mentally/Emotionally: Our mind and emotions go hand in hand. Aside from reading, watching TV series’, and doing puzzles of some kind (my husband and I are doing jigsaw puzzles, a first since we’re married), there’s two biggies I do that nourish my mind and heart.

First, I have a daily gratitude practice. Focusing on all the good things we still do have in our life lifts our spirits. Research has shown not only does gratitude reduce stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. I give thanks now for having my safe comfortable home to live in, running water, the technology to stay connected with loved ones, the greenness of nature.

Second, I use positive self-talk. Throughout my day I applaud myself for efforts, “You put makeup on today to feel like yourself. I’m proud of you.” And I speak kindly to myself for screw-up’s, “It’s OK you went into fear mode again. It’s understandable after listening to the news.” If you can master these two practices during these extreme times, they can literally transform your life when things return to ‘normal’.

  • Spiritually: A meditation practice trains our mind and emotions to not be reactive, and enables us to be more present-moment-focused (which can help us not get caught in gloomy future thoughts.) Research says meditation is a natural stress stabilizer and increases happiness. Who doesn’t want more of that now! I use the Insight Timer to meditate. I love it because there’s guided meditation, music and a timer to set my own background sounds. It gives me a structure and even rewards me with stars for every 10 days meditating. I’ve meditated 340 days in a row and I’m proud of it!
  1. Routines: A very comforting article I read at the start of our quarantine was by Scott Kelly, the astronaut. He gave tips for living in isolation, as he did when in space for a year. The first on his list was routines. Before our homebound life we had a routine that gave us order and a sense of control. Though we know how important routines are we may not have consciously created one yet. Creating a routine will help everyone in your family live better in the new normal. I follow most of the same schedule as before, except now when I would have met friends for lunch or dinner, I call, Face Time, or Zoom to feel like we’re together. Which leads me to…

 

  1. Relationships: The focus of my book, The Affirming Way of Life: See the Good, Speak the Good, Spread the Good is how to form and maintain the kind of strong, healthy relationships that lead to a happy, fulfilling life. Through personal stories and research I show readers that when we look with eyes for the best in others and are generous enough to tell them, we bring a flow of love and care to our relationships that brings the joy and connection we all are looking for.

Though we can’t be physically with most of our family and friends, we can reach out to them and let them know how much they mean to us. I’ve committed to doing just that. Each day I speak to 3 people and before the conversation is over, I tell them something I love or appreciate about them and how much our relationship means to me. The other day my son, Theo’s best friend, Wes, was helping me (via Face Time and computer sharing) learn to send group emails on my book. I said to him, “I can’t thank you enough for pointing out to me that I really am getting how to do this. You are such a wonderful teacher patiently explaining how the program works and having me practice the skills myself. Not only am I grateful Theo has you, I’m so lucky to have you, too!” Wes, affirmed me back, and we shared a moment of heart-warming connection. Though being affirmed back feels wonderful, each time I affirm someone I feel the love.

Wishing you all safety, health and finding moments of joy even during these crazy times!

Gail’s book is available at Amazon. Visit her blog/website theaffirmingway.com.

Your Personal Vision Can Help You Lead The Life You Were Meant to Live

Many people go a lifetime without being fulfilled because they get caught in their day-to-day responsibilities and don’t examine what is truly important to them.  Imagine getting to the end of a long life and then being disappointed you didn’t do more.  Building a personal vision can be the north star for the life you want to create for yourself.  Now that the country is experiencing a slowdown, you have the opportunity to spend some time thinking about your personal vision and creating the life you want.

 

Oprah’s vision

Some of the most successful people in the world have a vision and let it be the beacon when they make decisions in their life.  Oprah Winfrey had a vision of her work representing a force for good.  She was able to realize her vision through her own show.  Around 1990, Oprah changed the direction of her show to be in line with her vision—to represent a force for good. She wouldn’t accept show concepts that didn’t have that intention.  Once she started down this path, her shows became more meaningful and fulfilling for her.  She was able to fill that vision and move on to a broader one of helping people connect to ideas that inspire and magnify their vision of who they can be. (Now, I don’t know Oprah personally, but she’s been clear this is her guiding principle.)

 

Creating your own personal vision

Let me start out by saying that you will not be creating your personal vision in one day.  It takes time to reflect and think of the possibilities and beyond.  Dare to dream and dream big.  Pushing all other concerns aside, think about what would give you amazing satisfaction and joy as you were achieving it and a tremendous sense of accomplishment once you reached your aspirations.  Think beyond your wildest dreams.

 

Questions to ask yourself

  • What brings me joy?
  • What are my values)?
  • After I leave this world, what aspects of my life do I want people to talk about?
  • What do I wish for this world?
  • What can I contribute?
  • What is unique about me? (Everyone has a uniqueness that makes them special.)
  • In what parts of my life do I need to grow?

 

Begin writing

Consider the above questions and write down your answers.  Ponder them.  Make changes to accurately reflect what is in your heart and what resonates with you.  If you’ve never taken the time to identify your values, read my blog on how to define them.  Values are beliefs and principles most important to us, what motivates us and guides decisions we make.  Don’t rush to define your values.  Take the time to get them right.  You will be using them throughout your life on a day-to-day basis and to help you make major decisions about what feels and is right for you.

Once you feel good about your values and answers to the above questions, start writing your vision statement.  For example, my vision statement is to have all people experience their personal purpose in peace and balance with the ability to learn and reflect knowing that there is a higher being.

Write in the first person about what is most important to you, what you want to be, do and feel.  Make sure you incorporate your values like I did above.  Again, don’t worry about it being perfect. You will fine tune it.  I tweaked my vision to have more of an impact on society when I realized I could do and be more than I was.  Our values and vision evolve over time because of our experiences and opportunities.

 

Use your vision every day

Now that you have your vision, use it to guide how you live your life daily.  In my case, one question I ask daily is how my life can be more peaceful and in better balance.  Consider your vision statement when you’re making decisions on how you will volunteer in your community.  When you get a new job offer, make sure that it sits right with your vision.  Does it enable you to live out what is important?  If not, no matter how much money you may be offered you won’t likely be happy.  Your vision can help you live a happy and fulfilled life.

Most importantly, keep your vision and your values within view every day to remind yourself when you’re off track.

If you have questions you would like me to answer, contact me.

Susan O’Connor is owner of Paradise Workplace Solutions and coaches clients on communication and balancing their personal values and passions with their business goals.

Your Values Fuel Your Best Life

When in your life has your heart sung from joy?  Can you remember the circumstances?  Likely, your core values were aligned with whatever you were doing at that specific time.  Unfortunately, most people haven’t spent time concentrating on their personal values.  It’s not to say that we aren’t aware of the values (family, religious and societal) we were taught.  Those values can be very different from the core ones we become more aware of when provided the opportunity to examine what is important and why.  Let’s talk about the different values we hold and why.

 

Types of values

The definition Merriam Webster uses to define values is “something (such as a principle or quality) intrinsically desirable”.  To be more precise, values are beliefs or philosophies that are important to how we live and work.  Our values can drive our actions and decisions.

There are three categories of values every person is exposed to—superficial, chosen and core.

  1. Superficial values are those values we think we should live by because someone taught them to us. These are values that we have not challenged. For example, values a parent may have passed on like giving to others is more important than taking care of yourself.  Many people spend most of their lives trying to take care of everyone else and end up disillusioned and unhappy because they thought taking care of others was more of a priority to caring for themselves.
  2. Chosen values are those that we select to uphold as consistently as possible. An example could be a Catholic going to church every Sunday or honoring the Sabbath if you’re Jewish.  You may be disappointed in yourself for not celebrating your faith but you probably won’t be greatly dissatisfied if you miss a week.
  3. Core values are those on which we hold and base our lives. We know we’re living within our core values when we’re happy and satisfied with what we’re doing and the decisions we’ve made. We are dissatisfied, reluctant or embarrassed when we are not living them consistently.  For example, if a person’s core value is teaching and he/she is not in a position to teach, he/she will likely feel disconnected or unhappy unless the need to teach can be fulfilled in other areas of life.

For years, I believed I knew my values.  I was a family person, a hard worker, caring friend.  I believed in being “good” and respectful, taking care of others.  Some of these values ended up being superficial, ones that I took on but didn’t bring me satisfaction.  I felt overwhelmed at times because I was taking care of others and ignoring my needs.  It was when I was dissatisfied that I was not living within the core values important to me.

 

What you can do today to clarify your values

Write down your values as you believe them to be.  Examine why they are important to you.  Are they central to your happiness?

When I took a deep look at my values I realized there were a few that I had not been actively engaging with when I was making decisions.  For many years, I had not been considering my spirituality in my decisions.  This left me feeling adrift as if I didn’t have anything to anchor me.  Once I was able to define what spirituality meant to me I was able to make decisions more easily and quickly.

If you’re not sure where to start in examining your values, Google “Defining Your Values”.  There are many resources available to help you.  Here’s one link from Wikihow that is a good place to start.  https://www.wikihow.com/Define-Your-Personal-Values  Don’t be discouraged by the time it takes to uncover your values.  You will need to spend enough time thinking through where they come from and what purpose they serve you and if they will continue to help you make good decisions.

 

Living a values-based life

I’m much clearer on what I want, what I do and how I’ll go about achieving my goals and making decisions now that I’ve clarified my values.  This past year one of my values came to life through starting Paradise Workplace Solutions.  Learning is critical to my happiness.  But it wasn’t until I was in a situation where I needed to gain knowledge as business owner that I realized the full energy and passion that was driving me to make this business successful. My heart sings every day because I’m working on my business and learning along the way.

Identifying your core values and living them out is what will make your heart sing, your life fulfilled and guide you to your true purpose.

Susan O’Connor is CEO of Paradise Workplace Solutions and coaches clients to connect their personal values and passions to their business goals.

Change Your Life and Relationships By Listening

Deep down, everyone wants to be heard, acknowledged, accepted and included. Do you know anyone who doesn’t have these universal desires? Being heard helps people, businesses, communities and our world.

When was the last time you felt really heard? Did it feel like you were connecting with someone, that the person cared for you and what you were saying, that they respected you?

Listening has taken a backseat
Listening can save a person’s life, solve a business’s issue and improve communities and the lives of people in them. Truly listening can bridge differences in our world. Listening can be hugely impactful. Yet, many people don’t listen. Why?

• Think we know what you’re going to say
• Don’t value others’ opinions
• Have physical hearing issues
• Are distracted with our own thoughts, worries, fears
• Don’t agree with your point of view
• Would rather talk
• Don’t think you’re interesting
• It’s not easy to do

Some of these may be valid reasons but it doesn’t account for the fact that distracted listening has become the norm in our society.

What is listening?
Listening is more than hearing someone talk. Deep listening is absorbing what the person is saying, watching their face and body language, looking for their heart’s message and connecting with what they are saying even if you don’t agree with a point of view. When was the last time you really, truly listened to someone, to their voice, their message, their heart, their body language? Listening deeply can give you more information than you would expect.

When I was working inside the corporate world, I benefited greatly by developing my listening skills. I watched the person speaking for their body language, I looked for their passion and I observed the reaction of others “listening.” Frequently, I picked up much more about what was going on by fully listening. I believe it was one of my strengths and helped me reach the level of success that was important to me. Good listening is a part of one’s emotional intelligence level.

What you can do right now to become a better listener

• Put away devices and other distractions.
• If your current situation isn’t conducive to actively listening, then plan another time to talk and listen openly.
• Concentrate on what the person is saying.
• Look into the other person’s eyes. It’s hard not to hear what someone is saying when you’re looking into their eyes.
• Don’t assume you know what the other person is going to say.
• Don’t think about what you’re going to say.
• Ask questions.
• Allow some space between the person finishing their thought and you commenting.
• Show engagement with excitement, empathy, agreement.
• Be open minded.

What do you get from listening?

• Personally, you get to know a person and their motives better.
• The speaker may have information that you can use now or in the future.
• You could be saving a life.
• Listening to an employee could help uncover a potential flaw.
• Listening to a customer could provide you with your next big product or a solution to a current one.
• Listening to your family builds understanding and strong connections that can’t be broken. (Most family rifts happen because one or another person doesn’t understand something that did or did not happen.)
• Listening to your own heart’s messages helps make better decisions.

Listening to someone is powerful. It saves families, lives, businesses, cities and countries. I challenge you to spend 15 minutes a day to listen more deeply and thoughtfully with your ears, eyes and heart.

Susan O’Connor is owner of Paradise Workplace Solutions and coaches clients to connect their personal values and passions to their business goals

Stop Controlling Your Employees If You Want To Increase Engagement

Employee engagement is a popular topic.  The money and attention companies give to engagement may be a superficial band aid that ends up backfiring if they aren’t spending their efforts on employees’ engagement with the work.  Keep in mind, 85% of employees are disengaged according to a Gallup Poll.1

What are leaders trying to accomplish with a focus on employee engagement?  In brutal truth, at the core, business leaders want to improve productivity, so that their businesses are successful.  Yes, most aspire to have a workplace their employees like coming to but ultimately, they’re in business to make money, solve problems or serve people.  They shouldn’t be shamed into acting otherwise.

 

Are you killing productivity?

Many leaders are trying to balance “engagement” with getting the job done.  You can have employees who like each other, celebrate successes and are given rewards but what happens when they get back to their desks?  Do they eagerly engage in their work?  Many disengage as soon as they sit down.  Why?  Because their WORK is not engaging them.

Many company’s cultures have been set up to control when and how a job gets done.  Flex time permits employees some leeway on when to arrive and leave but it’s still controlled.  American businesses are headed in the right direction but how motivating is it to be controlled, held within specific parameters?  What happens to creativity?

 

What can leaders do to improve engagement?

Get a picture in your mind.  Think about the most highly motivating time in your career or business.  What was it about that time that made you want to get up every morning and accomplish your goals?  Who was telling you what to do and how to do it?  How were you rewarded?

I experienced my most engaging times when I worked at companies that were growing and I’ve experienced that same in my own business.  Why?  Because no one had predetermined rules in how to accomplish what needed to be done. I was eager to learn, prove to myself that I could do whatever I set my mind to.  I was able to use my creativity.  My work was acknowledged by others and I was rewarded intrinsically by feeling good about my accomplishments.  None of my engagement had anything to do with receiving monetary rewards or parties in the hallways.

Let’s acknowledge that systems and rules need to be in place for very routine tasks, like expense reports and assembly line work.  However, allowing employees the autonomy to complete their work in a way that allows them to tap into their creativity and self-motivation can be more engaging.

 

Autonomy is motivating

Daniel Pink talks about the four essentials of autonomy in his book Drive published 10 years ago and still holding true today.2  Time, task, technique and team are ways in which autonomy can exist.  Not all people are motivated by each one equally.  The goal is to find out which motivators work best for each employee.

Time—getting results instead of focusing on the time it takes to get work done.  Many companies are now looking at getting results by allowing employees more freedom in when they have to produce results.  Obviously, some jobs are based on time-determined outputs and don’t allow employees freedom from time constraints.

Questions to ask yourself:  What jobs do we have that we can remove time obligations?  What could the benefits be if we tapped into our employees’ creativity in getting results?

 

Task—selecting certain aspects of what we do.  For example, employees see many opportunities for improvement in your business all the time.  Allowing them the independence to work on these opportunities for a portion of their time can be rewarding because there is no roadmap.  They can use their creativity and solve problems on their own.

Questions to ask yourself: How often do my employees see ways to make improvements or come up with new ideas that are getting left behind because we’re controlling the work they do?  What would happen if we experimented with allowing some employees to work on projects they create?

 

Technique—allowing employees to figure out how they will get their work done.  There are some organizations that permit customer service employees to work from home, for example.  They choose how they want to set up their home office and how they will accomplish their goals.  Technically, there is no reason they need to be in a physical call center, all together following rote scripts.  That’s a controlled environment that stifles their creativity.

Questions to ask yourself:  Are we losing by not allowing employees to come up with how to accomplish their tasks?  Can we gain efficiencies and produce more or better products?

 

Team—choosing who you work with on certain projects.  Self-directed improvement projects are a good example in which a person can choose who he/she wants to work with.  Allowing a team to come together by choice can produce great results.

Questions to ask yourself:  Who can I ask in my business to select a project and team to test out this theory?  Am I willing to give up control to see if there is a better, more motivating way to get work done?

 

What can you do today?

If you truly want to engage your employees, start looking at ways in which you can reduce control and compliance and increase autonomy and creativity.  There are many published examples of autonomous workplaces and theories.  Do some reading on motivation and use your business to do some experimenting.  Keep what works and refine what doesn’t.  Be ahead of the curve.  Your high performers will appreciate it.  And your bottom line may see a bump up.

 

1 Building a High-Development Culture Through Your Employee Engagement Strategy, Gallup, Inc. Washington, DC, 2019.

2 Daniel H. Pink, Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,  Riverhead Books, New York, 2009.

 

Paradise Workplace Solutions, LLC works with business owners to improve productivity and profitable growth by aligning people strategies to the company’s business plan.