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Loving your work?

Engagement surveys, pulse checks, culture surveys. All benchmark measures of how engaged, or not, are your employees.

There’s a simpler measure – how do you feel about coming to work this morning? How do you think your people feel about coming to work this morning?

There are a number of factors that influence how we feel about our work.

The work itself. The fact that your people have chosen to work for you means that they buy in, for whatever reason, to what your company does. Your next challenge is keeping them there and keeping them engaged and productive.

The boss. Do they like and trust the boss? This is the #1 factor that causes your people to check in or out to their work. You can put in place the best physical work environment but if you don’t have great leadership in action your people will either vote with their feet or spin their wheels. Trouble is they won’t tell you that. They’ll mask the reason for leaving with ‘more pay, different challenge, etc, etc’. Supervisors who set up their teams for success, who ask for and give feedback, who identify root causes of problems and quickly resolve them, who ask for and listen to the opinions of their people and who demonstrate care and respect for their people have happier, more engaged employees.

Know what’s expected of me at work. This is the foundation stone of developing engaged employees. Research undertaken by Gallup in New Zealand showed that NZ scores low in this area. That’s worrying. People who don’t understand what’s expected of them don’t develop a sense of purpose that fuels the heart and mind connection that underpins employee engagement. This is about being clear about what you need them to do and why, what great looks like and cementing this through regular feedback, praise and reward.

Building a shared sense of purpose. People are motivated when they see that their actions and efforts make a difference. Help them to see their work as having value and meaning, not just what they do but why. Find ways to join the dots between what the person does and how that delights the customer, makes a difference in the world around us, and achieves big picture organisational goals. Case in point, the roadworker. Roadworker or lifesaver? It might sound like this, “You build and maintain roads that are safe to drive on, good roads = less accidents”. If you’ve ever driven in a third world country, or even on post quake Christchurch roads you understand the value of good roads. r.e.s.p.e.c.t to the roadworker I reckon.

Tools to do the job. A no brainer really. Give your people what they need to do their job. Tools and processes that help, not hinder them in their job. Here’s an example. I was hiring a car in Melbourne. The car hire rep was trying to put the eftpos transaction through. The machine wouldn’t work. It was a new system that the rep described as ‘a dog’. It took twice as long as the old system and hadn’t been trialled with the front line in advance. Result? Grumpy customers and ticked off staff.

Regular feedback. The positive as well as the negative. Train your line supervisors to give and receive feedback and to do this with skill. Challenge your supervisors to find an opportunity to give positive feedback to each of their people at least once a week. Receiving no feedback at all is like working in a vacuum. They don’t know how they’re doing and in the absence of regular feedback, and course correction, they’ll end up doing their own thing. I had to give some 360° feedback to a senior manager, the feedback was that they didn’t give feedback. Their response was suprise and denial “I tell them when they’ve done something wrong” they protested. Generationally they’d been brought up with “no news is good news”, their team were predominantly Gen Y’ers where “no news is bad news”. When they shifted their feedback style to little and often, with an emphasis on the positive, they saw a lift in attitude and productivity.

Development opportunities. High potential people like to learn and grow. Research shows high potential people have learnt all that they need to do their job competently at the 3 year mark. This means you need to be thinking about next step learning opportunities at the 18 month mark. Build in a question around personal development into your performance review conversations and follow through on what’s been discussed.

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