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Advisory Blog 29/7/2022

Three Easy Ways to Boost Team Engagement

Yvette Martin
By Yvette Martin
Three Easy Ways to Boost Team Engagement

Three Easy Ways to Boost Team Engagement

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A question on many leader’s minds is how to get their people excited to come back into the office. Open any news feed just now and you’ll see many articles and comments talking about the tension between senior leaders wanting everyone back, and employee’s desires to stay working from home.

One way these leaders seem to be going about enticing employees back is by spending millions of dollars on office refurbishments, lobby upgrades and doing all they can to revitalise their physical environment.

We agree that a fresh, well-thought out working environment can boost mood, enhance collaboration and is often used as one of the bargaining chips to entice candidates to accept roles over other competing roles.

But will all these millions of dollars have the desired effect?

Will everyone return, and will they be productive? Will they collaborate and form high-performing teams? Will they stay and be loyal in the face of offers from competitors?

There is enough research now to show that a hybrid model of working is here to stay. Employees constantly report wanting the freedom to work from home 2-3 days per week as a preference.

So how else can senior leaders boost performance, connection and collaboration across their teams?

Putting millions into upgrading the office may seem like a great investment, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of developing your leadership capability.

Poor management is the No.1 cause of unhappiness at work. There is a reason the saying ‘people join companies and leave managers’ is so often quoted. A Gallup poll of over 1 million workers in the US concluded that the No1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss. The same poll showed that 75% of workers who left their job, did so because of their boss, not because of the role.

Gallup research also suggests that a person’s direct manager is responsible for up to 70% of their engagement. That is how hard they work, how effective they are in their role, how connected they are to someone or something within their company, and how loyal they will be in the face of a competitor trying to head hunt them for their unique skills.

Once the thrill of the new office wears off, you’ll need strong leaders to continue to empower your people to perform. Therefore it makes sense that one of the best investments you can make is to build the capability of your leaders to align the individual motivation of your people to team and business goals. Great leaders know how to remove blockers of performance and build trust and psychology safety among their teams. In doing so, your people turn up each day willing and able to give their best – regardless of whether they are in the office or working from home.

So how best can we do that? Three simple cost-effective strategies for leaders are to:

1)    Focus on performance and how individual contribution impacts team and business goals.

Now is the time for our leaders to reignite a focus on performance and impact.

One of the best ways to do this is to ensure each person is clear on how their individual contribution feeds into the wider team, division and business vision. This way individuals can see the impact they personally have on team and business goals, as well as to the ultimate impact on your clients.

Whether people are WFM or in the office, clarity of focus is vitally important to ensure they know how to spend their time, where to put their effort, and what activities will make the most impact on individual and team goals. However, when people also understand the wider mission, and are given a chance to identify their personal connection to WHY they do what they do, you’ll benefit from a natural boost in commitment and perseverance beyond merely a transactional relationship where they swap their time for your money.

2)    Help team members better understand each other to boost collaboration

Arguably, one of the hardest jobs a manager has is turning a group of disparate individuals into a cohesive, high performing team. This is true especially as companies focus more on building diversity and inclusion across our workforces. If we don’t get the inclusion part right, then you just end up with a team of diverse individuals who can struggle to get along.

One of the best ways I have seen to boost connection, collaboration and belonging in a team is to use a tool such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder. This tool introduces everyone in your team to their natural patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviour within the workforce. It immediately changes the conversation and focus of the team to what is right with people, and how can we tap into and leverage that talent for the collective good.

When people begin to understand that their colleague isn’t impatient, they just have a bias for action; or they aren’t always negative, they just have a natural talent to spot where plans may fail, a whole new world of collaboration and connection is possible.

Focusing on strengths and assuming positive intent goes a long way to reducing misunderstandings and opens space to allow your people to explore where their personalities may be getting in the way of effective team collaboration.

Managers who introduce something like this to their teams can enjoy up to 23% higher employee engagement, up to 18% increased performance, and up to 73% lower attrition.

Take a moment and reflect on what those metrics could mean for you as a leader.

What would an almost 20% jump in performance mean for your team’s goals? for your revenue targets? or for your own performance bonus?

And all this is without spending another cent beyond introducing this as a language and framework for your team’s interactions. When you look at the ROI of a relatively small outlay to work with a trained facilitator, you can argue that this will be one of the best investments you will ever spend for your team and the wider business.

3)    Clarify how succeeding in this role will help your people’s longer term career aspirations

This one may be a little counterintuitive. Leaders I have worked with have often pushed back initially on the idea of discussing larger career goals and aspirations of their people in the fear that it that may prompt them to begin thinking of greener, more expansive pastures elsewhere. But this isn’t about supporting or pushing your people out the door. Instead, it is a chance for you as a leader to pause from the ‘busy-ness’ of everyday demands and spend time to authentically connect – human to human – to explore what motivates and matter for your team member.

Just because you aren’t talking about it, doesn’t meant they aren’t thinking about it. And as I am sure you’ve heard before, what you don’t know can hurt you! The power in this conversation is that as their manager, you get to uncover what makes them tick, what they hope to achieve and what legacy they hope to make while in the workforce.

As their Manager, this information is pure gold. Chances are they haven’t even thought as long term as their ultimate legacy in the workforce, and in asking about this, you are sending strong cues that you care about them as a person – beyond what they can do for you or your team.

There is another saying I’ll use here that I am sure you have heard before too; ‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care’.

Taking the time to have this style of conversation is a great way to show you are interested in them and in doing so, they will be more likely to let you know what they are thinking and where they see themselves heading. The additional gift in this is that you get to work with them to help them see how their current role is a powerful stepping stone to where they wish to end up.

I have seen this type of conversation reignite passion and a care factor that goes well beyond a working for a pay-check.

Of course, this requires a genuine desire from their manager to connect and support them as individuals and as a collective team. Sometimes that is the greatest challenge for companies – finding people who have the desire and talent to learn to lead effectively.

These three conversations are simple to do, but not always easy to do right. When done properly, and with a genuine care-factor, they can pay huge dividends. The challenge is that we have way too many managers in the workforce who don’t know HOW to lead effectively. Some may understand the theory, but they struggle to execute effective leadership conversations and as such, they fail to connect to the hearts and minds of their team – which are both needed to produce sustained high performance.

Investing in developing your leaders is a smart business investment. Yes, that bright shiny new lobby may draw your team out of their tracksuits and back into the office, but building your internal leadership capability and developing your people managers so that they can lead, support, engage and coach your people will keep your team connected and performing well – no matter where they are.

And the good news?

This will continue long after the novelty of green plants, fruit bowls and funky lockers have worn off.

If you want to learn more about how to motivate your team, check out our article on the hidden power of praise!