Are you using employee engagement strategies to influence great work outcomes?
Organizations succeed when they do great work and their products or services find their market. It’s pretty simple, right? Maybe.
The next question is: how do we create great work?
For many years, the answer given was better employee engagement.
Gallup has led the market in defining and measuring employee engagement. However, it has been hard to agree on what engagement really is. Engagement is a combination of motivation, commitment, and energy.
Although there is no doubt that engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees, it turns out employee engagement is highly dependent on personality types. Measuring employee engagement might just be another way of measuring the different personalities and how they respond to the workplace.
Another problem with the concept of employee engagement? Being engaged does not mean an employee will convert those good feelings or energy into great work. We all know highly engaged employees who don’t always get their work done because they are so busy making sure everyone is happy and the next company party is in the books!
The work itself—quality, quantity, efficiency—is what really matters to organizations. That’s why organizations should be focused on nurturing and achieving great work, rather than increasing engagement because great work directly leads to better business results.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not dismissing the importance of employee engagement altogether. Engagement creates connections between people at work. It’s important on many levels. Recent research indicates that employee engagement is an ingredient of great work but not the cause for it.
As we look for ways to simplify our lives and get back to basics at work, it might be time to reconsider the first question: how do we create great work and what role managers play to support great work?
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Employee Engagement Strategies to Foster Great Work?
Asking this question sounds like searching for the Holy Grail of organizational effectiveness. A recent webinar hosted by O.C. Tanner shared some interesting pointers on what it takes to produce great work. Here are some highlights:
1. Ask the right question
Great work begins when people ask how they can make a difference or bring something new that the world needs. Great work is focused: it tackles a specific problem. It usually comes when we think about improvements such as making something easier, faster, safer, or better. It sometimes comes when we look at a current problem and find a totally novel solution. Think about Thomas Edison. He invented the lightbulb not by improving on the existing candles, but by applying the new technology (electricity) to the problem of better lighting.
2. Go and see
Employees who do great work observe and see new possibilities. They look at what’s being done now, how people experience it, and then imagine how it could be improved. They collaborate with those who know something about it. By visiting a customer, standing on an assembly line, or watching users interact with a product, employees engaged in great work have a better idea of what’s missing. Through these interactions, they see what needs to be created.
3. Deliver the difference
Great workers are focused on positive outcomes. They persist until they get results. If their work doesn’t succeed the first time, they learn why and try again. Failure is seen as a learning opportunity. People who deliver the difference keep working until they know they’ve done something great or at least useful.
Organizations that prioritize great work see better results than those that focus on engagement. Many behaviors associated with great work are tangible and easier to define and explain to workers.
Good (and Bad) Employee Engagement Strategies For Managers:
We have said this before: managers have an enormous impact on people’s experience at work.
Leadership that supports employees doing their best work focuses on mentoring, developing, and connecting. Managers who support great work give employees autonomy, provide specific goals, monitor progress (without micro-management!), and understand what motivates each employee.
In contrast, traditional leaders are focused on directing, evaluating, and controlling. Those have little effect on the production of great work—and even constrain productivity for top performers.