How the Pandemic Changed Our Perspective on Employee Engagement
Talent Development Lessons Learned from Working with Industry Leaders
Continuous, personalized employee training is a large part of effective in-house talent development. However, it’s not the endpoint. Sometimes even high-skilled employees equipped with the latest technologies encounter difficulties and fail in completing tasks. Yes, poor performance happens but you shouldn’t be afraid of it; on the contrary, it’s your chance to bring in modifications that will help your company in the long run.
At Rallyware, we’re cultivating a culture of learning, learning in a broader sense that encompasses not only the timely handling of performance issues but also lessons taken from our experience.
One of the lessons we would like to share is that you can’t shift the responsibility for failures in performance to only one individual. It’s not always just a lack of knowledge or skills since sometimes managers can unintentionally create unfavorable conditions for employees that hinder workflow efficiency.
These five simple approaches will help you manage your people better and reduce performance issues.
1. Know the difference between engaged and productive employees
We are used to the idea that engaged employees are always more productive than disengaged ones. However, it’s not always so, and the Harvard Business Review article shows that a lot of people who are believed to be engaged are not that productive. Why? HBR writes that “engagement is often an ambiguous term. Depending on how it’s measured, it could represent job satisfaction, emotional investment in the cause, willingness to invest discretionary effort, or advocating for the company as a good place to work.”
The thing is that engagement is only one of the conditions that make employees productive. No matter how engaged people might be, they won’t be able to perform to their fullest potential without the needed knowledge and essential skill sets. The same is true for when broken or outdated tools stand in a way of completing tasks on time. Job satisfaction, health benefits, salary, and vacation time don’t always translate into higher productivity as well.
Productivity is a culmination of managers and employees’ efforts that drive day-to-day performance by providing ongoing, just-in-time training, streamlined communication, on-demand feedback, continuous support, and timely finding solutions to job-related issues.
2. Challenge employees
Not all challenges are bad. For sure, the absence of tools needed to do a job, incompetent managers, and a toxic workplace culture are detrimental. However, managers shouldn’t forget about a good old teaching principle: Challenge is important because it forces students to grow. When something is not challenging, it’s easy – and an “easy” learning environment is hardly one that encourages appropriate development – it may rather lead to boredom. Conversely, frustration arises when tasks are too challenging, beyond reasonable expectation for a student to complete.
How can this principle be applied in the workplace? If your employees’ job duties and responsibilities are routine it may affect their productivity and retention in the long run. No one wants to tread water, so the managers’ goal is to constantly offer employees opportunities to grow and develop. It can be all kinds of team projects, a devoted time with a mentor, promotions to those who innovate and outperform, and, of course, ongoing training and skill development.
Keep in mind that challenges should ignite employees into action, not frustrate them. And by solving them, employees should feel satisfied and motivated to keep that effort and not flake out.
3. Offer creative freedom
This advice is a continuation of the previous one. When a company has a rigid type of management that feeds on nit-picking and an ideally prescribed order, then there’s no chance to objectively assess employees’ performance or solve unusual issues. Sometimes it’s good to follow Google’s mantra, “Hire the smartest people and they’ll figure out the right thing to do.” However, it should be a reasonable amount of autonomy or it can backfire:
As the Google email reveals, when employees know they can work on whatever they want, they’re more likely to neglect the boring, everyday stuff. After all, if you have the chance to work on longevity research or self-driving cars, who’s going to opt to fix search-engine bugs?
The right thing to do is to find the balance between creative freedom and what needs to be done. At Rallyware, we do it by avoiding micromanagement and leaving room for creative solutions to non-standard situations. We also strengthen our company culture by providing continuous training and support as well as encouraging smart risk-taking.
4. Get rid of unnecessary distractions
“We don’t have a work day anymore. We have work moments,” says Jason Fried, CEO at Basecamp. In a hyperconnected world, there’s practically zero possibility of having at least three hours to ourselves at work without being interrupted. In fact, findings show that 40% of employees are interrupted more than eight times every day and that it takes 23 minutes, on average, for an individual to recover and return to a task after an interruption. What does it mean for companies? Wasted time and money.
As Gallup writes, most of us aren’t paid to go to meetings or answer emails. We’re paid to do work that requires our focused attention and mental effort—deep work. Deep work happens when people have long stretches of uninterrupted time dedicated to solving cognitively challenging tasks that result in their significantly improved performance.
We understand the importance for each employee to have these deep work hours, that’s why we try to bring in interruptions to schedule and make them voluntary. When people know about meetings beforehand, they can plan their working day to make it most productive. By the way, collaboration tools like Slack or Google Hangouts are very useful when there’s a need to discuss something quickly since employees get distracted at a time of their own choice. For those who have an open space office like we do, it’s also necessary to have some quiet rooms where employees can work in isolation if they need. Moreover, we provide flexibility in terms of hours and places where employees can work that contributes to deep work moments, allowing our people to work when they feel most productive.
5. Promote the right people
The last but not the least: be careful when promoting your employees. A wrong promotion can cost companies dearly. We’re not talking about some “boss’s pets” who climb their career ladders undeservingly. We mean promoting people who are not ready or are just not a good fit for the new role.
It’s crucial to understand that a high-performing employee with great experience and innovation potential is not necessarily a good manager. Not everyone is born to be a manager, roughly said. As Bill Conerly writes in his article on Forbes, “You may well end up with managers making less than some of their best workers. Nothing wrong with that. In some fields, it’s wasteful to have really talented workers spending their time scheduling shifts and arranging support services.”
From our own experience, we suggest you pay attention to two aspects when considering someone for a promotion:
- Clearly define what traits, expertise and skills a person needs to be a good fit for the role.
- Let this employee know in advance you’re going to offer them a new role and provide relevant training to make them ready to embrace it.
By following these simple rules, you will be able to effectively develop and manage your talent as well as stay away from any business disruptions.
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