Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Simplicity and Employee Engagement


Does being less engaged make employees less productive... or vice versa, are they disengaged because they have so much more pressure to produce more?

In this age of global competitiveness, organizations are challenged to increase productivity, accelerate innovation, and maneuver themselves into a position of strategic sustainability. This requires strong alignment of motivated people to deliver results.

Here are four simple rules for achieving real and lasting collaboration throughout the organization:

1. Understand what your employees actually do. "Most management approaches pay less attention to the day-to-day reality of how people behave and why, and instead add unnecessary functions and procedures. People act rationally, even if their actions create problems for the organization. They are trying to look after their own interests. Change the conditions inside the organization so their interests align with what you need them to do.

2. Find your fighters. Conflict is not necessarily a good thing in and of itself. But it can be a sign that people are actually doing the hard work of cooperating, which can be difficult and create tension and resentment. But the people who are resented might be the glue that holds cooperation together. We call them 'integrators.' They're often not in positions of formal power. They often operate at the intersection between two groups. They have an interest in cooperation and the power to make collaboration happen. Integrators can be well-liked, but they can also be resented. They are forcing others to make hard choices. You can identify integrators by the fact that they are the focus of strong feelings, either positive or negative. Give integrators the power, incentives and authority to succeed."

3. Give more people more power... The real key to performance is combining cooperation with autonomy. The problem with standard approaches to an increasingly complex business environment is that by creating new layers and processes and systems to deal with these challenges you also sacrifice people’s autonomy. That makes the organization less agile. One of the effects of simplicity is to balance autonomy and cooperation. It gives people enough power to take the risk of interpreting rules, using their judgment and intelligence. If more employees have power to make decisions in your organization, that means they can solve problems on their own.

4. Don’t punish failure—punish the failure to cooperate. If people are afraid to fail, they will hide problems from you and your peers. Reward people who surface problems—and punish those who don’t come together to help solve them.

Simple rules work, it turns out, because they do three things very well. First, they confer the flexibility to pursue new opportunities while maintaining some consistency. Second, they can produce better decisions. When information is limited and time is short, simple rules make it fast and easy for people, organizations, and leaders to make sound choices. They can even outperform complicated decision-making approaches in some situations. Finally, simplicity allows members to synchronize their activities with one another. As a result, companies can do things that would be impossible for their individual employees to achieve on their own. 

These rules present an interesting approach to employee engagement. Employees are empowered, work together, know how their contributions matter, and are allowed to take risks and fail - all in an environment where complexities, in general, have been removed.


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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the article, Tim. Maybe it's just semantics, but I don't think "punishment" works in the workplace. I'd rather coach, train, disciple, etc.

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