Everyone’s a winner

Written on the 9 February 2010

Organisational psychologist Steve Bagi specialises in helping individuals and staff teams to understand and use their strengths and work more effectively.

Bagi conducted a meeting with business owners that showed their biggest cause of stress was their staff.

“One by one, as we went around the table, the answer was the same,” says Bagi.

“Although the issues varied, the common denominator was that they all found it challenging and stressful to create a workplace that could keep the right staff working together effectively.

“When businesses and organisations have the right people engaged and enthusiastic about their work, everyone wins as it leads to greater profitability, customer service and staff job satisfaction.”

What is staff engagement?
Having staff who are engaged in their work means that they are happy with their roles, enthusiastic about their work and like being a part of the team.

They also feel validated and appreciated and want to give their best to their work. A study carried out in 2005 by the consulting company, Towers Perrin, looked at staff engagement in mid-sized to large companies across 16 countries.

To gauge levels of engagement they asked employees to rate how they related to these items:
• I really care about the future of my
organisation.
• I am proud to tell others that I work for
my organisation.
• My job provides me with a sense of
personal accomplishment.
• I would recommend my organisation to
a friend as a good place to work.
• My organisation inspires me to do my best.
• I understand how my unit/department
contributes to the success of the
organisation.
• I understand how my role in the
organisation is related to my
organisation’s overall goals, objectives
and direction.
• I am willing to put in a great deal of
effort beyond what is expected to help
my organisation succeed.
• I am personally motivated to help my
organisation succeed.

They found that, overall, only 14 per cent were highly engaged while 24 per cent were quite disengaged. In simpler terms, 86 per cent were giving less than their best. This leaves huge scope for improvement. In order to boost staff engagement, some managers may try different tactics which may not be the most effective in the long run.

Threats
Some managers try to get more out of the horses by whipping them harder. Calling a special meeting and reading the riot act with threats may actually make the problem worse.

Threats may produce some short-term gains but they certainly won’t make the place happier and productive in the long run. Being angry with staff doesn’t address the underlying problems of why their performance is down.

Treats
Okay, let’s put the whip away and pull out a carrot instead. There is no doubt that carefully thought out and equitable incentive systems do work. However, many business owners don’t have these systems in place and, instead, express their thanks to their team through dinners, weekends away and big parties.

This kind of pampering can be a very positive way to encourage your staff but it is not sufficient in itself to develop an effective and unified team.

A great party does not lead to greater work engagement and cannot undo ineffective management and poor relationships. Fairy floss is sweet but has no lasting substance as it quickly dissolves in your mouth.

Hype
In past years, many employees were stirred into action by motivational speakers and were caught up in the hype of ‘go team’.

I think that this approach will not be as effective in the future, as through the GFC many people have seen that the hype did not save the day when it came to the crunch.

As people have either witnessed or heard about long-serving loyal employees being made redundant, they have become less likely to be influenced by the upbeat ‘Ra Ra’ meeting.

An inspiring conference or workshop can give a great boost to people’s spirits and commitment but if it’s to last then there need to be a lot more processes in place.


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