Energizing a Weary Workforce
Last summer, I had the pleasure of teaching strategic planning to a group of university graduate students. They were engaged, bright, curious, and ready to work. They brought a level of enthusiasm and commitment that was inspiring and energizing.
I left the course with high hopes for the future of our organizations. If these students are representative of our coming workforce, our organizations will be very lucky indeed. Then, I thought about the employees I know in organizations today. Many of them are tired, stressed, and worried about the future. Were they once like the bright, engaged students I met at the university? What happened?
In organizations today, we are challenged to keep employees engaged, innovative, and productive. Yet, they often come across as weary, tenacious survivors. Employees know enough not to talk about the challenges of keeping up amidst the tumult of organization life, the rapid change, the threats of layoffs, and the continuous “raising the bar.” But in quiet, off-line conversations, they’ll talk about being tired, unengaged, and simply surviving.
The costs of non-engagement are high. We live in a world of increasing competition, pressure to lower costs, and demand for ongoing innovation and productivity gains. How can we employers help them rediscover their spark, tap into their creativity, and stay connected to the organization? Check out these tips for helping employees stay engaged.
Tips for Mobilizing a Weary Workforce
- Limit Strategies. Rather than listing 10+ strategies that no one is able to remember, identify the 3 – 5 accomplishments critical to the organization’s success. Then communicate those over and over again until everyone knows them. Of course, you can tie additional goals to these 3 – 5 accomplishments. But those goals will be in the context of what is most important, rather than part of one overwhelmingly long list.
- Broadcast Successes. When people work hard and accomplish something important, make sure people know about it. This sounds obvious, but often organizations have moved on to the next big thing before a project finishes and forgets to celebrate successes. That’s the kind of behavior that wearies employees. Give them a chance to catch their breath and bask temporarily in the glory of a job well done, before pushing them on to the next task.
- Take Breaks. Give people a chance to take a break from their demanding schedules and do something different. This doesn’t mean doing nothing (which is often even more stressful than being too busy!). Instead, plan opportunities for employees to help with a special task force, attend a workshop or conference, embark on a special project, or tackle a persistently annoying departmental process. This variety helps people refresh their minds, recharge their batteries, and return renewed to their regular work. Plus, breaks often give employees new perspectives on their jobs and the ability to see solutions to tricky problems that they had missed before.
- Encourage Learning. One of the best ways to keep employees engaged is to give them opportunities to learn about topics that interest them. Has someone always wanted to learn JavaTM? Perhaps one employee hopes to transfer to the finance department one day. Giving employees the chance to work towards their goals helps them stay motivated — and helps the company continue to grow.
About the Author:
Maya Townsend, MSOD, is a Trainer and Consultant for Corporate Education Group. Maya is also Founder and Lead Consultant for Partnering Resources, where she specializes in leadership, strategy and collaboration. During her career, Maya has successfully designed and facilitated training programs to over 5000 people in groups of 3 to 130 in the public and corporate sectors. Highly intuitive, analytical, and imaginative, Maya works at all levels, from CEOs to line workers, to develop the relationships, ideas, connections, and interdependencies that shift an organization to the next level of productivity and performance.