Change is constant – we all understand that. But a dangerous side effect in a world where information availability doubles every 2-3 years is that most of today’s employees are worn out, never knowing what is coming next while being required to get more done with less. We look to give our employees more responsibility, more freedom and a greater voice – thinking this will engage them – and they’ll work harder and better. The result is just the opposite – we overwhelm them and set ourselves up to lose our best.
So, in a period of epic change, how does management learn to engage without overwhelming? Consider these four approaches:
- Clearly define the organization’s direction, mission and vision. Explain with laser precision what the organization does, is great at, what matters and its route to success. This way all employees can start to associate which of their daily behaviors are in line with this direction and which are not. This empowers employees to take control of their workday.
- Set reasonable performance expectations. Even outstanding employees can’t achieve some of today’s excessive expectations – so they just check out. Divide each new initiative into small success-focused components. Keep advancing – just advance with smaller, more achievable components to engage and not overwhelm.
- Educate. In a world that constantly changes, knowledge is performance power. Constant practical education encourages employee engagement by helping them feel capable, competent and confident. As with number 2 above, even education presented should be in smaller, bite- (byte-) sized components.
- Celebrate all progress. Small recurring victories keep the performance spirit alive. Make celebration and acknowledgement part of the culture to help employees see the impact of their work and to feel personally important to the organization.
Today’s economy is hard on everyone. Managements need to be more clever and more opportunity-focused; employees need to be more resilient and more engaged. Finding a successful blend requires some management finesse or employees quickly become overwhelmed. And being overwhelmed is the first step to employee disengagement and departure.
Jay Forte is a nationally ranked thought leader and President of Humanetrics. Jay guides organizations – their leaders and managers – in how to attract, hire and retain today’s best talent. He is the author of “Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition” and “The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World.” Jay is a member of SHRM, ASTD, the National Speakers Association and the Florida Speakers Association. follow him on Twitter.