Published in “Project Times” website, August, 2011
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In today’s new normal business environment, sales are lackluster, cash is tight and material prices are squeezing margins. Thus, those projects which will increase sales, reduce costs and/or improve customer service levels/ loyalty are quickly becoming #1 priority within the organization. The companies who can deliver project results consistently will succeed. And those who can accelerate the results while maintaining the quality of results will have the opportunity to leave the competition in the dust.
What is the secret to success? Engaged employees! Have you noticed that those organizations with engaged employees not only perform better than the competition but attract top talent? What could be more important in the new normal but to have engaged employees leading your projects – and to have access to top talent during the timeframe when long-standing talent is leaving the workforce as the baby boom generation begins to retire?
So, what are a few strategies to effectively engage employees? The top three include: 1) A compelling vision. 2) Translate the vision into individual goals. 3) Become a feedback fanatic.
- A compelling vision – Engaging employees must begin with a compelling vision. Although a paycheck is required, it is by no means a motivator. So, what motivates employees to engage beyond the minimum requirements of their job or latest project? It begins with the vision.
For example, does the company help improve the human condition in some respect? If you work for an adult diaper manufacturer, could the diaper you produce or ship more efficiently be delivered to your grandmother? Or, if you work in aerospace, does your project somehow contribute to the successful flight of an F-17? However, even if the vision is compelling, it is useless if not communicated effectively.
Of course, there will be industries that seem less obvious in terms of benefits yet there is always a reason for being in business – find out and make sure to communicate it. Your employees want to be involved with a company and a project team that is going somewhere and provides value. Begin with a clear and well-articulated vision.
- Translate the vision into individual goals – Once the vision is in place and communicated, employees will feel better about where they work but will not be engaged. The next critical strategy is to translate the vision into individual goals. This is much easier said than done – leadership is vital to success.
It is not always obvious how each person on the project team can contribute to the vision yet this is where the “rubber meets the road”. Begin at the high level as it’s always easier to tie the vision to high level objectives. Expand from there. Dig into how each person’s core responsibilities can affect the next level objectives. There has to be a purpose for your project; otherwise, you should stop doing it. Then, similar to the vision, it is useless if not communicated. Make sure each person understands how he adds value and contributes to the vision.
- Become a feedback fanatic – As simple as this sounds, providing feedback rarely occurs. The best practice for providing feedback is to give consistent and immediate feedback – both positive and constructive. Do not wait for the end of the project or the annual performance review! Who remembers so far into the future? No one.
Be visible and proactive. Look for opportunities to provide positive feedback. Amazingly, I’ve yet to find an example where well-thought out and specific positive feedback doesn’t motivate employees more than a raise or bonus. Don’t forget to say thank you! Simple yet often missed. And, do not put off constructive feedback. Be respectful and collaborate with the employee on how to improve. Sometimes constructive feedback can motivate more than positive feedback as the employee understands you are invested in his success.
Engaged employees will deliver dramatic project results. Have you ever seen unhappy employees deliver exceptional customer service? It requires zero capital investment yet can have a profound impact. Give the top three strategies a try, and watch your employees become engaged.