Ever despaired at your team members’ lack of engagement at work? Ever wondered whether your key employees leave their brains at the office door when they come in and put them back in when they leave? You’re not the only one! Many managers wonder how to get their team to actively share their creativity and their brains to drive the business forward.
There are basically four levels of ‘engagement’ that you can get from an employee. That is, there are four stages that an employee goes through when at work, and our role as manager is to encourage them to get to the highest stage through support, coaching and delegation.
Level one is where you buy their time by giving them a salary. They simply turn up for work, stay the whole day, do the job adequately and go home. They get a salary for giving you their time. It’s simply a transaction; you provide them with money, they turn up for work. It’s a good, basic start to engagement between the employee and the company.
Level two is where they ‘buy-in’ to the goals, objectives and vision that the company has, and identify with those goals so they contribute more to the overall effectiveness of the department. They understand why they are working there and are happy to support your goals as a manager and take their roles and responsibilities seriously.
Level three is where they show ‘ownership’ of results. This is when they take personal responsibility for hitting targets, achieving objectives and carrying out more than what is expected. For most employees, this level is satisfying and motivating as they achieve a lot more personal pride in theior work and drive toward building their self-worth and self-confidence. Results are good because they ‘want’ to do well rather than ‘need’ to do well.
The highest level, Level four, is where you get total ‘commitment’ from the employee. This is where they understand the company goals and where their role fits into them, they take personal ownership of the results they achieve, they don’t blame outside influences like customers, the economy or negativity for poor performance, and they bring passion, creativity, excitement and innovation to their work. They recognise that they don’t ‘do a job’ but they ‘manage projects’. They have an acute sense of pride in their work and a deep purpose in what they are accomplishing. They go beyond success in achievements to actual significance in their role. People notice their resilience to negative influences and identify that they are the ones to follow, even though they don’t have a high management position. This person is a leader, regardless of their position within the company.
How do you get an employee through these four levels of engagement? By being the kind of boss others would follow no matter what your position. Create the kind of atmosphere and environment that makes people ‘want’ to engage with you and the company. Individualise your motivation of each employee, find out what makes them want to contribute and encourage engagement in what the company does and stands for. Share the successes that the company achieves. Make employees feel they have a contribution to that success and identify what each one can do to take further personal responsibility for results.
That way, you will see people become more involved and more participative in the direction the company is going, and you will encourage them to run through the four levels quickly and effectively.
Head of Training
(Image by Renjith Krishnan)
We are often asked by managers, how do we get our people to think creatively? We all know that creative thinking is a skill or talent that is highly prized, but how exactly do we encourage it?
Good question. I think it all starts with having the environment that encourages creativity in the first place. We all know that when a manager says she wants people to be creative but then negates creative thought by her actions or words, people will freeze when asked for ideas or input. Make sure that your actions back up your words if you want your staff to be creative.
What we find to be the biggest assistance in creative thought is allowing people to take risks. Don’t look for perfect solutions every time. Reports show that Thomas Edison experimented thousands of times before he found the element that allowed the first electric lightbulb to glow. On the way, he discovered explosive mixtures that blew up his laboratory! If he hadn’t taken risks on the journey, you might still be using candles on your desk!
Research shows that creativity is tied to failure. How? Because creative people are productive people. They have many, many ideas. You want people to come up with lots of ideas because the more ideas people come up with, the more innovative the ideas usually are. Why? Because the first ideas are usually conservative. It is only when you get these conservative ideas out of the way that you start coming up with new ideas – ones that haven’t been tried before – ones that are truly innovative.
Edison had ideas that others considered stupid or bad because they were so different from what people had seen before. So, unless risk is encouraged, people aren’t going to offer an idea that is out of the ordinary, or “bad” or “stupid.”
Remember that conformity will kill creativity every time! Yet what do managers and HR people do? Hire for fit, for culture. In other words, they encourage conformity! I know you have to go by the book sometimes, but how can you encourage something that your culture doesn’t reward?
You might think a person doesn’t have the education or background to be creative. But that attitude will stifle creativity right from the outset. By allowing diversity, you allow creativity.
So how do you motivate people to think creatively? Remember, the best rewards are those that truly motivate the person being rewarded to do the behaviour that you want. If you want increased innovation, then you need to use rewards that have a history of working for creative people.
Try rewarding the behaviours you want by giving people some control over what they work on. Give them a few hours a week or a day or two each month to work on a project that is important to them. And then give them resources for that project – a budget, technology, software, space. The project may be something that you can encourage them in using creative thought. Get them to bounce ideas around. Let the person have full responsibility for it, without inhibitions.
This environment will encourage creative thought and innovation, almost without them knowing it. At least it will change their attitude and actually make them more productive, even increasing their motivation along the way. You never know, the project may even be of major benefit to your department or company!
So, if you want people to find their creativity, create opportunities for them to do so. They might surprise you!