USA Today reported that Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent will resign from his job at the Dailly Planet newspaper. Clark is disgusted with the degeneration of media which now provides meaningless entertainment instead of real news. More than seventy years of history comes to an end. Being a Superman, only a monumental shift in business values could disengage him from work and quit. We mortals can be affected by lesser reasons.
Employee engagement is essential for world class teams, projects and programs but is chronically low in companies. What can Agile Coaches, Program Managers, Project Leaders and Scrum Masters do about it? As we shall see, a lot.
Employee engagement and its drivers
The engagement approaches discussed here are relevant for programs, projects and indeed any other business endeavor not termed so. And any person in charge can apply them. In order to avoid using multiple terms in this article, we will use the term Program Manager.
Studies show higher employee engagement scores lead to higher incomes for companies. On the other hand, in Companies where employees feel not-engaged they tend to be unhappy, less productive and impact even the engaged ones.
Several factors affect engagement levels. Some of these ‘drivers’ include participation in decision making, being heard and valued, role clarity, trust on management, career advancement and quality of relationships. Most of these are controlled at the corporate level. Does it mean then that Program Managers are helpless? No.
What you can do
If you are in charge of a Program,you can choose to be passive, blame external factors and remain helpless. You can also focus on factors you can control, take charge and drive things. You can influence some of these drivers and generate higher engagement levels within your Program. Like drops of water filling up a tumbler, small steps you take can supercharge engagement levels within your program. Here are a few things you can do:
- Provide challenging and meaningful assignments that stretch team members’ abilities and help them grow.
- Encourage skill expansion through training, coaching and sharing.
- Invest time in building quality relationships with them.
- Understand people’s concerns and goals. Listen, listen and listen.
- Create an environment where positive relationships, collaboration and openness are valued.
- Constantly show team members how their work relates to the whole and contributes to a greater goal.
- Set clear and unambiguous expectations. Be willing to negotiate and modify these.
- Provide them regular feedback. Seek their feedback on important issues.
- Facilitate faster resolutions of their concerns, especially those involving other entities or individuals within the company.
- Recognize and appreciate positive improvements and contributions.
The taste of success
Assume that current levels of engagement drivers within your company are as shown in the image.
Every action you initiate from the list discussed earlier will influence the drivers within your Program.
Time and effort put into each one determines the degree of change. Over a period, the radar will evolve like a blossoming rose and may look like the external line in the chart below.
It is neither possible nor necessary to take each driver’s score to its maximum. Any positive progress evokes smiles. The very fact that you are trying to change things sends a resounding signal, reverberating within the team and far beyond. Average engagement levels within your program will start climbing up, surpassing those at the corporate level. People will be a bit happier, produce a bit more, stay together a bit longer. They will not go the Superman way.