By Ciara O’Keeffe, VP of Customer Experience

I completed a 9-month Advanced Management Program last year that focused on people management, leadership skills, and employee engagement. One of the books on my reading list was ‘The Truth About Employee Engagement’ by Patrick Lencioni. Over the course of my career in HR, Internal Communications and Employee Engagement, I have read many books on the topic of engaging employees. What was different about ‘The Truth About Employee Engagement’ was it was written as a fable, and I found myself thinking how easy it would be for people managers to grasp. The simplicity may just convince the hardest of resistors to concede that employee engagement is possible through logical steps and processes and has actual, dare I say, proven business benefit.

Right from the onset, Lencioni declares the fable is about addressing the three root causes of job misery:

  1. Immeasurement
  2. Irrelevance
  3. Anonymity

As I read through the book, I found that I could remember the points easier by flipping them on their head and angling toward a more positive view of avoiding misery, leading me to the three M’s of avoiding job misery:

  1. Measurement
  2. Meaning
  3. Me

I’ll explain each one and provide examples of how our StaffConnect customers use their employee app to support each.

1 – Measurement

How easy is it for each of your team members to measure their performance? Think about a time when you were working really hard at a job but you had no set targets, or even worse, you had targets but the measurement of your success in meeting them were all at the mercy of your manager. “Workplace anxiety is reduced when individuals know how they are being measured, particularly for something as vitally important as the source of their livelihood” (Associated).

To avoid misery in this area, first, work with your team members to find targets that relate to your team and organization’s goals. Second, find a way to measure them. Make those measurements easy for your team to track at any stage; they shouldn’t have to go through you to see their progress or access tracking info. Sharing dashboards or daily team metrics can be kept simple.

EXAMPLE: A StaffConnect customer uses a really simple approach to clarify measurement. She uses our chat module to share her team’s KPIs on a weekly basis. Everyone can see how the team is tracking against the set goals. They all comment on areas they need to focus on, share their progress and, even share ideas on how to get there. Everyone is clear about what needs to be done and the goals are kept top of mind.

2 – Meaning

What is my purpose in the organization? Would anyone miss me if I didn’t turn up for work? What’s the point in what I’m doing? If we’re honest with ourselves, I believe everyone at some stage in their career has asked themselves at least one of these questions.

As a leader, you have a great responsibility to your team members. One aspect of that responsibility is helping them see how they matter in your team and in the organization. Can you explain why the work of each of your team members is important? Some may be more obvious than others. A way to work through this is a series of questions:

  1. Who would suffer, inside the organization, if this team member’s role was removed today? (E.g. other departments, new starters, the running club)
  2. Who would suffer, outside of the organization, if this team member’s role was removed today? (E.g. customers, the employee’s family, the various charities they donate to)
  3. How would the team change if this person was no longer a member?

It’s important that your team members are aware of the meaning of what they do. So, how do you do this with a disparate team? Recognition that’s based on what they do. Recognition doesn’t always have to be in the form of a prize or monetary bonus, sometimes it can be as simple as sharing the impact of what they do with them.

EXAMPLE: Some of StaffConnect’s customers have dedicated feeds in their Communities module for recognition. Colleagues take a picture of someone they want to recognize, and they post it with a note to say why they are being recognized. The employee in question can be tagged and colleagues can like and comment on the post. Leadership can also weigh-in and thank the employee for what they do. This allows for recognition to be timely, personalized, and peer-to-peer. Using the StaffConnect app in this way creates a culture of recognition that strengthens your employees’ understanding of the meaning behind their work.

3 – Me

How well do you know each of your team members? How much do you know about them outside of work? How much do you care about the person beyond the job they are doing? Do your team members know much about each other?

Leaders need to get to know their team members. For employees, being part of a team where you feel genuinely known and understood will make it harder to leave. Getting to know a person, their challenges and what they enjoy, creates a strong personal connection. As an employee, I feel cared for and understood when my manager speaks to me as a person rather than just a team member.

For disparate or non-desk employees, creating this connection poses a greater challenge. Some may work alone for the majority of the time. This can be isolating and lonely. They may feel like no one knows them, which can equate to feeling like no one cares about them. As a leader, you may not see team members for weeks on end. A phone call or check-in can be short, to the point, and very operations-focussed, which compounds the isolation issues. Having conversations about team member’s hobbies, their pets, family, vacation, or favorite sport’s teams are all great ways to create connections and show you know the person exists and isn’t just there to do a job.

EXAMPLE: A StaffConnect customer uses a community channel to share pictures of their personal highlight for the week. Each team member posts a picture with a short story of what their highlight was for that week. They’re strongly encouraged not to make it work-related. Some will be pictures of pets, some of family time, others an evening walk or a charity event they took part in. The posts always spark conversations between the team members and lead to nuggets of information that reveal the person behind the job title.

Do you or your team face some of these challenges? Hopefully, some of the examples in this piece sparked ideas of how to help your team or leaders avoid job misery. To find out more about the StaffConnect platform, contact us here.

RECOMMENDED READING: I highly recommend you read two other of Lencioni’s books that I read during the nine-month course: The Advantage and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

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