Stop me when you’ve heard this before - Your team, despite your best intentions and employee of the month programs, seems to be becoming less interested in your work by the day. No matter what you do …
Wait, what’s that? Stop already?
That’s what I thought.
You see, team building has evolved dramatically over the last few decades. As companies, we’ve constantly adapted our approaches to social media, smart phones, and digital communication. But when it comes to intrapersonal in-office engagement, most workforces are stuck in the stone age.
In a world of startups and multinationals chasing after the same customers, of an arms race to develop the best and most cutting edge technology, and of constantly chasing the “next big thing,” one truth still remains.
Your employees are your most important asset.
So, enough with the preamble. We both know that it’s time to engage your employees like never before. What you may not realize is how simple that can be, even in the age of rapidly developing technology.
While employee engagement is a nuanced science that has many moving variables, most successful strategies are built upon three foundational pillars. Read on to discover what these pillars are and how you can implement them in your own company.
Structure & Intentionality
Although we live in an on-demand culture with an ever shrinking attention span, structure still plays a vital role in growing a team.
In fact, team building is a lot like a great dinner party. The fun, spontaneous moments are remembered, but the structure is what makes it all possible.
Just as a dinner party would be incomplete without the basics like silverware, music, and guests, team building needs to have ice breakers, trust building activities, and intentionality.
Being intentional also means avoiding the easy activities like route ice-breaker questions or awkward trust falls. Instead, put additional thought into your planning and structure.
As a leader, it is important to fully consider every option before plunging into employee engagement and team building. Do you have a team that is introverted or extroverted? Does your team share common interests? Do most of these team members come from similar backgrounds, or should you dive into the diversity of experiences?
As you learn about your team and are intentional about seeking out the best engagement strategies, you will be sure to see results grow from your efforts. But make sure to also allow room for your employees to make the process their own. When it comes to engagement, it’s up to you to plant and water the seed, but it’s up to the team to allow it to grow.
Our Suggestion: Make sure that your intentionality does not become overly aggressive or enthusiastic. Although you want to invest heavily in engagement, this is an investment that must also come with time. Trying to jump straight into a deep relationship with your team, rather than going through the process of getting to know them may cause your team to shut off even more.
Remember that kid at camp who asked you what your most embarrassing moment ever was a grand total of 5 minutes into knowing them? You probably didn’t give them an honest answer.
Don’t be that camp kid. Allow your relationships time to grow, all the while being intentional about pushing that growth along. It’s a delicate balance, but one that you should be able to strike just fine.
In order to engage your employees, you need to show them how important it is to be fully invested in their work, both for their fellow team members and the company as a whole.
Let’s face it: Leaders often stop listening or forget to stop and keep their ear to the ground. You’re a little later to the game in some areas, whether it be to the latest and greatest technology or to problems that are festering among your team.
One way to solve this? Rely on your team’s feedback.
Use one of a number of available technologies to create an anonymous survey, and then stress the importance of it to your team. Talk to your team about the technologies they’re using. Have one-on-one meetings with your team members and ask them for digital suggestions and what they’ve been researching.
In addition, this is a great opportunity to learn more about your team, using some of the tips from the previous section. Use this opportunity to try to get to know your team, not just for the resources they may provide, but also as a way to get to know them and their unique perspective, the ways you can engage with them, and how you can work to provide support to them going forward.
Each member of your team will bring something unique to the table, some wisdom or perspective or story that is unlike any other, and all you have to do is allow them the room to share and to provide your team with a new perspective.
Not only will including your team help your company to stay on the forefront of the digital age, your team will also feel more included and valued, thus helping both sides become more and more engaged and more refreshed.
Our Suggestion: When it comes to feedback, don’t just focus on your young team-members. Although the younger generation does often have great digital insights, other generations are much more tech-savvy than they are given credit for, not to mention possess wisdom gained from a lifetime of experience. You never know when the next great digital idea will come from a more senior member who was searching for tools to get the job done.
Tell A Story
Human beings have long been called “the storytelling animal” because of our instinct to construct and seek meaning in narrative. Nearly all social organizations, from religious institutions to corporations to nation-states, run on constructions of the narrative instinct.
Ultimately, employee engagement comes down to the story you tell, and how well you can get your employees to buy into that narrative.
Incorporate the previous two sections into your team’s story, bringing together all of the unique perspectives and experiences that have surfaced through your intentionality and outreach, and listening to the feedback that your team has provided for you. Let these elements all combine to create a story for your team, one that not only meshes with your company’s culture but also allows your employees to make their experience their own and engage with their work.
Sit down and talk to your team about the legacy you want to leave, both at work and in your personal lives, and chat about what that means for the story you are living out now. Set goals that can work within the narrative you are trying to create, and ensure that your company’s culture supports this story.
Every person and every company is going to have a story, whether they want to or not. However, every company and every person can decide what that story will have to say.
Our Suggestion: Find stories in history, art, or from other businesses that inspire. Notice how the story is shaped and then reflect on your own story. Read through your company’s mission statement as a team and talk about what story that is telling. Does your mission statement tell a story of a company that is trying to change the culture? Is the company trying to innovate and create? Is it wanting to do good for those around it? No matter what your company’s mission statement, there is a story to be told, and learning about that story is sure to engage your employees in it more.
A new year is a natural time to reflect and plan ahead. Regardless of what your team’s ambitions are, together you’ll need to be focused, engaged and refreshed. Structured and intentional experiences can help you work better together throughout the year. Creating an open feedback loop can make sure employees are heard and leaders have the information they need. Lastly, and most importantly, knowing and sharing stories can inspire a collective culture and mission that makes 2018 your team’s best year yet.