Today is a great day to recognize a classic film about engaged employees and personal growth. If you have not seen Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, you should. Bill Murray plays an obnoxious weatherman named Phil Connors who is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual rite of Groundhog Day.
Even before he goes, he's over it. He gets trapped in a time loop and keeps waking up to re-live the same February 2nd while retaining all his memories from his previous run-through of the day. Phil then goes on a hero’s journey to find the worst, then finally the best, version of himself, no matter how long it takes (Phil is stuck in February 2nd for somewhere between 40 and 10,000 years).
As we turn the corner on the 3rd year of the pandemic, the feeling that we are all stuck in our own time loop is acute. Especially if you are working from home and have to find excuses to leave the house.
As a headhunter, many of the jobseekers we talk to are looking for a new jobs because they are stuck in their own personal Groundhog Day…a repeating loop of days with little prospect for change or challenge. They might have the best boss, and work with a great company, but are terminally bored. Some see no upward mobility until their boss retires in ten years. Others are stuck in a "too important to move" role and as such will not consider letting they try new things.
Let’s be honest. Few employees, especially best and brightest, will not be happy with the status quo year after year. This can lead to disengagement, AKA "going through the motions."
A disengaged workforce will see reduced innovation, lost revenue, increased costs and safety issues, and excessive turnover. The consequences to an organization can get very expensive, very quickly.
Employee engagement is a complex and moving target – and should be a strategic priority for any company. As a leader, you unquestionably make the largest impact on engagement for your team. While you might not be able to influence what your company does as a while, you can take responsibility for your team. Here are ten strategies you can use to reduce Groundhog Day in your workplace:
1. Have an employee review process that involves asking your employees what their career goals are. Some might be perfectly happy where they are. Others might want to be groomed for bigger roles. You cannot help them get there if you don’t know where they want to go.
2. Offer formal and informal training. The broader your employees’ skill set, the better the organization will function, and the more engaged your team will be. Give them company time to train, put it on the calendar, and stick to it. Avoid the temptation to cancel training because "we are busy." You will always be busy. If professional development is left to “when we have time” there will never be a time. There are many cheap and free resources you can access to train and develop employees. Consider more intensive off-site training for new managers or other mission-critical skills.
3. Cross-training and shadowing-days. Invite people from different departments to spend time outside their normal work group. For example - have Finance, Operations, or Engineering go in the field with Sales to meet your customers. Have HR pull a shift in the warehouse over the weekend. Have accounting spend a day with the design team. It gives new perspectives on how all the pieces of your organization fit together and strengthens internal teams. This is even more important with remote employees to feel engaged with other departments.
4. Keep promises. If your receptionist expresses interest in moving into a customer service and has the potential to learn the job, set them on a path that makes that happen. If your Director of Logistics is chomping at the bit for new challenges and has no room to move up, consider a lateral into another functional area where they can continue to grow. Whatever you agree to, set a plan and make it happen. We get calls all the time from employees who have experienced broken promises.
5. Get creative with job responsibilities or titles. Take advantage of your talent. It’s OK to create new titles or types of positions where everyone wins. For example, a client had an extremely talented engineer not interested in becoming a manager. To keep her engaged, they created a role of a “super engineer” and only assigned her the most complicated projects and gave her mentorship assignments over junior engineers. She was able to progress in her career without moving into a management role.
6. Offer extracurricular activities. Volunteer opportunities, sports teams, mentorships, attending trade shows, fitness classes, or other activities to flex different muscles and parts of the brain than the normal work day offers. It can break up the monotony of work-rest-repeat and build relationships.
7. Reward and celebrate success. Ship more units in one day than ever before? Close a big account? Get a great review by a customer? Record sales month? Celebrate your wins on a company, team, or individual basis. Don't just pay bonuses to the executives or dividends to the share holders. I talk to many candidates whose companies who focus only on the losses and ignore the wins. Why do you think they are looking for a new job?
8. Allow room for creativity. The best suggestions never come from the corner office. Give your employees a mechanism to suggest improvements in how you do business, how they could do their job better, where the choke points or failure points are, let them try new ways of doing things, or running with projects that might be outside their job title.
9. Have fun. There is no rule that says work has to be a grind. Your employees devote over half of their waking hours to you. Make it fun. Even if the job is difficult or unpleasant, you can find ways to have fun. Take the job, but not necessarily each other, so seriously.
10. Set them free. If you have a great employee and what they want or need is not what can provide, it’s OK to let them move on. Thank them for their service to your organization. Don’t take it personally (unless you are the reason they are leaving). Better yet, find a bigger role at a supplier or customer. What kind of relationship with a customer do you think you’ll have if you send them an A+ employee with a glowing recommendation?
Keeping great employees engaged should be top priority for every company.
It’s not a coincidence that the companies with the best employee engagement are more profitable and more successful than their peers. They attract better talent and keep them for longer.
On a personal basis, as a leader, your job will get easier and easier and you will find greater success the more engaged your team is. Want to learn more?
Here are some good resources:
1001 Ways to Energize Employees - Bob Nelson, Ph.D.
Do you have tips that have worked for you to engage and motivate your team? Let me know in the comments or shoot an email to email@example.com. I love connecting with exceptional leaders and helping their team and career grow.
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