If you have not seen the classic 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. He gets trapped in a time loop and keeps waking up to relive the same February 2nd while retaining all his memories from his previous run through the day. Phil then goes on a strange hero’s journey to find the worst, then finally the best, version of himself, no matter how long it takes (one estimate is he’s stuck in February 2nd for 10,000 years).
As recruiters, many of the job seekers we speak with are looking for a new job because they are stuck in their own personal Groundhog Day…a repeating loop of days with little prospect for change or challenge. Most are bored. Some see no upward mobility in their current company until their boss retires in ten years. Others have achieved a level of mastery and feel like such a critical specialist their employer will not consider letting they try new things.
Let’s be honest - the best employees, the ones most engaged in their work - will not be happy with the status quo year after year. An 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 prevent Groundhog Day in your workplace:
1. Have an employee review process that involves asking your employees what their career goals are. 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 and put it on the calendar and stick to it. If it gets left to “when we have time” there will never be a time. There are many cheap and free resources you can pull from to train and develop employees.
3. Cross-training and shadowing-days. Invite people from different departments to spend time with different 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.
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.
5. Get creative with job responsibilities or titles. Take advantage of your talent. It’s OK to create new types of positions where everyone wins. For example, a client had an extremely talented engineer not willing or able to be an engineering manager. They created a role of a “super engineer” who dove into only the most complicated projects and gave him mentorship roles over junior engineers. He was able to progress in his career, but did not have to become a manger.
6. Offer extracurricular activities. Volunteer opportunities, sports teams, mentorships, trade shows, fitness classes, or other activities to flex different muscles and parts of the brain than the normal work day offers.
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? Celebrate your wins on a company, team, or individual basis. 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 creativity. The best suggestions never come from the corner office. Give your employees a mechanism to suggest improvements, 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.
10. Set them free. If your great employee wants what you simply cannot 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, send them to a supplier or customer, not a competitor. What kind of customer do you think you’ll have if you send them an up-and-comer with a glowing recommendation?
Keeping great employees should be a 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. On a personal basis, 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 us know in the comments or email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
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