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  • Writer's pictureKevin Maples

Three quick exercises to drive engagement on your team

If you are a manager, you have a lot to stress about in 2022. Supply chains are disrupted, costs are increasing, budgets are cut, the geopolitical environment is uncertain, and your customer’s behavior is changing. Now more than ever you need your team to be ready to address challenges of today.

The problem is employee engagement is at an all-time low as many people contemplate changing jobs. If you are fortunate, your organization is equipped to woo talent with flexible work locations and schedules, more time off and sabbatical leave, and higher pay and bonuses. For many managers, however, their organization lacks the budget for higher compensation or the appropriate context to accommodate flexible work arrangements. Using such levers might also be out of your control.

The good news is there are small exercises you can do to have a big impact on employee engagement. Here are three that you can try starting Monday and repeat weekly.

Exercise 1: Have a conversation with each team member about their passions.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review shares findings of an ADP Research Institute survey of 50,000 employees to identify predictors of retention, engagement, and resilience. The strongest predictors were not about pay or work location but rather if a respondent was excited to come to work every day in the previous week and if they felt that they used their strengths every day. [i]

These findings serve as an excellent template to reframe your weekly check-ins with team members. Are you excited to come to work, and are you using your strengths? First, the conversation itself is an opportunity for the individual to feel heard and thereby engaged. Second, it is an opportunity for you to assess the level of engagement of your team as a whole and where you need to intervene. Third, it is an opportunity to be more inclusive and discover hidden profiles and talents.

Exercise 2: Schedule time for original thinking about how to address customer needs.

For many managers, especially those in marketing or strategy, this sounds obvious. But routine and urgent demands too often stifle innovation, and scheduling dedicated time for creative thinking is necessary to refocus. For teams that are not directly engaged with the customer, a customer reorientation activity becomes even more enriching to hear fresh ideas.

Regardless of your team’s function, this exercise can have an immediate, positive impact on engagement. As a manager, you can ensure that all team members are included. Even on fiercely customer-focused teams, giving everyone the time and permission to share can reaffirm each person’s value and contribution to the team’s mission.

If you did your homework in exercise 1, you probably discovered that the customer is the main source of excitement and passion for your people. Such an exercise, thus, reenforces the team’s sense of collective mission and an individual team member’s purpose. For those who are disconnected from the customer due their function or nature of work, they can even discover a new love for the work they do.

Exercise 3: Create a challenge.

In exercise 1, you discovered the passions and perceived strengths of your team. In exercise 2, you encouraged every team member to think creatively about their customer’s needs. Now, to further drive engagement, come up with a challenge with an achievable yet ambitious goal.

In coming up with a challenge, try to incorporate findings from exercises 1 and 2. Also, to ensure that you are driving engagement, keep in mind the following key success factors. First, give your team discretion in how they work and permission to experiment, fail, and reiterate. Second, recognize collective progress towards the goal. Third, debrief, highlighting how individual team members used their strengths. Done correctly, the exercise will not only increase engagement on your team but also foster a climate for innovative thinking that will enhance your team’s performance and add value to your customer.

Strengthening team collaboration is key to engagement

Managers should recognize the uniqueness and value each team member brings to their organization, but it is no accident that these engagement exercises also serve to reenforce inclusive collaboration. As it turns out, employees really like working on teams. In a 2019 ADP Research Institute Study, workers who felt that they were part of a team were 2.7 times as likely as others to be fully engaged and three times as likely to be highly resilient.[i] Strong, cohesive teams then can be a strategic imperative to achieve the high engagement and high performance necessary to overcome the challenges of 2022. Experiment and have fun!

[i] Buckingham, Marcus. “Designing work that people love.” Harvard Business Review, vol. 100, no. 3, May-June 2022, p 73.

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