Are Your Team Members Less Engaged Than Ever? tagged:

Are Your Team Members Less Engaged Than Ever?

Posted by in Ty Kiisel: Strategic Project Management

dominoesI think we can all agree that engaged team members are more productive, happier and more likely to contribute to the project team at a higher level, however a study conducted last year by Hewitt Associates suggests that employee engagement experienced the biggest decline in more than 15 years. Is this still true today? What do you see among your team?

"It's hard to pinpoint exactly why employees are so disconnected from their work these days," writes Toddi Gutner for the Business On Main section of MSN.com. "Industry experts cite any number of reasons, including management distrust, lack of job mobility in the recession, and CEO turnover, among other things."

Gutner suggests that the most important thing to consider (and I agree), is the "toxic" effect that disengaged employees can have on the rest of the workforce. My biggest concern, and I don't think I'm alone, is the upcoming talent migration that will negatively impact all those organizations that took advantage of their workforce or didn't do anything to keep their employees engaged during the tough economic times. I'm starting to see some of this happening now as the economy seems to be improving.

The good news is that it isn't money that keeps people engaged. Gutner writes about Teresa Amabile, a professor of business administration and a director of research at the Harvard Business School, who asked 238 people to write in an electronic diary every day for five months about how they felt about their work and how committed they were to do a great job. I think you might find the results interesting.

"We found that the most important indicators on employee engagement [were] not things that most managers think about," said Amabile. "The most important event that happened was simply 'making progress in meaningful work.' That's not what we expected."

When Amibile describes meaningful work, she talks about "work where the person is contributing something of real value, something they care about. If they could find meaning to the work—even contributing value to the team or the organization—this would make a difference."

This flies in the face of those who suggest that team members simply need to complete the tasks on their task lists. As project leaders, regardless of the work management tools we use, we need to be giving team members the opportunity to contribute at a higher level. And this means making sure everyone on the team understands what objectives their project might be designed to obtain, what their individual contribution might add to the project and how their efforts impact the rest of the team as they work towards a common goal.

Citing Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA career center at Northwestern University's College of Business, Gutner writes, "There are two factors to employee engagement: How the individual feels engaged with their specific job, and how the individual feels engaged with the company."

When measured against that scale, how is your team doing?