What makes a team engaged? Employee disengagement is a growing problem in the world of work and one that can be costly for companies, particularly if it leads to high turnover. Having everyone working apart and at a distance isn’t helping matters either. Remote work can be beneficial for some tasks but it makes collaboration and brainstorming harder. If you’re running a team or department where team members are in their individual homes, what can you do to bring them together as an engaged unit? There is no one size fits all answer as to how to keep your particular group of employees motivated but if we look at the habits and strategies employed by other successful teams, some key trends emerge.
What do highly engaged teams have in common?
Highly engaged teams look a little different from the average. If you’re looking for ways to re-energize your employees, consider the following strategies that are commonly found on effective teams.
Empathy and understanding: Right off the bat, a big difference between engaged and disengaged teams is how they work together and understand each other. If you have a team where no one gets to know each other or there’s a culture of competition, it can be hard to bring your employees together. Instead, find ways to help employees embrace their individual differences and find common ground. Assessments can be a useful tool for this kind of work as they can be used in a group setting and provide personalized insight into a team member’s temperament and personality. Knowing each other’s personality profiles provides teams with a place to start learning about each other and can help them find the right strategies to work together more effectively.
Accept challenges: Engaged teams don’t shy away from difficult work. They are willing to take risks and step outside of their comfort zone to ensure a project gets done. Engaged employees are more likely to react well to change and think critically about problems as they arise. Disengaged teams, on the other hand, tend to be less creative and move more slowly. There is less willingness to take chances and, in some cases, employees might not feel there’s enough psychological safety on their team to support a new idea. Encourage your employees to take risks and when larger challenges come along, break it down as a team so that everyone understands their role, how everyone’s work will eventually come together, and that’s at stake. Then work through the challenge as a unit so no one gets left behind. You’ll find your team is more inclined to accept the next challenge once they have a model of how to efficiently tackle one together.
Embrace collaboration: Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Engaged teams are constantly collaborating together. And that doesn’t just mean when asked. Engaged employees want to work together and will reach out and initiate conversations on their own. A disengaged team, on the other hand, is more likely to work on individual pieces and then combine everything at the end. This can work in some instances but it also increases the risk of delays as problems aren’t identified until later in the process. Encourage your team to work together throughout a project and make sure they have the tools to do that. In a remote setting, this might mean bringing in new technology to support connection, like with video conferencing or Slack channels. In the office, this could mean having breakout rooms available for employees to work in.
Team goal setting: Another strategy embraced by engaged teams is to figure out and set goals together. Again, this goes back to the idea that the most effective teams work together as a unit, not as individual players. Not to mention, employee engagement gets a boost when communication is open and transparent. By letting teams participate in the goal-setting process, you ensure knowledge about what is coming down the pipe is being shared and understood. Teams have a clear view of how much hard work will be required and what each team member needs to contribute. It also gives the team something to aim for. And don’t forget to reward your team after any big goal achievements in order to reinforce the behaviour. When your employees do a good job, make sure they know it.
Leadership matters: One important element of engaged teams is how they are being led. A lot of team culture comes from the manager in charge. It’s part of the reason why different departments can have vastly different employee engagement levels even though everyone is working for the same company. How you choose to lead will impact how your team communicates, works together, collaborates, and trusts each other. Are you the sort of leader who asks and gives feedback? Do you focus on employee wellness and support teamwork? The most successful managers of engaged teams tend to have a democratic leadership style and build personal connections with their team members. Unfortunately, not many managers receive leadership training or development when they take over a team. If your employees are starting to disengage, consider your own leadership style and see if working on your approach might help turn the team around.
Engaged teams boost productivity
The bottom line is: it’s worth your time and effort to keep your team engaged. Disengaged teams are more susceptible to burnout and employee turnover. Engaged ones, on the other hand, report higher levels of job satisfaction and increased retention rates. They come up with more creative solutions and put more effort into their work. These are the teams that willingly go that extra mile just to ensure a project is done to the best of their ability. So take a moment to consider the strategies being used on your team. Are your members connecting on a personal level or do they keep their distance? We know remote work poses a challenge to team engagement so don’t leave anything to chance. Reach out to your employees. Ask for feedback. Provide opportunities for team building. Our work environment might be different right now but the lessons learned between team members can last long after the pandemic is over. Take charge of employee engagement and watch your teams flourish as a result.