Workplace Relationships
Productivity through people
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Engage Their Brain

For solopreneurs, when you take on that first employee it's a magical moment...they are going to take all these things off your hands, you will be able to focus your attention on what you need to, and they will be the expert that handles 'all that stuff'.In larger organisations, they may be doing a similar job to others as the work has grown too big for a team.

Whatever the size of the organisation, the perception is that having this person will enhance productivity and therefore, more money will be made in a shorter amount of time - and with less stress.

But do we allow them to do this? Do we set them up for success in their job and will enable them to engage their brains?

Companies have 'on-boarding' processes - policies and walkarounds to point out places of interest - lunchroom, accounts, photocopier etc. They tell them...here is your pass, the code, the procedure. Of course, this makes sense when it is their first day. But as the new team member begins to get a feel for the job, how many companies start asking that newbie for their feedback on how things are done?

We have come from an era of being told what to do - when to arrive, what work 'looks' like and then when to leave.

But workers do not engage with this way of doing things - especially millennial’s who are quickly making up the majority of the workforce!

In Australia and New Zealand, only 14% of workers are engaged in their jobs. An overwhelming 71% are not engaged! This means they are coming, doing what they need to do and going home. As many as 15% are actively disengaged...taking longer breaks, not completing work, looking for quick fixes irrespective of impact, skiving, stealing, encouraging others not to bother (2017 'The State of the Global Workplace' Gallop).

Research is telling us people want more meaningful lives. They NEED more meaningful work as a way of keeping themselves healthy mentally.

SafeWork Australia has a guide for employers 'Work-related psychological health and safety' that lists what has an effect on the mental health (psychological health) of workers and cites:

Low job demands

Sustained low levels of physical, mental or emotional effort required to do the job.

Tasks or jobs where there is:

− too little to do, or

− highly repetitive or monotonous tasks (like picking and packing products, monitoring production lines).

Low job control

Where workers have little control over aspects of the work, including how or when a job is done.

Tasks or jobs where:

− work is machine or computer paced

− work is tightly managed (like scripted call centres)

− workers have little say in the way they do their work when they can take breaks or change tasks

− workers not involved in decisions that affect them or their clients, or − workers are unable to refuse dealing with aggressive clients (like police services).

Basically, when the employee has no say or control over their role, the passion is likely to be sucked out of them and disengagement, and psychological may follow.

An ‘engaged employee’ on the other hand is someone who sees their job as worthwhile or interesting and is, therefore, more likely to be fully involved in and enthusiastic about the things they do.

( Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors. Employee Engagement. Institute of Internal Auditors Global, London, 2015. www.iia.org.uk/ resources/auditing-business-functions/human-resources/employee-engagement accessed 19 July 2016.)

One way to get this type of engagement is to engage their brain!

People's IQs can appear to double when you give them responsibility AND trust them. You need to ensure they feel safe making decisions and that you will accept the consequences. Some companies I've worked with will set a monetary limit on this..."Decisions costing $100 or less, you can action without consulting/sign off with the line-manager". Some departments are free to work autonomously as long as they are within budget. Some companies it is the time factor that is considered. As long as deadlines are achieved, how it worked within that is their choice. It is vital that this does not become micro-managed, but that sincere trust is exercised.

What is the impact of giving this freedom? Might people go rogue?

From my experience, people actually rise to the occasion. If we give them the chance to succeed, they will relish the challenge and know that the achievement is their work, and that inspires them to do well.

In fact, not having a voice, not being able to have input into the way the work is done has a significant effect on stress levels, mental health, and has a negative impact on productivity.

Jo O’Donovan is the founder of Workplace Relationships, based in Melbourne. She works with companies to increase their productivity through focusing on their culture, people and relationships. Jo has a particular passion for improving the mental health of employees through developing the human connections within organisations and her new online course on Mental Health In The Workplace can be accessed here.

Are you a manager who needs to know how to have a mental health conversation? Access our manager course here

To find out more about Strengths Profile Assessments - click here