7 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Through Work Design

Recently, there was an article published at Forbes.com entitled How the Best Places to Work are Nailing Employee Engagement. The article, written by Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, discusses how engaged workers are likely to be motivated and committed to their organization and remain focused on achieving their business goals and driving the organization’s future. On the other hand, disengaged employees can suck the life out of others and have an adverse impact on everything from customer service to ROI, quality, output, and everything else that matters to running a productive business.

In our newly released book, A Team of Leaders, we believe that unless employee engagement flows from your overall work design and supporting systems and processes, you will have to constantly struggle to build this into your culture.

If you properly design a team of leaders, whereby the supervisor only serves as an occasional advisor to the team and everyone takes on a leadership role, is involved, accountable and well-developed, you will build employee engagement into your culture. When that happens, and the team is at its highest level (what we call a Stage Five team), you will have a self-motivated and engaged team that produces great results.

Why Work Design Is Important?

The reason why so many organizations struggle with this issue is because of the way work is designed. That is, as long as employees work under a design where there is one all-knowing boss who tells everyone else what to do, resulting in people working primarily on an individual basis, they will struggle to find ways to engage their employees.

As a result, while some may come up with extraordinary ways in which to address this issue, as long as these approaches are out of line with the organization’s overall work design, employee engagement will suffer.

Using Work Design to Improve Employee Engagement

Here are seven ways organizations can leverage to transform themselves into a team of leaders and increase employee engagement through work design:

1. Know what employees are thinking. As part of the design process, teams conduct a culture analysis. One part of that analysis is identifying whether the employees’ individual needs are being met.

2. Intentionally design their culture. The culture analysis is one of three major analyses that are conducted prior to the design work. The idea here is that a team’s results flow from the team’s culture and the knowledge of its members, which flow from its systems and other design elements.

3. Recognize big and small contributions. An aligned rewards and recognition system is one of the hallmarks of designing a team of leaders.
4. Communicate in an open and honest manner. As a team begins its transition, it uses a communication process that enables team members to appreciate their differences and communicate effectively.

5. Support career development. This refers to mentoring and other approaches, which ensure that employees have professional goals and can connect with their colleagues. During the on-boarding process, we recommend that all members be assigned a mentor. Moreover, a well-designed team will ensure that there are strong connections among team members.

6. Facilitate social interactions outside work. Due to these strong connections, especially in the later stages of development, team members frequently participate in social events outside of work.

7. Communicate the organization’s stories. Through the use of visual management, which involves using a team’s physical plant as another design element to reinforce the direction the team is going, teams of leaders use their space to, among other things, celebrate all of the great work that they have accomplished.

Is your organization designed for low employee engagement? Do you desire a more engaging environment? Keep in mind that organizations are perfectly designed to get the results that they get. By designing a team where employees are engaged and committed, organizations will get the results that they want.

About Paul and Stew

Paul Gustavson is an organizational design consultant and founder of Organization Planning & Design, Inc. (OPD). He is the co-author of “Running into the Wind”. He can be reached anytime on Twitter and  LinkedIn

Stewart Liff is an HR and visual management expert, and president of Stewart Liff & Associates. He is the author of “Managing Government Employees” and co-author of “Seeing is Believing”. He can be reached anytime on Twitter, LinkedIn, or via email.