Create engaged, happy teams


 — February 4th, 2016

Create engaged, happy teams

Engaging your team, creating a great place to work, having a happy workforce, are they all the same thing? It seems obvious if you have a happy workforce you have an engaged workforce, but what does engagement or even happiness actually mean?

In the past 15 years I’ve spent many a meeting discussing engagement, what can be done about it, looking through surveys to understand data on how engaged an audience is and delivering workshops on how to engage your team. Undoubtedly discussing engagement is always a good thing and understanding where your team are through surveys can be helpful. However (yes there is a but coming) engagement is not about a workshop, a tickbox exercise or even a one day motivational session to engage your team. (I know I’m talking myself out of my own job here).

Real engagement is about people -- talking, listening, interacting and understanding them. Doing these things consistently, you’ll soon find out without the need of a survey if your team are engaged. Engaging people is a constant and needs to be a consideration of everyday management, interaction and decision making. Today, businesses are more than dashboards and numbers; what really drives productivity is how people feel about your organization. If you want proof that spending time creating a great place to work and helping people feel connected to an organization impacts on overall success, you just need to look at Boston-based consulting giant Bain & Co, which is one of the world's leading management consulting firms and was voted the best company to work for in 2014/15. It also has over £2 billion turnover and a set of values based around people and all about being a great place to work. Whether you’re a manager, team leader, head teacher or supervisor or just 'the boss', good leaders are the key to creating happier, healthier, and really engaged workplaces.

Engagement and happiness are linked, though some people don’t like the word happiness because it’s too fluffy. However understanding it from a scientific and strategic point of view will positively impact on the way your team feels about your organization and ultimately how they work for you. Whatever you want to call engagement, be it happy employees or a title that fits right with you -- it matters. I’ve never spoken to a CEO or manager who says they don’t want their team to be happy. For cynics who are unsure about the ‘fluffy’ side of people management, ask yourself -- do you want an unhappy workforce? I should imagine your answer is a very strong no. So what can you do to create real engaged, happy teams?

Here are my top ten tips:

  1. Develop meaningful relationships
    Spend time speaking to your team and make time to get to know them as individuals and you will learn what motivates and demotivates them. Showing you really care by taking an interest in their lives will benefit everyone. It’s much easier to ask people to do things that may be challenging when you have a great relationship with them and they want to do it because they like you.
  2. Coach and support, don’t manage
    Managers should understand what motivates each person. This will help build connections between individuals and the organization’s mission and objectives. Highly effective managers know how to coach and support their teams and will get more out of them by motivating them. Research makes it clear that employees value learning, support, positive relationships and career development above most other aspects of a job. Seventy percent of employee learning and development happens on the job through managers and coaching. So if line managers aren’t supportive and actively involved with their teams, employee growth is stunted -- which impacts engagement, happiness and retention.
  3. Focus on strengths and build these
    We all have different talents, knowing what these are in your team increases productivity. Some people are better at some things than others. Focusing on whom does what well, delegating tasks to the right people and using this to your advantage saves time.
  4. Encourage and enable development
    Developing your team, knowing what they would like to improve and agreeing a path to realise this encourages talent to stay and keeps the job interesting and exciting. Personal and professional development helps individuals find purpose. Managers who help develop their team members creates loyalty and are more likely to have teams who love what they do.
  5. Work together on setting targets/goals
    Employees are ultimately responsible for reaching their targets and goals, therefore they need to have a part in setting them. Ask your employees to draft goals that contribute to the organization’s strategy and mission, thereby encouraging them to feel in control and autonomous.
  6. Continually reward, recognize and give feedback
    Good football coaches give continual feedback throughout a game. If they don't players don't develop, improve and adapt. It’s the same with your team. To get the best out of them, continual feedback is essential. Even if it’s an informal ten minutes while having a coffee -- it is valuable. As well as continual feedback, positive recognition and reward is important too. Again this can be informal and as simple as an email saying well-done, a thank you card, or whole team congratulations. Waiting until yearly reviews to give praise and feedback leaves individuals with lack of direction and unsure if they are doing the right thing.
  7. A strong culture that is positive and gives meaningful purpose to all, where happiness is promoted.
    So what is a great culture? Is it about the perks; luncheon vouchers, free hot chocolate in the canteen and a ping pong table in the staff room? While all these things are fun and undoubtedly have some impact, they are not the core of what makes a great culture.People also want to feel that their strong culture exists outside the walls of the organization and supports further meaningful work. For example, Twitter, ranked second on Glassdoor’s 2014 best place to work list states on its website: “At Twitter, your work will be immediately felt by many millions of people around the globe.” Now that’s meaningful.Workplaces that promote fun and organic laughter have happier, healthier and more productive workers and see an increase in profits and results. Laughter and humor can improve communication, build stronger relationships and diffuse tense situations. People are drawn to others who laugh. For more details see the blog 'Should you use humor to improve your management and leadership skills?'
  8. Real chances to develop and grow, personally and professionally
    It’s no secret that great companies focus on providing growth opportunities for their employees. Traditionally this has meant ‘career pathing’. However great managers in excellent companies look for ways to match employees’ skills and passions with the organization’s needs. This is done simply through good old-fashioned relationships, developed through conversation, observation and thought.A great manager or leader will know what needs to be done in the company that’s not currently being addressed. They have good networks with other managers and leaders and know about new initiatives or projects that might need people. After finding out what the employee is interested in learning or doing, and how he or she would like to see his or her career unfold, they encourage the employee to take on an extra challenge, move laterally across the business, or go for a new role, thereby keeping good talent, creating value in the business and building people.
  9. Work that challenges in the right way and allows people to use their skills
    To perform at our best, we need significant and interesting challenges and we need well-developed skills to give us the confidence to meet those challenges. This moves us to a position where we can experience what is known as "flow" (being totally involved and engaged in the activity). Psychology and management professor Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi wrote about the process of flow in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.When challenge is too much we can become anxious and worried, when it’s too little we become disengaged. Our brains have developed to overcome challenges; it’s a survival mechanism that has allowed us to successfully adapt to new environments again and again. It makes sense that we want this in our jobs.People generally like to figure things out, to get good at things. Notice how good it feels when you finally crack a new skill. Great companies recognize this attraction to challenging work and use it to their advantage to motivate and engage their employees. An employee from Bain & Co commented about his work: “There is rarely a boring day, much less a boring project.” Being consistently and fully engaged – that’s what almost all of us want.
  10. Talking and listening all the time
    Keeping the lines of communication open at all times is essential to open and honest relationships being built. There will be times when you need to have challenging conversations. Conducting these in an adult and non-personal way will make a difference to how the conversations go. Also be open to positive challenges and new ideas. Create time to really listen. Communicating is a two-way street, getting feedback from your team about how you manage, and what they would like more of will make these more challenging conversations go the other way, easier.Creating real engaged, happy teams requires real focus and consistent effort on the part of the company’s leadership and management teams. You need to build the structures, processes and systems; hire the right people with the right attitudes and the rights skills; and to inspire and hold people accountable every day to the high standards you set.Investment in that process pays off tremendously: you end up with a company that attracts the best talent, creates excellent products and services, and figures out how to do it better, faster, and smarter than the rest.

Quick happiness wins – what you can do

There are some very easy steps you can take in the first instance to create a happy environment.

Step one – Turn on your people before you turn on your computer. Don’t worry HR, this isn’t as dodgy as it sounds. It simply means that when you come into the office. Say hello to your team. Ask them how they are. Have a chat. It doesn’t have to take ages but it lets everyone know that they are viewed as human beings first and foremost and it helps bond a team.

Step two – it’s okay to have a laugh (when appropriate). Humor is a brilliant ice-breaker and also works incredibly well in times of stress. So it’s ok if people laugh and have fun. If the office becomes one big laugh factory then perhaps things have gone too far and I’d definitely draw the line at staff photocopying their privates and pinning the results on staff noticeboards. It’s all about balance - and fun can de-stress when appropriate.

Step three – encourage positive social interactions. Allow teams time to talk and encourage relationships between workers (platonic obviously). As a manager and leader you should be there to guide and support but peer support networks among employees are equally as important.

Step four – take time to say thank you. Recognition is a huge motivator. It doesn’t have to come in the form of financial reward. Just the simple act of saying thanks and letting someone know their efforts have been noticed goes a long way.

Step five - create a happy environment. This doesn’t have to mean feng shui and brightly colored furniture. As a leader you need to set the tone. Make people feel comfortable. Be approachable. And allow people to personalize their workplaces where appropriate and within reason. You’ll be amazed how such a small thing helps promote creativity and positivity.

Hopefully you’ll agree, these aren’t earth-shattering changes but taken together they start to create an atmosphere that lends itself to happiness. As the saying goes, it’s the little things that matter.

If you want to know more about how Laughology can work with you and your team to improve morale, engagement and positivity please do take a look at our services or give us a call for an informal chat on 0844 800 1701 or drop an email to info@laughology.co.uk

For more information on driving employee engagement, download this free whitepaper.

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