Despite breathtaking advances in communication technology, many people still feel miserable and disengaged at work. Companies try many things to remedy this situation by sponsoring affiliation events, celebrations and leadership development programs. While the goal of these programs is to train managers on how to better motivate their teams, research shows they are ineffective. Employees at many of the world’s largest firms still report having low moral and lack the motivation and the desire to give more of themselves at work. Employees are frustrated by rules, which diminish their authority and autonomy and limit their ability to maximize their contribution. They feel shut out from the actual decision-making process. This frustration ultimately leads to disengagement and reduced productivity.
Yves Morieux’s (senior partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group) recent Ted Talk, suggests a strategy to fix this problem and challenges management to rethink how they’re doing things. Morieux says that as work gets more complex, management adds more rules and buffers that minimize employees’ sense of empowerment at work. He suggests six rules for management to use that would simplify operations and that will also improve motivation, productivity and employee engagement.
The six steps to increase productivity, motivation and engagement: simplify operations
- Understand what others do.
- Remove rules: Reinforce the “integrators” Integrators are managers. Give them more power and interest to make others cooperate. Remove the layers so they can be closer to the action. Stop making more rules that reduce the discretionary power to managers.
- Increase the quantity of power so you can empower everybody to use their judgment and their intelligence. Move away from insulation and give more people the opportunity to take risks.
- Create feedback loops that expose people to the consequences of their actions
- Increase reciprocity by removing buffers that make individual employees self-sufficient.
- Reward those who cooperate and blame those who don’t cooperate. The CEO of The Lego Group, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, has a great way to use it. He says, blame is not for failure; it is for failing to help or ask for help. It changes everything. Suddenly it becomes in my interest to be transparent on my real weaknesses, my real forecast, because I know I will not be blamed if I fail, but if I fail to help or ask for help.
The implication of breaking down barriers that impede individual employees from feeling engaged at work is profound. Morieux’s research shows that giving more people a voice and allowing more people to take risks is what will create the positive energy for workers to care about their jobs and the companies they work for. A system that makes people accountable combined with giving them the leeway to make decisions and the encouragement to cooperate with others leads to greater engagement, happier workers and increased productivity.
The biggest companies can begin to operate more efficiently, like small ones, once they start behaving internally in a more entrepreneurial way. Showing concern for employees and empowering them to participate in the business requires a reevaluation of organizational management and processes.
Morieux makes a strong case for empowering workers, reducing rules and building accountability as a strategy for companies to create more value at a reduced cost. The simplification of the structure itself is a step in moving from a bureaucracy to a human centered environment where people can thrive, contribute, feel genuinely valued and become committed to the organization’s mission. This strategy for increasing employee engagement could ultimately lead to increased motivation, productivity and retention of top employees. These lessons will be extremely useful for all companies seeking a competitive edge, especially for those that are growing rapidly and seeking ways to maintain a vibrant corporate culture.