Sometimes all it takes to engage employees are simple ideas that encourage a sense of responsibility and involve them more deeply in decision making.
It’s a fact of life: we get tired, worn out and sometimes bored. As we roll into the final stretch of 2015, it’s time to reevaluate and recharge. Think of all the energy you started the year with—has it slowly dissipated? Do you notice the same wane of energy in your team? Summer vacations are over, kids are back in school, projects and budgets are wrapping up and autumn sweeps us into shorter days.
If you are noticing any signs of listless detachment in either yourself or your team, try these six energy hacks to reinvigorate yourself and sprint through this final quarter of the year with flying colors.
1. Pause. Take a step back and reflect.
Yes, there are still a million things to do. Everyday. And there always will be. But now is the time to examine what and how you’re spending time. Start by stopping. Just for a moment.
We’re big fans of reflection at 15Five. We think its a key function for anyone trying to accomplish anything. We start each year with ambitious goals, monumental resolutions and well-defined targets to hit. But at some point, we get carried away and forget to look back. We believe reflection is a practice that should be repeated on a weekly basis. That’s why we make it a point to ask qualitative questions in weekly meetings.
Looking back helps us to look forward. Reflection is a gauge of where we’ve come and where we’re headed. Have the whole team try the following reflective brain dump—it won’t take long:
- WINS. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. These are our triumphs. Start with yesterday, then last week and retrace time until you get to the beginning of the year. You might be astounded by what you thought you forgot.
- LESSONS. What have you learned? Recall the challenges you’ve faced. Think about your projects, relationships and personal endeavors. When were you stuck? How did you overcome it? Assign one word to represent each challenge and ensuing lesson for as far back as you can remember this year.
This practice offers incredible perspective. I can almost guarantee that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how you feel after reflecting on your year in the frame of wins and lessons. And if you’re not, well then, this exercise should be a great impetus to get fired up and off to the races.
2. Spark the competitive edge for innovation.
Mix it up in the final quarter and aim for innovation through collaboration. Take the good ideas people have given you all year, look at the ones that have potential and send your team out on creatively solving a new problem, or coming up with some totally new ideas for how to approach something.
Make it wild, make it fun, make it competitive. Ask them what they would do with a million dollar budget, for example; or ask them to come up with one idea if they had zero constraints. Come up with a creative award (not monetary!), give them a week and see what emerges. The most innovative idea wins—no matter how ridiculous it may seem or unrealistically achievable. The point is to get the creative juices flowing, to spark imagination in a realm where anything is possible.
3. Establish trust as a key success metric.
At the end of the day, trust equals loyalty. Loyal employees have a great deal more value and are generally more engaged. The best way to build trust and engage employees is through transparency. Give your employees insight into decision-making in order to make them feel important and part of the process.
Get involved in working on a local project, like landscaping a communal garden, or renovating an old building. You can contact a local charity to find out what needs done. Creating something of use to the community will involve making collective decisions about how to tackle the problem and who to delegate tasks to. As well as gaining insight into how to manage a project, your team will have to collaborate effectively to get the job done. The satisfaction gained at a job well done will inspire everyone involved.
4. Make employee feedback fun!
Though feedback should be consistent and expected, how you go about doing it can be dynamic.
Make some questions funny (“If we had a mascot what would it be and why? Yes, unicorns are contenders.”) or ask a really thought-provoking question like, “If you owned this company for one month, what would you first do and why?” Giving your team the freedom envision themselves in your shoes will make them feel more valued and respected. And encouraging a creative environment where they can let their imaginations go wild may even churn out some unique ideas that move your company in a completely unexpected direction.
5. Make learning mandatory.
There’s no excuse not to sign your team up for online courses these days. And with the availability of MOOC courses it doesn’t need to be costly. Whatever the course—Thermodynamics, Strategic Thinking, Pottery or Intermediate Italian—the subject doesn’t matter. Giving your team the permission, time and perhaps even the funds to enroll in something they’ve always wanted to learn communicates the value and importance of always learning and growing. And let’s face it, even if you’re not, your competition sure is.
It’s the encouragement to keep their brains active and learn new things that will make employees happier and more enthusiastic about work. Learning doesn’t have to happen online—even courses for plumbing, cooking or sign language will have the same effect. Don’t feel that the courses you offer employees have to line up with their work—enabling them do something completely different will be much appreciated and help to foster an engaged, productive workforce.
And if that seems like a stretch, give the gift of reading—who doesn’t love Amazon gift cards?
6. Focus on the customers.
Duh—right? Well, we encourage you to share a little extra love with customers during this time of the year. And I’m not just talking about your support and sales teams. Everybody in the company can pool ideas on ways to acknowledge, thank, or reward customers. They are the source of our jobs, they are the reason your company exists. Shift into a lens of gratitude.
The team could take an hour out of the week to hand write some thank you cards. Or they could generate ideas for creative, surprise gifts to send to a few of your VIPs. Take to social media. Yes, give your team uninhibited permission to tweet and post on Facebook to spread some authentic love to the people and companies that keep you in business.
Engaged employees are critical in maintaining a thriving business and creating a long line of satisfied customers. Sometimes all it takes to engage them are simple ideas that encourage a sense of responsibility and involve them more deeply in the running of your business. Use this point in the year to reflect, examine and change course if needed.