Is your team with you or against you?

Every savvy business knows that retaining talent is fundamental to the business’ long-term success and sustainability. This is especially important when it comes to the project management arena, where tight deadlines and a pressure cooker work environment makes it even more difficult for new team members to hit the ground running.

But, in today’s market place, you need to do more than retain team members, you must get (and keep) them engaged.

In a nutshell, employee engagement means just how connected the employee is to the business’ mission. And, when it comes to project management, it’s even more difficult to establish and keep that connection. Let’s be honest, most project managers are on a mission all of their own – they want to work on exciting projects and move on! But, as the song goes, no man – or woman – is an island and there is no doubt that the most successful project managers lead engaged teams.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2013 report defines three employee categories:

Engaged employees who work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.

Not Engaged employees are essentially “checked out.” They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work.

Actively Disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.

According to the Gallup report, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work and closer to home that figure drops to 9%. While 46% of South Africa’s workers are not engaged, Gallup says that an alarming 45% are actively disengaged.

The report suggests three ways to accelerate employee engagement: select the right people; develop employees’ strengths; and enhance employees’ well-being and each of these suggestions warrant a blog in their own right. But, for now, let’s focus on how to engage the project team.

Every HR guru has their own list of essentials for engaging employees but they all agree that engagement works top down. Leaders shape engagement and while, as a project manager, there is only so much you can do because the overall engagement strategy comes from the organisation and its leaders, it pays to view your team as a mini organisation with its own engagement plan emanating from you, as team leader. And here are some suggestions on how to engage your team:

  1. Communication – especially face to face – is essential. Talk to your team, often.
  2. Planning is paramount. Team members need a thoughtful, committed strategic plan.
  3. Encourage proactive self-improvement.
  4. Define roles and develop relationships – take care to create the balance of developing team members that are empowered to act independently, but still operate within the boundaries of their role.
  5. Empower team members to make decisions and have their backs when things go wrong.

© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting.