How to Keep Employee Engagement High on Difficult Projects
I used to have a difficult time staying engaged in a project amid setbacks. Whenever I was assigned to a new project, I thought about the thrill, the expectations, the new things I was going to learn and do … until I got there and became familiar with the project—and saw the mess.
How many times have we all gone through this? We know that whatever can go wrong in a project probably will, especially when most projects include the challenges of demanding deadlines, scope creep, changing requirements, and development delays.
So, if these challenges are a given, what can we, as project managers, do about it? How can we try our best to prevent these setbacks and keep our teams engaged despite all odds?
First, let’s talk about why you should care. Having engaged employees is about more than having happy workers. Gallup research shows that engagement is also one of the most important factors for company success.
According to the Gallup study, “organizations with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010–2011 experienced 147% higher EPS [earnings per share] compared with their competition in 2011–2012. In contrast, those with an average of 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2% lower EPS compared with their competition during that same time period.”
That means disengaged employees will hurt the company as much as they can jeopardize a project. This is why it is so important to identify the issues of demotivation and act on them as soon as possible. Keeping employees engaged, happy, and working together as a team helps projects stay on track and gives the company a competitive edge.
Unfortunately, there is no magic to make this happen. We need to understand the common reasons of dissatisfaction, identify the underlying causes, understand what is going on with the team, and then try to address these causes.
One way to try to uncover pain points and find solutions is design thinking. This means we put ourselves into our users’ shoes (or, in this case, our team members’ shoes), make an effort to understand their journey and issues, and try to find an innovative solution for those issues. Everyone from the team owns this solution together, and it automatically gets their commitment.
Of course, you need time and dedication from the team so you can conduct some design thinking sessions and implement the solutions you all discover. But this will definitely pay off, not only for your project, but also for the company and the customer. It is an investment. Try it, and you will see the difference on your team.