Did your “job EKG” ever go flat? Did the feeling of challenge change to a feeling of routine? Did you think something was missing? Did you start to look around?
Unfortunately, your most valued employees are the also the ones most likely to suffer this sense of job discontent. They are savvy, creative, self-propelled, and energetic. They need stimulating work, opportunities for personal challenge and growth, and a contributing stake in the organizational action. If they no longer feel challenged, they may consider leaving the organization.
Some employees, perhaps not the obvious stars, but people with solid potential, may suffer discontent yet stay on the job. Instead of leaving for the next challenge, they find ways to disengage. Their departure is psychological rather than physical. It shows up in counterproductive activities like absenteeism and mediocre performance. These individuals simply withhold their energy and effort, figuring, “What’s the point anyway?”
How can you win them back? What can you do to energize and engage them?
Energize the Job
Energizing a job means structuring ways for employees to get the growth, challenge, and renewal they seek without leaving their current jobs or organizations.
Changing what your employees do (content) or how they do it (process) is the key. Energizing allows employees to take on different tasks and responsibilities or to accomplish them in ways that promote personal autonomy and creativity. An energized job promotes setting and achieving personal and group goals; allows employees to see their contributions to an end product or goal; challenges employees to expand their knowledge and capabilities; has a future beyond itself; and gives employees room to initiate, create, and implement new ideas.
Don’t Fall Into the Fix-it Role
Remember, this is an important discussion to have with your employees and doesn’t have to be handled in one conversation. Don’t feel as if you have to have all the answers, and don’t let yourself become the problem-solver. These discussions should be collaborative. Both of you need to do the creative thinking that is necessary to bring back the “juice” of the job.
Here are some ideas for helping your employees enrich their work:
Form teams. Self-directed work groups can make a lot of their own decisions. They can redistribute work, so that team members learn more, have more variety, and follow more projects through to completion.
Rotate assignments. New responsibilities can help an employee feel challenged and valued. Employees can acquire important new skills that add depth to the workforce. Do rotational assignments sound like chaos? Suggest the idea and let your employees propose the “who” and “how” part; you’ll be surprised at their expertise in making it happen smoothly.
Build in feedback. Do more than annual reviews. Find ways to develop peer review and client review opportunities. Employees want to know about their performance, and continual feedback allows them to be their own quality-control agents.
Broaden participation. Employees are empowered and motivated when they take part in decisions that have an impact on their work, such as budget and hiring decisions, or ways to organize work and schedules. Involvement allows employees to see the big picture and enables them to make a contribution they find meaningful.
Nurture creativity. Untapped creativity dwindles. If employees rarely think for themselves, they lose the ability to contribute their best ideas. You can help by asking for and rewarding creative ideas, by giving employees the freedom and resources to create, and by challenging employees with new assignments, tasks, and learning.
Workplace boredom is a major cause of turnover. If you fail to take steps to discover when your talented employees’ jobs have become routine, you run the risk of losing them, physically or psychologically. Energizing the job is not tricky or difficult. But it does require staying alert to opportunities for all your employees and encouraging them to suggest ways to energize their own jobs.