You know the feeling . . . Low enthusiasm, low energy, not a lot of motivation. You’re tired out and feeling oppressed by “making do with less” for way too long. Chances are your employees are feeling this way too, stretched too thin and tired of putting out extra energy to cover work that used to be done by employees who are now gone.
As the job market improves, you are likely to lose some of your best people if you don’t make some changes to revive their sense of engagement with work. I’d like to make a couple of simple suggestions for how to reengage a work group that’s been stretched too thin, and even more, to tap into that elusive discretionary energy employees could unleash with the right motivation. You will reduce your own burden by sharing it, and give your people a new lease on their work life.
First, think about how you can give people something new and different to challenge and engage them. You’re probably thinking that’s not a likely scenario, given you are all working above capacity as it is. But think about these questions: How many of your group’s routine tasks are absolutely necessary? Are there things done out of habit that could be changed or thrown out altogether? Most workplaces have reports no one reads, e-mails that are routinely deleted, data collected but not used. So step one is to free up time by getting rid of unneeded work.
Step two is to review your own workload, and especially backlogged projects that never seem to get tackled. How about delegating a couple of those projects to your people? One employee I know of was given a lead role in coordinating the launch of a new e-learning course. She was soon interviewing some key stakeholders outside her own department, learning how to use PowerPoint to create graphics, and planning a 45-minute webcast. She was energized and her manager was relieved of a major time-consuming task. The main caveat with this kind of assignment is to make sure this is work that is meaningful, that will help the assigned employee grow and develop new skills. You should also provide enough resources, support, and decision-making authority to ensure the employee is empowered and able to be successful. In the case above, the employee was granted a limited level of budget authority.
Finally, bring your people together to share their experiences and provide each other with support. If they have been working in silos or focusing just on the day-to-day routines of their own tasks, it will be a breath of fresh air if they can work together, share information, and help each other out.
If you want to lift the fog of indifference and get employees to feel less stretched, more motivated, and more willing to spend their discretionary energy on productive work, try changing the game with fresh projects and new challenges. That tired-out atmosphere can once again be charged with enthusiasm and a new outlook that is more enjoyable for everyone—and far more productive.