The workplace is affecting engagement in a multitude of ways. Increasing automation and technology is hijacking the agenda and diverting attention away from the fundamental needs of human beings. This, in turn, generates a proliferation of information and data at pace, all of which makes it harder to distil clear direction and priorities.

The environment that we work in leads to people being time poor as they work through mountains of information at a pace to satisfy an appetite for immediacy. The trap of more and more time invested in task-centric activity as opposed to people-centric activity is increased.

This kind of workplace affects business on two levels;

  • First is the impact on the employee day-to-day, trying to make sense of things, dealing with a permanent sense of vagueness and not quite knowing how one is doing against continually moving goalposts and demands.
  • Secondly, the impact on leaders who are having to learn new leadership skills to manage both the business and the team in this context, in turn, affects the wider workforce as well as the business itself.

Employees need focus and clarity. Even in turbulent times there is a need to keep people feeling focused, productive and plugged into a direction and purpose with meaning. Often managers and leaders in more senior roles who are struggling to make sense of the wider and complex picture project this ambiguity into their own teams by not feeling confident to set clear objectives and priorities. There is always a direction and there are always things to be done.

Employees who are active are more engaged than those who are not.

A compelling purpose is also important as employees can often feel a struggle as the senior leadership tear away from the comforts of what was and how it was to confront what is emerging. There is a natural tendency for nostalgia and longing for the security of the known which of course lives in the past. Employees need to turn and embrace what is emerging and make it their own so that there is a story for future opportunity and a purpose to share with the business.

  • Human attention is required. As human beings, we require connection with others, a sense of community and belonging.
  • Starving employees of time to focus on themselves and not their work is counterproductive to engagement.
  • Encouraging team effort is important and collective problem-solving.

Room to deliver is also important. When the context is vague it is easy to try to over control as one tries to bring oneself comfort that you know what is going on. This can lead to stifling people when greater accountability and autonomy is what drives engagement. Allowing for room to deliver is good for business as more than ever it needs peoples’ minds and their experience brought to the forefront to fathom and crunch through the complexity and ambiguity of matters.

More importantly than ever, we need great leaders who can help us navigate the game changing workplace.

By Sarah Sweetman,
Managing Director
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