Team engagement: enablers and pitfalls for project leaders

Team engagement: enablers and pitfalls for project leaders

5 min.
Today more than ever, in the context of the transformations that are disrupting the world of work, organizations rely on the energy and engagement of their workforce to survive, evolve and perform. Employee engagement is the level of commitment, passion, and loyalty a worker has toward their work and company. The more engaged an employee is, the more work he or she will put forth. During a project, especially when team structure is mixed and complex, maintaining a high level of engagement is crucial.

Across organisations and initiatives, when studying team engagement, researchers identified 3 archetypes of individuals:

Engaged employee (15%): loyal, he is emotionally committed to the team he belongs to and his talents are truly leveraged. He enthusiastically invests in his work and takes on responsibilities. He is generally more likely to become an emerging leader and will stay much longer with an organization.

Not engaged employee (67%): difficult to identify, he is often relatively happy and satisfied in his role. However, he does the bare minimum and is not invested in the company’s mission, vision, values or goals and less concerned about productivity or company profitability. This team member is both a threat and great opportunity – because with the proper approach, he can be transformed into an engaged employee that thrive in the organization.

Actively disengaged employee (18%): consistently negative, he may create a toxic environment, dominate his manager’s time and is usually vocal about his unhappiness. He is often a subject matter expert well-respected in his unique skill set. And because of that, he often has significant influence over others.

[according to Gallup’s State of Global Workplace report]

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A bad leader who does not sufficiently support or trust his project team loses the involvement of the team

Pitfalls to avoid to not disengage your team

We notice that a large part of the members of a project team are not naturally involved. Some difficulties can explain this natural disengagement of a team during a project

Expecting your team to learn by doing (on their own, without clear objectives and expectations) such as saying one thing and doing another (act inconsistently) is always disengaging. A bad leader who does not sufficiently support or trust his project team loses the involvement of the team.

Lot of managers and project leaders think that "no news is good news", but communication is crucial. If a lack of communication is a huge error, unidirectional and non-transparent communication leads to contagious talent attrition (for example it is counterproductive to make few team members feeling privileged by being in the "inner circle" or to share little information).

It is also a big mistake to think that positive feedback is not required and to only provide negative ones. Convene for post mortem feedbacks and forget to have continuous conversation is disengaging - a member of a team who is not listened will not participate and be proactive.

Enforcing the status quo ("we’ve always done it that way") and not trying to learn from others also slow down the team involvement.

A weak company culture is also a big brake which demotivates employees.

Finally, time management is also often an issue in project management, an employee who is too busy can’t be creative.

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Let your team members have a handle on their responsibilities and be eager to meet their goals

Good practices to keep your team engaged

If there are pitfalls to avoid and even if the project manager is not always the manager of the project team members, there are few levers he or she can use to encourage and boost everyone's commitment during the project. Here are some of them:

Not skipping onboarding: it is really important to let your team members have a handle on their responsibilities and be eager to meet their goals. Employees who can master their workload have a better shot at taking pride in what they do and what you expect. It is why onboarding your project team, putting everyone in the right role and encouraging relationships in the team and in the organisation are crucial.

Being a transparent leader: improve engagement by defining and communicating a powerful vision. Lead by example. The mission of each member has to be clearly understood. Empower your team, give them resources and create a culture of trust and accountability. Visibility and approachability are the fundamental differences between a leadership team that’s held in high regard and therefore engages employees versus those who don’t.

Setting goals: set quarterly or monthly goals during the project so employees have something to work toward is essential. Rally people around similar goals and meaningful goals while also providing guidance on outcomes the team is expected to produce. Everyone wants to know how his position fits in with the other positions in the project and how his work is impacting the success rate of the project.

Acknowledging team: give recognition, praise and constructive criticism, a project member can quickly become disengaged if he feels like he is invisible. Give your team a voice, hear and value. Develop a relationship of respect and friendship with them and acknowledge them for their hard work and efforts.

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Identify the strengths and make sure that what you see as valuable they know it’s being valued

Focusing on development: employees want to develop their skills and continue challenging themselves. They don’t want to do monotonous tasks that require minimal effort. Find ways to make each member of your team using his mind by giving advices, articles, metrics,… An engaged employee want opportunities to learn and grow both personally and professionally.

Accelerate your team learning curve: make sure that each member of your team is doing a job that no one else on the team is already de facto doing. Identify the strengths and make sure that what you see as valuable they know it’s being valued. Monitor momentum: figure out if they are growing and how fast.

Avoiding micromanaging: encourage team members to work on their own and to bring their ideas to the table. Watching over their shoulder every step of the way is not efficient, give them the freedom to develop their own ways to problem solve and engage with the work. Start by looking at the big picture. Leave the details up to them and you’ll end up with workers happy to put their own methods and ideas into action.

Checking in often: With regular and continuous feedbacks, check the engagement of your team to faster course correction. Use both formal and informal check-in strategies.

Employee engagement has a direct impact on productivity and profitability. With SteerIO, you will drive decision-making with collective intelligence by giving your team a voice, you will recognize talents and reinforce value to organization, you will receive constructive continuous feedbacks and giving yours. You will also encourage knowledge sharing and keep your team proactive because informed.

SteerIO helps you to better engage your project team!

From "me" to "we" to "us" is team engagement and engaged team is not recruited but created.

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