Is it just me or does it seem like we are overcomplicating everything in our workplaces?
Policy manuals, competency models, career lattices, even performance appraisals…complicated, often convoluted, stuff.
We even make simple things complicated.
“Dress appropriately for work” become pages of policy guidance.
“That behavior is unacceptable” becomes a process with documentation and oversight from HR.
“You are doing a great job” becomes a formal system including points and gift cards.
I’m not suggesting that we don’t need process. Or that structure is bad. We need some structure to help us work effectively together. But I think we can all agree that we’ve gone a little overboard.
Earlier in my career, I would create elegant and complex solutions to simple problems to prove how smart and clever I was. But, those complex solutions never delivered fully on their expectations.
It was always the simpler things that seemed to have the bigger impact.
Eventually, I learned this important lesson.
Start with the simplest possible solution. You can always add complexity later.
I think it’s helpful to remember this as we try to improve employee engagement. In my experience, much of what needs to be done to improve engagement is pretty simple. Here are some examples.
Learn to have better conversations. If leaders, managers, and employees were more skilled at having meaningful conversations where both parties felt validated and heard, we’d have better workplaces. For example, most organizations have dozens of policies and processes that exist because managers can’t or don’t know how to have a conversation with an employee. Traditional, overly-structured performance appraisals are a perfect example of this. So much structure when a conversation would be a far better solution.
Treat people like adults. Being an adult means that you are responsible for your own actions. When we expect people to make their own decisions and enssure that the consequences of those decisions are clear, accountability becomes pretty simple. If you pair that with an assumption that most adults want not only to keep their job but to do a good job, you will begin to call people up to better behavior and performance.
Care about people. Every person who wakes up and goes to work each day has a whole world of things swirling around them. When things are good, the organiztaion benefits. When things are bad, they need some support and encouragement. When we remember that employees are people first with issues and challenges and joys that have nothing (and everything) to do with work, we might start treating them differently. When people feel like their whole self is welcome and cared for at work, their engagement improves.
Here’s my urging for you today. Before you add another process or policy or system with the aim of improving employee engagement, step back and look for a simpler answer.
If we focus on the basics of fostering more healthy relationships between people at work, everything else will begin to fall into place more easily.
We can complicate things later.