How to keep employees engaged & productive in WFM Setting

An effective performance management system includes three sets of processes: planning, cultivation, and accountability.

An Exclusive Conversation with Jason Lauritsen, Keynote Speaker, Author, Employee Engagement & Workplace Culture Expert

Jason uses a blend of research, practical experience, and storytelling to empower managers to have a more positive impact on their people.

As both a former corporate executive and entrepreneur, Jason has always been dedicated to creating organizations that are good for both people and profits.

Jason also led the research team for Quantum Workplace’s Best Places to Work program for three years. There, he studied the employee experience at thousands of companies to understand what the best workplaces in the world do differently than the rest to engage their employees.

Jason is the author of the books Unlocking High Performance: How to use performance management to engage and empower employees to reach their full potential and Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships.

Q- Heartiest congratulations to you for your bestselling book across the globe “Unlocking High Performance”. Tell us, what is your methodology for Unlocking the High Performance of employees at work?

It starts with understanding why work isn’t working for so many employees today. While most employers treat work as a contract to be enforced with employees, those employees actually experience work as a relationship. This disconnect is at the heart of what needs to change. 

The solution is to redesign the work experience to feel like a healthy, positive relationship for employees. The most powerful way to consistently create an employee experience like this that supports and enhances performance is to develop a set of processes that act as an operating system for how work happens at your organization–a performance management system.

An effective performance management system includes three sets of processes: planning, cultivation, and accountability.

  • Planning is made up of the processes and approaches that clarify the what, why and how of the work experience. This is most fundamentally about establishing crystal clear expectations with employees. 
  • Cultivation involves creating an employee experience that meets core human and relationship needs to unlock our full potential. To accomplish this requires that we recognize that humans are hard-wired for performance and growth. Our job as leaders and organizations is to remove obstacles and ensure they have what they need to realize that potential.
  • Accountability processes create transparency of impact, encourage ownership of failure to learn from experience, and resolve issues quickly.

These processes work together to help employees perform up to their potential. 

Q- The whole world is facing a crisis of Corona Virus and people are working from Home. According to you, what is the right way to work from home?

The answer to this question is different for every single employee. This is where understanding performance cultivation is the key for managers and HR professionals. If you start with the assumption that every employee has both the desire and capability to work successfully from home, then your role is to help them figure out how best to make that happen.

Many employees who have been forced to work from home are dealing with challenges they’ve never seen before and are unprepared to face. They need more help and support than ever before. Organizations should be approaching this challenge by allowing as much flexibility and grace as possible. My own experience with learning to work from a home revealed that it takes time and experimentation to learn what works best. It is a struggle at first, but it gets easier over time. Ensure that employees are clear about what the critical performance expectations are on a weekly basis and then help them figure out how best to fulfill them. 

Q- How to keep employees engaged, productive, and get their best in Work From Home setting especially in current satiation?

To me, employee engagement and making them more productive principle remains the same almost in all situations. Here’re a few ideas-

1. Communicate and Educate like It’s Your Job

Don’t assume what people do or don’t know—whether that’s about the virus, prevention strategies, how to work remotely, how to maintain social distance, etiquette for video meetings… Things are moving and changing so fast that I’m sure you are overwhelmed. Imagine how your people feel as they are even further removed from the decision-makers. You literally cannot over-communicate in times like these. When city and state leaders are holding daily press conferences to keep the general public updated, your frequency of communication needs to be even higher than that. Consider daily team meetings, daily one-on-one check-ins, regular email updates/briefings on anything that’s new or changing, etc.

2. Recalibrate Performance Expectations

As we shift to work from home or different operation schedules, it’s time to step back and focus on what matters the most right now. Things that may have seemed important two weeks ago may not matter as much today. Spend time with your people to talk through their performance objectives and projects. Identify what is critical now, what is less important, and what can be put on hold for the time being. Also, discuss and clarify behavioral and communication expectations. For example, in a remote working environment, how are we going to communicate? What kind of response time expectation should have of one another? As an example, with my teams in the past, we’d agree that email is for things that need a response in one or two days, instant messaging (like Slack) is for a quick question, and text is for things that need urgent response. The more clear you are in expectations, the easier the transition will be.

3. Allow Maximum Flexibility

In this unprecedented time, people are trying to juggle things they’ve never encountered before. Kids are out of school, and  for some, there is an expectation of parents to “homeschool.” People who never have before are working from home. Self-quarantine has us isolating from family and friends. Our routines and lives have been disrupted in more ways than we can count, and it happened overnight. As leaders, we need to help people find their footing and establish a new normal. This is going to require learning how to manage a work/life mashup that most never wanted and didn’t choose. Now is the time to both allow and encourage as much flexibility as possible in terms of both how and when work gets done. Provide tools, resources, and support to people as they navigate this. And, perhaps most important, extend grace to your people. Help them understand what the mission-critical work is that must get completed, and then allow them some wiggle room to sort out their life. Be generous and forgiving. Now is not the time to be worried about how many hours people are working. Just ensure that the critical work gets done over the next few weeks. Then, you can begin to craft the new normal.

4. Make Wellbeing a Part of Everyone’s Job

In stressful times, it’s easy to stop doing the things that help us stay well and healthy. We eat and drink more, we sleep less, we stop exercising (no time!), etc. On top of that, social distancing means we are likely to start feeling more isolated and disconnected. In a health crisis, allowing your wellness to suffer is perhaps the worst thing you can do. We can make ourselves less vulnerable to illness by investing time in our wellbeing. But your people may not feel like they can allow themselves time for wellbeing activities unless you make it part of their job. Give them instruction to set aside at least 30 to 60 minutes a day for some kind of physical or mindfulness activity. Encourage them to schedule a 30-minute check-in with a colleague or friend at least a few times a week. (My wife and I have started scheduling virtual happy hours with friends.) Investing a couple of hours a week to support the wellbeing of people is an investment in the quality of all of the other hours of the week.

Q- Does Work From Home impact organizational culture? How to manage that?

If your organizational culture is well defined and you’ve been managing it with intention in the past, then maintaining that culture in a remote, distributed workforce is very possible. In this case, it’s simply a matter of changing techniques and approaches. An organizational ritual that might have happened in person in the past (i.e. company barbeque) might now move online to be a virtual cookout using video or by sharing photos. 

If your culture is less defined, then you are more at risk of your culture being lost or changed. Now would be a good time to bring together your leaders to talk about what kind of culture and values you want to maintain during this time. These intentions can then be incorporated into new and evolved management and organizational practices.

Q- Any concluding remarks?

Employee engagement and performance management haven’t changed just because we’ve moved employees to work from home. The fundamentals are still the same. Employees need to feel valued, cared for, appreciated, respected and trusted to be engaged. The role of a manager and leader is to do what we can to ensure that employees feel this way. It’s never been more important.

Thank you, Jason!

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