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Improving efficiency by helping engineering team members find more meaning in their work

Improving efficiency by helping engineering team members find more meaning in their work

Consider the professionals working in product design, development and engineering roles at your organization. Do they feel like they're engaged in meaningful tasks, or are they simply following instructions? The answer to that question could have major repercussions for your company's overall effectiveness.

There's a high-level connection between professionals' ability to attribute meaning to their work and important metrics such as retention and productivity. It makes sense — when people understand and value what they're doing at work every day, they'll naturally perform better and be willing to stay with the organization. Therefore, helping team members find purpose in the workplace can have an effect on the bottom line.

Leaders should prioritize creating a connection between team members' internal motivation and their day-to-day responsibilities. While doing so, it's also important to connect that engagement with the company's overall goals, to ensure the tasks that workers are motivated to complete are the ones that will drive the business to success.

Meaningful work: a mixed picture

A change has occurred in mindsets in recent years. Workers have always wanted to find meaning in their work — it's better to do something you care about every day — but now that feeling has intensified. An individual today may leave a company that doesn't offer a meaningful connection with the duties they perform.

Current generations are in the midst of a change in expectations. In past decades, career milestones were seen in a different light. Remaining with one company for decades and earning accolades within that structure was the normal course of a career. Among younger workers, experiences have come to replace longevity as a way to measure work satisfaction.

It can be hard to gauge how engaged your people are in general today, especially because overall feelings of meaning and commitment can differ within a company. For instance, software engineers working directly on a project may be engaged heavily in the work, while the managers above them could feel less connected.

In some cases, this effect can play out in real time, where earning a promotion will actually decrease the recipient's feelings of meaning and connection with their duties. Within various organizations, middle managers are incentivized to make reports that will please their direct supervisors — this task is disconnected from the actual nuts-and-bolts work of the company and difficult to engage with.

The power of motivated team members

Despite the challenge of creating engagement and motivation for today's professionals, the effort is worthwhile. This is because of the effect a committed team can have on the quality and efficiency of work. The power of personal motivation can be hard to quantify directly, but organizations monitoring big-picture metrics in the wake of an engagement strategy will see the results.

A team of highly engaged workers can deliver greater efficiency and effectiveness in their work. These workers' emotional commitment to their duties will give them the ability to make strong choices without worrying about factors and tasks beyond the scope of their roles.

The alternative — a scenario where teams are unmotivated or disconnected — can end up with those groups' members spending time on efforts that don't really matter. They may be most concerned with pleasing their direct managers or accomplishing arbitrary metrics, without truly connecting with their tasks.

From a performance perspective, the best teams tend to combine personal motivation with a feeling of cohesion and camaraderie. Teams that have bonded around achieving a relevant business objective are more likely to be successful than less unified teams, even if they lack a "star" individual talent.

Organizations that only hire candidates and assign them to teams based on raw performance metrics may find they're falling behind if these high-skill workers are unmotivated or disconnected from their peers. Unity and engagement are keys to overall achievement.

The effort to help professionals find meaning

Considering the importance of a motivated workforce to a business's bottom line, there should be a push at all levels of the company to build a strong, meaningful connection between workers and their tasks. There's no one silver-bullet method of creating motivation, and a successful approach will likely contain some combination of the following elements:

Effective leadership

A decisive, unified and communicative style of leadership is the baseline for creating a meaningful experience. Everyone in an organization takes influence from those at the top, so the messages coming from upper management should be strong, clear and aligned.

Great leaders are good communicators, but they don't just use their words to explain what the company stands for or where it's going. These individuals' actions speak loudly. Decision-makers who embody the values and objectives of their organizations are well-positioned to inspire engagement and motivation.

Well-defined corporate strategy

The standard model for creating meaningful work is to have workers rally around the organization's goals, internalizing them and committing to accomplishing them. For this approach to work, the business's strategy must be clearly defined and resonant.

When an individual wonders where they and their department fit into the big picture of an organization, they should be able to look at the documented strategy and get the answer. Leaders need something to point workers to when taking questions about the company's direction and values. This is the role of the corporate strategy.

Tactical hiring practices

The way a business evaluates talent can have a major impact on how engaged those candidates are once they're hired. People should be assigned to tasks they actively care about. When businesses value applicants solely for their raw aptitude for work, they may end up with teams of otherwise competent performers who don't cohere with one another or align with the overall mission.

Hiring managers can help themselves find motivated workers by seeking out individuals who have a feeling for the industry and use the type of products the company makes. There's a lot to learn from non-profit organizations, which have historically been good at hiring people who are aligned with their missions.

Consistency over time

Anyone can issue a statement about a company's values, but it takes real commitment to stick with that message over time, and to live up to its promises. The organizations that make that effort and demonstrate through their actions that they're worth trusting will have an easier time earning emotional commitment.

Consistency doesn't mean blindly sticking with strategies and objectives that no longer make sense. It does, however, mean being transparent, clear and honest when shifts take place. Leaders who are great communicators will be able to navigate these evolutions gracefully, keeping team members on their side.

Measuring engagement

One way to measure whether people find their work meaningful is simply to ask them through surveys. However, the more telling measurement of engagement can come from studying outcomes. If professionals are engaged and committed to company objectives, the results will show in overall organizational metrics.

A highly committed workforce that consists of individuals who identify with the company's mission will likely deliver outcomes including:

These metrics are especially telling because they can help companies ensure' engagement is actively focused on the business's big-picture aims. In some cases, workers may say they are engaged, but their commitment to their own work isn't actually aligned with what the company as a whole needs from them. Those cases don't receive the full benefits of a motivated workforce.

Learning by example

Engagement among teams tends to be contagious. Workers whose personal motives are in line with the business's aims can bring their peers on board. Highly engaged workers may also quickly identify when their coworkers lack this same connection, allowing them to alert leaders to the need for a change.

One way to place people into direct contact with motivated, savvy individuals who can model best practices is through an expert consulting engagement. Whether the project is short-term or indefinite in scope, serving alongside professionals who live and breathe engagement with their tasks can be a powerful learning experience and a boon to company culture.

In Transcenda engagements, the expert consultants typically embed themselves in organizations, working side by side with internal personnel and showing off how much is possible with the right engaged attitude. Contact us to learn what such a collaboration could mean for your business.

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