Challenging employees boosts engagement
BY AMANDA MCGRORY
Most employees don’t want to sit at their desks bored, mindlessly sift through their work and punch out when it’s time to go home. Especially in today’s competitive work environment, employees are looking for positions that are challenging, and when that need is not met, employees often become disengaged, says Sheryl Kovach, president and CEO of Kandor Group, a human resources consulting firm in Houston. Not only can this hurt retention levelsbut it can also impact the corporate culture as a whole.
“When employees don’t feel challenged, they tend to get bored, and when employees get bored, generally, their motivation levels decrease,” Kovach says. “Their degree of overall commitment toward the organization begins to suffer. Symptoms of boredom are decreased motivation and commitment, an increase in errors, lack of an optimistic attitude, increased absenteeism and even increased turnover. When these types of symptoms are manifested in an organization, they’re contagious. Others start to see and feel the effect of that attitude.”
The top performers at a company are especially prone to feeling unchallenged in their roles, Kovach says. Generally, top performers excel quickly and have go-getter attitudes. With that kind of motivation, high performers have to be stimulated constantly in order to operate at such efficient levels.
To prevent employees from becoming unchallenged in their roles, managers must open communication lines, Kovach says. On a regular basis, managers should discuss career goals, how success is defined and workplace challenges with employees. Managers should also take the time to find out from employees what they need from a managerial level to develop within their roles. While many employers offer career development programs, they are often underused.
“A lot of times companies have career development programs, but none of the employees participate in them,” Kovach says. “The main reasons I see for this is the employees either don’t know they exist, and the managers in charge of driving career development in their employees are not promoting them. The managers need to be educated on how these programs work, so they can help encourage further development.”
Many successful development programs allow employees to test and apply their knowledge, skills and abilities that they may not be able to fully apply in their current roles, Kovach says. This might include tasking an employee with a project that includes heightened responsibilities on a larger scope.
Performance reviews can also help keep employees from becoming unchallenged in the workplace, Kovach says. With performance reviews, a manager can measure how an employee has been performing relative to the goals and expectations of the position while identifying any gaps in knowledge or skills. This helps a manager determine whether the employee is ready for new challenges and development opportunities.
“Performance reviews can help shed light on whether employees have really mastered their positions,” Kovach says. “If they’re hitting that level of mastery, in order to keep them engaged and retain them, we have to keep them challenged.”