No deadlines are missed, no productivity goals are not being met. In fact, your staff seems to be functioning as a model of operational efficiency. The staff has been given their individual and team goals and objectives. They have met every target and operate with very few errors and they even occasionally exceed expectations and do more than the objectives set forth.
But beneath the surface — and they would never admit it — is complete boredom. While it is certainly easy for a manager to be content and become complacent with this adequacy, they should see this as an opportunity to tap into one of the greatest un-tapped resources their organization has. Every member of the organization has ideas. They have valuable ideas for operational improvement, marketing opportunities, and advertising miscues, among others. In fact, they may not even realize they have these ideas. However, if they are given opportunities to cultivate ideas, these ideas inevitably will come to the surface.
Getting ideas and input from staff cannot come at the sacrifice of operation effectiveness, nor can it seem like an additional burden for the staff members to undertake. It is a challenge for management to strike this balance, but the rewards can be immeasurable and can inform strategic decision making.
There are two ways management can turn a bored staff into a creative, engaged staff:
1. Encourage Them to Write
Staff members are writing constantly. They have perfected the art of a concise, direct email. They complete their employee evaluation every year with a high level of accuracy and thoughtfulness. They deserve credit for these skills. However, it is important to challenge them when it comes to writing. Writing a long, researched, exposition on a topic related to your industry is a great way to get them to think critically about their role. It will also be a time consuming endeavor. One simple way to do this is to organize a newsletter and solicit a contribution from each department or division. Give a list of topics and gauge the interest. Management needs to lead the way and schedule official brainstorming, editing and proofreading sessions for the articles. It is a great way to determine how engaged the staff members are with the core goals of the company. In addition, it will improve employee engagement and force the writers to learn more about the industry and how the companies strategy may or may not fit in the with industry rivals.
2. Encourage Them to Read
If a staff is operating effectively, it is likely that they are intellectually capable and innately curious. It is important for management to find a way to tap into this curiosity. One method for getting to the heart of their curiosity is to find out what they are reading and/or steer their interests toward a topic that could be mutually beneficial for the company and the employee. Brief discussions or book clubs could also be formed to gauge interest in various topics that are external to what a staff member is directly involved in on a daily basis. This is a great way for staff members at any level to gain a historical context of the industry or discover current or future trends for the industry. It is impossible for management to read all there is to be read on the industry, so sharing this duty with staff members can essentially be a filter for industry news and more broad business concepts and ideas. Alternatively, management may discover that the staff has little to no interest in the company’s industry. While management could see this as a bad thing, there are always creative ways to find overlapping concepts. Classic literature may seemingly have very little common ground with modern business strategy or operations, but there are always lessons to be learned when it comes to conflict resolution, problem solving, change management, etc.
There is one critical component that must be the end result of both writing and reading by staff members, it is that the information that they have acquired must be effectively presented to the rest of the organization. This will give each participant a strong sense of belonging and enhance their leadership skills. Encouraging staff members at all levels to write and read outside their normal position duties can be an effective way for management to develop future leadership and cultivate innovation from within. Staff will be engaged and feel valued if they are given the opportunity to grow their own creative and analytic talents. All members of the organization have valuable input that should be tapped into to inform strategic decision making.