Is it time to rethink the way you collaborate, engage and reward?

By Kurly De Guzman

Is it time to rethink the way you collaborate, engage and reward?

Are your ways of working outdated?

We regularly measure and monitor performance of individuals and teams through scorecards and dashboards. At the end of a project, the team schedules a debrief, or in agile, a retrospective meeting. The team usually asks questions like, what worked, what didn’t work and what can be done differently next time.

Looking into the organization’s ways of working is important not just as project milestones are accomplished. It’s an activity that should be done periodically to ensure that the team continues to work efficiently and effectively through changing times.

As teams continue to navigate the “new workplace” or should I say, the ever-changing workplace, I invite both leaders and team members to come together and have a closer look at these 3 areas that impact performance, results, and perhaps even survival.


Collaboration & Communication

Whether you’re operating fully in the office, in hybrid mode or 100% virtual, there is merit to reviewing not just how work dynamics have changed, but also how people’s lives have changed –  both your employees and clients. Parents may have resumed their responsibility of bringing their kids to school, or may now need childcare support as they report back to the office. Some employees might have relocated to a different place. Clients might have shifted their tools and methods to support fully remote work.

A recent email from McKinsey & Co caught my attention. The subject line says “Many of us spend too much time in meetings. Is a more efficient workday possible?”. I couldn’t agree more. I remember a former manager saying that her work day revolves around responding to emails and attending meetings, which in turn generates more emails.

Here are questions to ponder on when rethinking collaboration and communication:

  • What goal does this meeting serve? Are there other ways to meet this goal more effectively or efficiently? (Ex. online asynchronous collaboration through tools, stand-up meetings, etc)
  • Why does this team (insert name of team or department) exist? How can we support them in fulfilling their mission the best way possible?
  • Are our means of communication effective? Do they achieve the intended outcomes or are we sending out communications simply to tick a box?
  • Is there a way to streamline communications and improve transparency and visibility?
  • Do your communication and collaboration methods make your team more connected or help get things done?


Employee Engagement

The quest for the holy grail to boost employee engagement seems to be on every organization’s agenda every year.

  • Do you want your employees to be more empowered and engaged?
  • Do you have a rigid set of rules, a long-winded and complex approval path, and have little or no wiggle room to try things or make mistakes?

If you answered yes to both of the above questions, then it’s time to rethink your engagement strategies.

According to Dan Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us”, people perform better, are more creative and innovative, when they are intrinsically motivated. According to Pink, there are three factors of intrinsic motivation: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

Based on these 3 factors, here are questions to ask yourselves when rethinking employee engagement.

  • Do your employees have the desire to improve their skills and abilities? Do you provide them with the support they need to do so?
  • Do your employees understand how their work fits the bigger picture and contributes to the bigger goals?
  • Do they feel a connection between their personal goals and their organizational goals?
  • Do your employees have control over their own areas of responsibility – how to do it, when to do it and who to do it with? What level of autonomy do they have?
  • Do your employees feel trusted to get the job done? Do they feel safe to try their ideas and make a few mistakes along the way?

After going through the above questions, ask yourselves, “How can we make things better?”


Goals and Rewards

In most organizations, attainment of goals usually translates to the rewards (in whatever form) employees will receive. Having this in mind, it’s essential to rethink the goals of both leaders and their teams.

If employees’ goals and rewards are tied to perfect attendance or meeting sales quotas, then they will work towards that – whatever it takes. This might mean long days and nights, working through sickness, or goal sandbagging. But these behaviors wouldn’t necessarily be helpful if you’re working towards building a culture that encourages taking time off and looking after their own wellbeing. In the same way, if an organization would like to build a coaching culture, leadership behaviors in support of such culture (i.e. practicing psychological safety, having career development conversations, etc) must be reflected in goals and consequently rewarded.

  • What values and behaviors would you like to reinforce in your organization?
  • How realistic and relevant are your organization’s goals with the industry’s / world’s context and needs?
  • How relevant are your team and individual goals to the behaviors you want to reinforce or the culture you want to build?
  • What forms of rewards do your employees truly value? (Hint: Consider the different generations and unique needs of your workforce)
  • How would you like to position rewards in your organization?


But they said, don’t fix what’s not broken…

Resistance to change is absolutely normal, especially when we’ve found comfort and security in your tried and tested ways. The typical deterrent to improvement, which gung ho newcomers often find disappointing,  is the mindset, “we’ve always done it this way.”

Nobody said anything about your systems being broken… But the question is, is it working well? In this fast-paced and highly competitive world that waits for no one, the importance of agility, not just in operations, but also in leadership and people development is absolutely critical.

While we’ve found our way out of the Covid-19 tunnel, we’ll never know what and when our world may be shaken again. Will you be ready?

It’s probably a good idea to start rethinking now.