Regardless of the size of your workforce, it is vital to appreciate them both as individuals and as part of your company’s team. The thoughts and actions of the individual will always impact others and your operation as a whole, particularly where safety is concerned.
So, how do you create the perfect team, or, more importantly, the perfectly engaged team. The distinction here is crucial because employees who are engaged in the company’s and in each others’ success will not just do their job, they will actively move your company forward.
But what makes a group of disparate people engaged? Recent research reveals the simple answer – being listened to. That’s it, as simple as that.
When we think of creating the perfect working environment and the lengths that employers should go to to improve it, many of us will immediately think of Google. When it comes to nurturing staff, Google is the archetypal trend setter; free bikes to ride around the office on, chill-out pods, nap rooms, and organic veggie patches in the company garden to name just a few. You can’t throw a stick in a Google work space without hitting a hipster perched on an over-stuffed bean bag.
Google’s thirst for optimising the employee experience and thereby increasing their productivity climaxed in the launch of “Operation Aristotle” in 2012, a bold initiative that studied 100’s of teams within the Google corporation to work out why some teams worked well and others didn’t. A large group of researchers, statisticians, psychologists, engineers and sociologists delved into every detail of group dynamics – did team members socialise out of work, what was the gender balance, skill spread, the introvert to extrovert ratios, educational backgrounds, hobbies, what kind of motivational rewards individuals responded to…the list goes on and on.
Incredibly, for the first four years of Operation Aristotle, despite amassing vast amounts of data, the masters of the algorithm did not find a single pattern, or any evidence that any particular element of team composition made any difference whatsoever as to how well it worked.
A break through only came another year and another million or so dollars later, when they looked at “group culture”, the unwritten rules and behavioural standards that govern how working teams function together. One team may take orderly turns to speak, while another may shout out excitedly over one another as ideas develop, each team dealing with conflict and planning in entirely different ways too. It was here they finally found their answer, that the two most important things that made successful, engaged team players were:
- having a chance to talk and be listened to (‘‘conversational turn-taking’’)
- being able to read how other group members are feeling (‘‘average social sensitivity’’)
Project Aristotle revealed that regardless of the particulars of any of the group’s culture, the single most important element was that as long as everyone got a chance to say their piece and be heard the team prospered.
This democratic and fair approach to mutual appreciation builds trust and a sense of “psychological safety”, defined by Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’ In other words, you can speak your mind, deal with troubling issues and raise problems without fear of being laughed at or receiving other negative recriminations.
The key, it seems, to employee engagement is that when individuals get together they stop behaving entirely like individuals and become a collective concern.
Employees who adopt this type of thinking become truly engaged and do the right thing because they want to, and because they are emotionally invested in the company and their colleagues.
Employee engagement lies at the very heart of Deal With It safety training workshops. We fully understand the integral role of employee engagement in organisational success and achieving an excellent safety culture. Even the most sceptical and cynical employees can be brought back into the fold with an authentic and organic approach, empowering them and driving you all forward.