6 Ways to Engage Employees in Disruptive Times

“Most individuals want to make a difference, especially top technical talent,” said Tim Wasserman from IPS Learning during his presentation at the PMI Global Congress EMEA in London last month. He shared survey results that show that in order to feel engaged at work individuals are looking for:

  • skills development;
  • career advancement;
  • feedback;
  • a healthy team;
  • recognition by their superiors.

“People’s affinity is first and foremost to their career, second to their line manager, and third to the organization,” he said.

Disruptive technologies and changing business priorities make it harder for employees to focus on their careers in your company because their working environment can feel unstable. Sometimes it’s difficult for businesses to offer those things that help their staff feel engaged like staff training.

So how do you retain and engage your top employees when the business is changing? Tim Wasserman offered 6 tips to engage your employees.

Target recruiting and hiring

Keeping and engaging staff start with getting the right ones in the first place. Grow your internal pool of talent if you can, so think about succession planning and how you will develop more junior team members into the star performers of the future.


Let them achieve

Give them meaningful work, ongoing coaching, and lots of feedback. It’s easier to feel as if you have achieved something when the project’s values fit your own. Where possible, align the goals of the individual with the project.

Provide learning and professional growth

Think about what you can offer each team member in terms of structured and informal learning opportunities. This could be anything from:

  • Formal training;
  • Mentoring;
  • Coaching;
  • Online learning;
  • Chance to use new software or processes.

Talk to them. That’s the best way to find out how they want to grow in their careers. Then look together for ways that you can jointly address this while building their marketable skills.

Offer recognition

“Lots of data suggests that compensation is only the price of admission,” said Tim. In other words, money is not a motivating factor or one that engages the team – at least, not for long. Look for other ways to tap into their need for recognition without offering continual pay rises.

For example, use your staff recognition scheme generously, putting forward employees for internal awards where appropriate. Get your projects mentioned in the company newsletter or on the intranet, and call out individuals for their contributions. Share positive feedback passed on to you from clients, both with them and their line managers.

team collaboration

Help them build their career

Find ways that help them focus on what is most important: their career. Support them in their quest to achieve industry qualifications either through funding or study leave (or both), if you can. At a minimum, be supportive of their desire to achieve credentials and acknowledge that this makes them more marketable and more valuable to you.

Consider offering your top performers a “tour of duty” in another department so that they can see how the business works from another perspective. Even simple things like deputizing for you during vacation time can give them a bigger picture view and the opportunity to practice new skills.

Focus on collaboration

Humans are sociable beings and even those subject matter experts or highly technical people who prefer to work alone like to engage with their colleagues from time to time. You can offer them the opportunity to collaborate by celebrating team successes and helping them to resolve differences. Also, look for moments where you can reiterate the common goals for the team. Even those who work alone can feel part of the bigger strategic picture.

In summary, when times are disruptive and all your business energy is going into strategic planning, don’t overlook the needs of your team. If their needs are met, they will stay. A good, engaged team can help you through difficult, transitional times, and keep you on track to deliver your strategy even when it looks like the industry is changing around you. It costs nothing to say thank you and put a few of these other tips into practice.

How do you motivate and engage your employees? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Author Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth Harrin is the author and award-winning blogger behind A Girl’s Guide To Project Management. Get her suggestions for being more productive at work on her blog.