Reducing Barriers to Employee Engagement and Productivity
By Mike Raia Posted June 14, 2017
A recent article at SHRM.org discussed several ways to increase employee engagement in an organization as well as the subsequent benefits. I took note of the first item on their list, which was "providing the right tools," referring to all the tools and business process infrastructure employees use to get their work done.
As per Don MacPherson, a partner at Aon, notes in the article, "Particularly in large organizations, there are barriers to employees getting things done," he says."It has an effect on employee engagement."
We see these barriers all the time when we begin working with clients on automating their processes. The barriers may include:
- Outdated processes
- Improper technology
- Resistance to change
These barriers prevent employees from becoming engaged with their work and their coworkers largely because so much time is spent in rote work, conflict, and exception handling instead of meaningful, value-adding work.
When business processes are first developed, either organically or through a formal process design project, the goal is to streamline and standardize for the present. This includes the people, roles, organizational structure, etc. Basically, it's saying "based on what we have now, how should the process work?"
Unfortunately, over time things change. People leave, departments shift, roles are redefined and goals change. Unless the process morphs to meet these changes it becomes outdated and out of sync. However, in the absence of a better process, it endures.
The best way to handle outdated processes is by going through a business process management project. This is a formal way of documenting, analyzing and optimizing your processes either across the organization or across your department. In the past, BPM usually meant a long, involved project that attempted to cover all the processes in an enterprise. However, today many companies opt for a less traditional, more nimble approach that takes on smaller parts of the organization, sometimes concentrating on a handful of processes at a time.
For ideas and help managing your BPM project, check out our "Complete BPM Guide."
At Integrify, we always say that our biggest competitor is "email and spreadsheets." Inefficient methods like creating Excel templates and emailing attachments around the company persist because people are familiar with them and they're readily available. However, that doesn't make them the best tools for the job—not by a longshot.
Other tools like ERP, CRM and document management solutions are also used (or attempted to be used) to manage business processes but often they fall short of being truly efficient workflow tools. This is understandable since they were never built for the purpose of managing complex processes, building request forms, automating business rules, etc.
The best tool for the job, in this case, is a purpose-built workflow tool, whether it's a full-fledged BPM suite, a request management system or workflow software. These tools provide specific features that help you design automated processes, whether complex or simple, that can stand alone or connect to other systems. Features include visual process designers, form builders, self-service portals, reports/metrics and more.
Resistance to change
As I mentioned earlier, processes are usually built for the now, rather than the future. In some cases, a years-old process may still be entirely appropriate for the business and there truly is no better way. However, when there is a better way it's sometimes batted back for no other reason than comfort and a need to avoid change.
This is part of human nature and certainly, reams have been written on the subject of change management. In my experience, pushing needed changes comes down to a few simple concepts.
- Getting Feedback
- Building for Usability
- Proving Value
- Checking In
More on these concepts in our blog post "Getting People to Actually Use Your Workflow System."
People will accept change when it's in their best interest to do so. When their best interest marries with the organization's best interest great things happen. For instance, when an employee is freed from tiresome, rote work they can focus on loftier goals that bring greater value to the organization. When an automated process improves accuracy and accountability, employees take more pride in their work and feel more engaged.
Removing the barriers that stunt employee engagement and satisfaction can have a transformative effect on an organization and often it's simply a matter of finding and implementing the right tools for the job.