Meetings and performance reviews don't energize employees. For that, you need something a little more ... random.
As companies grow, they create routines and processes. Management seems to think this will make their companies more efficient. It might, but routines and processes also sap employee energy. And fast growth, and high rates of change, are all about employee energy.
How can you energize employees? With random moments - praising employees on the spur of the moment, doling out spot bonuses, or unexpectedly paying for a nice dinner out, for example. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but the routine you probably need the most is one to create the random moments that will help energize your team. Here’s how it works:
Energy is key to growth. Energy is an internal force that propels employees to move forward and keep moving forward. Energized employees have a high sense of urgency to get things done. We can measure energy and urgency, and we can manage it.
Energy is not engagement. Engagement leads primarily to retention. Unfortunately, high retention rates do not equal high performance. I'm not saying engagement and retention are bad, but our research shows that they do not necessarily lead to high performance. It’s entirely possible to have a staff of highly engaged people, with no intention of leaving your company, who are nonetheless doing all the wrong things.
Random actions improve employee energy. Routine, bureaucratic processes may improve fairness, but they do not positively impact energy at work. Think about it. Do more meetings make you feel more energized? More performance reviews? Of course not.
Random moments energize. Purposefully creating random interventions helps increase a sense of urgency and our energy to move forward. The minute your practice or intervention turns routine, it starts to have diminishing effects on energy.
I witnessed just this, and was able to use it to my advantage, in my position as founder and CEO of eePulse, a technology- and data-driven human resources consultancy. Like many of our clients, we had to figure out how to re-direct employees who seemed to insist on working on low-priority items. Weekly meetings and weekly reporting didn’t work, but unexpected Skype calls, in which I asked employees to stop what they were doing and tell me what their priorities were, worked wonders. As long as I didn’t do this regularly - as long as it was random - it was well-received.
THERESA WELBOURNE: Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne is the FirsTier Banks Distinguished Professor of Business and Director of the Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She also is the founder, president, and CEO of eePulse a human capital technology and consulting firm.