Summertime Productivity: The Power of Employee Engagement

In the summer, the temperature may be rising but productivity is on the decline.

Many factors contribute to this, including heat, lack of vacation and summer time distractions. Turns out, even the setting of an office AC can cause friction between team members! Of course, with most of us working from home, the distractions loom even larger: kids at home, sunshine coming through the windows, those beach selfies from your best friend.

According to Cornell’s Productivity Survey, 25% of workers across the US feel less productive during June, July and August than in the rest of the year.

Summer, with its alluring call to relaxation and enjoyment, also poses a challenge for businesses in maintaining the productivity of their workforce. That being said, it also presents an opportunity to shift the focus towards employee engagement, a key ingredient in sustaining productivity in the sunny months.

Employee engagement and productivity, although often used interchangeably by management, are two distinct facets of workplace dynamics. Productivity is primarily an outcome, a measure of efficiency, gauging how much work employees accomplish within a given period. On the other hand, engagement is about the employees’ emotional investment and commitment to their work and the organization.

Highly engaged employees exhibit enthusiasm, feel a sense of belonging, and align their work with the organization’s goals. This emotional commitment can lead to increased productivity, but importantly, it’s also associated with other benefits, such as lower turnover rates, better customer satisfaction, and improved employee wellbeing.

Contrastingly, a focus on productivity alone might lead to temporary spikes in output, but without engagement, this is often unsustainable. The pressure to continuously produce can result in burnout, negatively impacting the employees’ health, job satisfaction, and ultimately, their long-term productivity.

In the relaxed months of the summer season, companies can harness the power of employee engagement to sustain productivity. Strategies such as granting task autonomy, clarifying the significance of each employee’s role, diversifying tasks, and providing regular, balanced feedback not only promote productivity but also fuel engagement. These elements foster a sense of ownership, purpose, variety, and continuous learning – all of which are crucial for engagement.

The Job Characteristics Model proposed by Hackman and Oldham in 1976 still effectively aids businesses in fostering engaged and productive teams, even during the alluring summer months (even decades after it was published). It states that employee engagement depends on ensuring their roles encompass these five essential elements:

  1. Autonomy: Grant your employees the freedom and autonomy to execute their tasks. Encouraging self-direction instills a sense of ownership, often resulting in better-quality work. It’s been noted that employees who have the liberty to exercise initiative tend to express higher job satisfaction and psychological wellbeing, in contrast to those constrained by overly controlling superiors.
  2. Purpose: Enable your employees to comprehend the significance of their work. Research reveals that employees are driven by tasks that hold relevance and potential to influence others within or outside the organization. A study by Adam Grant showed that fundraisers who understood the direct impact of their work were more motivated and successful in securing donations.
  3. Understanding the Bigger Picture: Enlighten your employees about how their work contributes to the broader organizational objectives. Just like a puzzle becomes more engaging when the final picture is known, employees find greater satisfaction when they understand how their work aligns with the bigger vision.
  4. Diversity of Responsibility: Entrust your employees with a variety of tasks that require different skills. This not only facilitates the application and enhancement of their abilities but also maintains their engagement, avoiding the pitfalls of monotony. As philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer rightly pointed out, the enemies of happiness (and motivation) are pain and boredom.
  5. Regular Feedback: Regularly provide your employees with constructive feedback. More frequent than annual reviews, this ongoing feedback helps employees understand their performance, highlighting areas of improvement and success. This approach can bolster employee motivation and self-confidence.

The key to summer productivity (and beyond), therefore, lies in an organizational culture that values and promotes employee engagement. Such a culture creates an environment where employees are not just working for a paycheck but are genuinely invested in their work and the success of the organization.

Bottom line: while productivity is an essential aspect of business success, it’s the engaged employee that remains the driving force behind sustainable productivity – in summer and beyond. By understanding the distinct yet interconnected roles of engagement and productivity, businesses can better navigate the challenges of the summer season, fostering a workplace that is both productive and fulfilling.

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