New ideas for engaging employees

McKinsey Quarterly recently announced the winning entries in its Beyond Bureaucracy Challenge, which asked managers to describe practices that better engage their employees, empower them to manage themselves, or provide a perspective on the organization from the outside in. Interestingly, almost all the initiatives were about ways of increasing openness and reducing management control including new approaches to budgeting, decision-making and even office layout. You can read about all seven winners on McKinsey Quarterly,in the meantime here are the three that I found most intriguing…

1. Letting employees choose their next assignment
Managers of a product team at Microsoft offered employees the chance to pick their next assignment, rather than having the leaders hand down those decisions. In order to retain top talent in a competitive market and to boost employee satisfaction, team leaders pitched their projects to employees, allowing them to evaluate the opportunities and chart their own course. Whilst some managers worried that participants would only join teams with the coolest leaders, employees soon realized the potential for greater advancement on teams with fewer members, which helped balance the distribution.

2. Devoting one day a week to personal pursuits
Why should people spend their most energetic years working for an organization’s goals while putting off their true passions until retirement? Brazilian industrial conglomerate Semco, proposes letting employees “buy” one day each week to spend on external pursuits, such as art, athletics, or nonprofit work. Once retired, those employees could trade back the hours for meaningful part-time work in their later years.

3. Developing talent by teaching focus
Executives in the IT department of biotech company Genentech noticed that organizations often invest heavily in assessing talent but relatively little in developing it. Executives created a different type of talent-development program, inspired by the principles of mindfulness and current research on self-motivation. Employees choose a skill they want to improve and then receive guidance and peer coaching on how to focus on a specific goal and develop their capabilities to achieve it.


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