The key issue in employee engagement always has to be whether it is driving performance and productivity in your teams and your organisation. High performing teams is a topic that is currently, if not always, trending within the employee engagement, performance management and general HR arenas. It would seem that high team performance is the target placed on many HR, learning and engagement interventions within organisations.
Why is Team Performance So Important?
The reason why team performance is so important for organisations is simple. The team is the basic unit of performance for most organisations. It is at team level where your organisation can make most sense of performance figures and determine whether targets are being achieved or not. Digging down to levels below this for performance figures isn’t of interest at corporate level. Individual performance management is usually left to the line management.
Teams are a complex thing. Even though performance is so important, team aren’t resourced with the best and brightest employees. Rather, each team is an entity built to function with diverse roles for a diverse group of people providing a diverse range of skills, abilities, knowledge and expertise. It is this diversity plus the interactions that happen within the team that enables the team to achieve “high performance”.
This is where the concept of individualised employee engagement really comes into play. This is where understanding the role of each individual team member within team performance.
Individual Performance or Team Performance
It makes better sense at a corporate level to have the team as the basic unit of performance. It does not necessarily follow, however, that this approach will also drive teams to becoming high performing teams. To develop high performing teams, we need to develop high performing individuals.
In order to develop high performing individuals, we need to encourage each team member to give their “discretionary effort” to the team cause. We need them to buy-in to team goals and choose to give a bit more. We know that a person has to choose to give this discretionary effort. It is theirs to give or withhold.
Therefore, it is vital that the effort to develop high performance teams starts with the individual. To do this, the organisation and line managers will have to increase both the engagement and commitment of individual team members. In other words, enhance the sense among team members of contributing to the work of the team while also increasing their bond with the team/organisation. This requires both line management and the organisation to connect directly with each individual employee. Technology has made this possible.
Engagement is a Spiral
Engaging individual employees through direct connections increases the probability that discretionary effort will be offered to the team. This choice will spiral upwards to increase team performance. If replicated across the organisation, will ultimately result in a high performing organisation.
In the same way, the sense of engagement also creates a feelgood sensation in the individual team member that will spiral upwards through the team. Engagement is contagious.
The spiral, however, must start at the individual level. This requires efforts made by management to enable this to work its way upwards. It is difficult to start this spiralling process effectively at either the top or middle of an organisation.