What is a sense of accomplishment?
We can probably all recall the big accomplishments of our careers, moments like closing a large deal, finishing a challenging project, getting a promotion. When it comes to employee engagement, however, it’s not just those special achievements that matter.
Routine, smaller, accomplishments that simply let us know we’re doing a job well are even more important. In this article we’ll explore why, and we’ll look at what managers can do to improve engagement by creating a sense of accomplishment.
Why is it important?
Self-determination theory (SDT), one of the most important studies into human motivation, explains that feeling competent at a task has a big influence on our motivation to do it. When we feel incompetent or unsure of ourselves, we’re less likely to approach something with enthusiasm.
Ryan and Deci, the psychologists behind the study, found that unexpected positive feedback increases our motivation to complete a task, because it fulfills our need for competence.
It’s also a crucial part of helping employee’s self-actualise, the final step of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, another famous human motivation study.
How to encourage a sense of accomplishment
Break down goals
Who said you can only celebrate at the end of a big project? Research by Amabile and Kramer, based on analysing work journals, revealed the importance of minor impacts during larger projects. If you divide targets into discrete steps and show how much you value each mini-success, you create more opportunities for accomplishment.
Construction contractors really understand this with their work naturally falling into stages. Think of your project as having a foundation, walls, fittings and finishing touches; each is an important building block towards your end goal, so celebrate them all with a praise-led staff huddle, coffee session or whatever your employees love most.
Look to strike a balance between routine and new tasks for each member of your team. Routine will enable individuals to build that sense of competency, doing what they already do best, while new tasks are designed to fulfil their need to grow and learn new skills.
Develop employee influence
Everyone uses creativity to carry out tasks, even those of the mundane, light bulb-changing variety. Employees will benefit from being given the freedom to apply their best skills to the task at hand. We know it can be tempting to micro-manage. But resist that urge and instead, encourage employees to find a route towards their goals that works for them. You’ll find their confidence and competence both soar.
For example, ask a retail manager to increase sales, but support them to do so how they choose. Depending on their skill-set they might re-merchandise, try new products, or run e-marketing campaigns. The manager feels their expertise is valued and tackles the challenge confidently.
And if this ends up with them belting out My Way at the Christmas karaoke, go with it – they’ve earned it.
Encourage a culture of feedback
The majority of teams sweat the small stuff every day, so make sure each and every one of your employees are taking the time to recognise each other’s efforts – and feel comfortable doing so. When an employee is on-boarded, make sure to raise that both positive and constructive feedback is very much welcome at all levels of the business.
Free-range managers who engage with routine business can pick up on hard work and give on-the-spot feedback. This will create a culture of praise from the top down. If you expect your managers to lead this, coach them on giving feedback properly.
An aside – customer-facing teams typically get more feedback (often from external clients) than internal service departments. This means the folks in HR can be a little left out, so here’s a shout out to all of you. You’re doing a grand job.