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Ownership Begets Engagement

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Is it busy-work when you steer your car?

Still hard to beat the old Soviet work posters for sheer motivational energy

Still hard to beat the old Soviet work posters for sheer motivational energy

My client needs to keep operators engaged over an entire eight-hour shift. Steve explained how training goes: the first part of the shift passes with new operators entirely engaged. All the moving parts are fascinating and mesmerizing. But after the first three hours, or the first five hours, when the process seems trouble-free, boredom sets in. Nothing unusual happens. Operators start to look away.

It’s when the boredom sets in that danger starts to rise.

Despite redundant built-in safeguards and automated alarms, the process could easily suck in a digit (for instance) and then an arm and then well, it can quickly become a nasty business. Or more likely, a small knot escalates very swiftly to ruined product.

So: vigilance. But how to help employees stay engaged?

It turns out there are all sorts of small tasks required to run the machine. Routine checks performed on schedule, walking up and down the football-pitch sized machine can help ward off those nasty moments. Those nasty moments are not inevitable.

Keeping people engaged is a challenge because it is a much broader topic than just for operators at a manufacturing plant. We all deal with it.

When I teach I try to change things every 15 minutes. From discussion to exercise to small groups to video. “Let’s move our desks together for this next section,” I might say. And just getting up and moving is sufficient to bring to get a college student’s mind back from the Bahamas (if only for a moment).

There are certainly tricks that can seem to encourage engagement. But longer-term, I would argue that ownership is the best secret-sauce for building engagement. When the operator feels she owns the process, that it is hers, she watches very carefully. Same with any employee: let them own their process from inception to outcome, and they become very engaged. Take away their ownership with micro-managed short orders, and you lose the engagement. My most engaged students are those who understand how the assignments and class discussions mirror the real process outside of class. Their understanding and perspective on the small tasks helps them own the process.

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Image credit: via Copyranter

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Written by kirkistan

July 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm

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