Increase Engagement by Giving Your Employees Challenging Work

One of the biggest obstacles that we face as managers and executives is to find new ways to increase employee engagement. We have check-in meetings, we buy lunches, and we host fun social events, but there is also a less obvious way of engaging employees: give them a difficult assignment.

As an employee the opportunity to “not work” at work always seems appealing, but often times the most satisfying part of a job can be the successful completion of a difficult assignment. Sure we all like to sit around and surf the web at work, but there are only so many videos you can watch of baby pigs being spoon-fed before you get bored.

A survey by the Society for Human Resource management found that the top driver of job satisfaction is “the opportunity to use skills and abilities”.  Beyond that, we believe that employees not only want their skills to be used at work, but they also want to be challenged and given the opportunity to expand those skills. Once you recognize your employees need to feel challenged, we suggest the following ideas:

  • Give them more difficult or more complex assignments that expand on the work that they are already doing. But remember not to overload them or ask them to juggle too many things at once.
  • Invite your employee to work on something that they are not familiar with, or something outside of their regular expertise. Let them learn as they go and teach themselves until they become comfortable with the new project and have mastered new skills.
  • Have them apply their expertise to a new problem or different department. Using their skills to help expand or assist an area that they do not usually work with will help them to feel more accomplished and important.

They main key when challenging your employees is to make sure you are not stretching them too thin. Gauge their workload and if their job has been running smoothly for a while before assigning them a big challenge. And although it will be important for your employees to stop and celebrate their success or just catch their breath, many of them will be ready and willing for their next challenge sooner than you think.


Denis Coleman

Denis Coleman is the founder and CEO of Work Compass, a cloud staff performance collaboration software platform that helps teams align their efforts with strategic goals and continuously improve performance. Frustrated with the disconnect between strategy setting and day to day execution and the lack of tools available to managers to help them be great at their most important function …. Aligning their teams activities with strategic goals and actively managing for high performance Denis spent over 5 years researching strategy execution and performance management practices before founding Work Compass to create a software solution. Denis has held senior roles in Ireland, Czech Republic and North America with high performing electronics manufacturing and professional services organisations for more than 12 years. Denis has worked as Finance Director responsible for €800 million in annual revenues for Flextronics International, Key Account Manager responsible for annual revenues of more than €600 million for Dovatron International and Management Consultant for BDO one of Europe’s most successful professional services providers.

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