The ideas in this post have been inspired by Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed. Make sure to check out my Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed: Summary too!
1. Embrace Their Unique Skill Sets
A good example into allowing your employees to showcase their skill sets was when Google decided to allow a team of psychologists to give workshops to sales and admin staff. Usually these types of roles would have a standardized process, however, in this workshop they were taught to consider how they could play to their strengths and enhance the role that way.
Those who attended the workshop were rated by their managers and co-workers as happier and higher performing individuals, because of this, they were 70% more likely to land a promotion.
By letting their employees embrace their unique skill sets, they enabled their workforce to not only perform their normal duties but allowed them to develop new capabilities to let themselves create an original and personalized job that they excelled at.
2. Don’t Sit On Defaults – Experiment
Michael Housman, a labour economist, aimed to look at call centres and find out why some workers were better performing than others. From his research, he stumbled upon a novel suggestion which at first seems ridiculous, but upon closer examination makes sense. They found that those who used Internet Explorer or safari (the default options) as their internet browser when applying for the job seemed to perform worse than those who used Chrome or Firefox (requires installations).
This seemed to reveal important differences in human psychology. The people who used the default options, were more likely to see the world for how it is and not experiment to see if there are better ways of doing things. Because of this, they would stick to their script and if anything unexpected came up they couldn’t think on their feet to reach a solution.
On the other hand, the workers who stepped outside of the default conventions by installing an alternative browser seemed to perform better because they were more predisposed to move away from the script if required, think on their feet and take unique action to solve unique problems.
Now, you may be thinking this is bashing Internet Explorer or Safari. It’s not intended to be that at all, if people like those browsers because they work for them then stick to it. But this is instead focused on the power of moving away from the defaults. You shouldn’t be scared to let yourself or your team experiment. Don’t stick with a default just because it is there and you don’t want to cause problems. Instead be experimental, try to find what really works best. This trait will shine in other areas of your work too.
3. Embrace Unique Environments
Craig Knight – a former travelling salesman turned academic, and Alex Hasman – his colleague, investigated the differences between a standardized and unique workplace. They created three groups.
The first groups space was minimalist and superficially efficient. It had no character and was instead purely designed as a place of work. There was no artwork, plants or other interesting things to see. Everything in the office had a purpose.
The second group were put into standardised workspaces but with enrichments like prints and plants. This was decided by the office designer and the employees had no say in the design whatsoever. Although it looked more appealing than the first space, it did not speak to any of the employee’s uniqueness.
The final group could completely individualise their workspace. They could choose things like their own artwork and plants and had the ability to configure their spaces to their own states, personalities and preferences. The important point conveyed to the employees for this group was to “make yourselves feel at home”.
When it comes to looking at the performance of each group, first office space performed the worst. The second group saw a 15% increase in productivity over the minimalist space and the final group saw a 30% productivity increase over the first groups space.
By being able to design their own work spaces, the employees felt empowered and more motivated. Although some work spaces aren’t appropriate for lots of additions, even small interventions and letting employees know that they can design their own space can have profound effects.