Why Employees Are More Efficient When They Feel Challenged
You see it all over the internet. Advice blogs, business sites, and management studies fill the search results. Articles like “Four Simple Ways to Challenge Your Employees” or “You’ll Never Believe What This Company Did to Challenge Their Employees.” While many of these articles, blog posts, studies, and expert opinions hold merit and offer excellent advice, most fail to answer one simple question: Why? Why is it so important to challenge your employees?
The truth is, the idea of a challenging— though not overly-difficult— a job that stretches one’s knowledge and improves one’s skills is a long-standing piece of the American Dream. Employees long to find a job that takes what they know and increases it, keeps them involved on a daily basis, and gives them definitive goals rather than monotony.
Three benefits arise when you challenge your workforce: Engagement, Commitment, and a Sense of Value. However, the results are not simply a checklist of results— they are three major requirements to achieving an efficient and productive workforce.
When employees are challenged, and these three benefits steadily increase together, you find yourself with a happy workforce, a productive work environment, and ever-increasing success. The ripple of a challenge becomes a wave of efficiency that can lead to a tsunami of growth in your company.
Ensuring your employees are given adequate amounts of challenging projects also ensure that they remain engaged and active in their work.
Tedious and menial tasks grow dull after a while and do not occupy the mind, whereas more difficult and rewarding tasks require an employee’s full attention to find a proper solution. It gives them something to actively think on and learn from, rather than just a routine to slug through.
This active engagement passes through to active production rather than passive. With passive production, employees are often bored, working at a minimal pace, or just “slaving through the day.” An active production process means the employee is all in and more likely to find a solution quickly. They have a set goal instead of a basic status quo and feel a desire to strive for achievement in their job. These employees are less likely to fall prey to distraction, as the challenge at hand will call on their focus and fill their time until the solution is found and the next challenge presents itself.
You want to know that your employees have someone to turn to if a tough problem presents itself, but you also want to encourage a larger level of independent problem-solving. It can be a tough balance, knowing when to aid and when to encourage self-aid— you do not want your employees to feel abandoned. One way to balance this would be to use an employee time management system or technology. Systems and technology can be leveraged to provide employees with a level of responsibility and organisational support, as well as helping you as the employer keep an eye on their time and progress.
Business commitments are a two-way street. You want an employee who is committed to the job and the company; the employee wants a company that is committed to them. By constantly challenging your employees, you are displaying your commitment to their personal development. Challenging projects often inspire new skills and information gain, allowing your employee to excel and potentially progress through the company.
Commitment inspires engagement, which in turn inspires efficiency, but it requires open communication. You need to work with your employee, follow up with them, and prove that you are interested in their development. Ask for their feedback on work process. Talk with them about ways they feel they could improve and set them on tasks that can challenge the area in which they wish to improve. In the event of a failure, help the employee learn from the mistake and overcome it in future projects. These tricks and more can work to help your employee understand that you are committed.
A Sense of Value
Another buzzword in successful business is “Value.” Employees want to feel valued and appreciated for their work. Few people in the workforce actually enjoy thankless, menial jobs in the long run; they are more likely to stay in a job where they feel that they matter. Valued employees often indicate a higher employee retention rate and increased productivity. So how does one inspire a sense of value in their employees? While there are, admittedly, several answers to that one question, this article will specifically focus on one: challenge them. As we have discussed above, challenged employees are often more committed and engaged, and all three of these benefits lead to a sense of value.
By engaging your employee, you show that you value their talent and want to involve them. By committing to your employee, you show that you value their career development and skills and wish to help them improve. Challenging your employee inspires all of these, and also adds the cherry on top that you value your employees’ services enough to trust them with this specific project.
It All Starts with a Challenge
Most people in the business world are familiar with the analogy of the ladder of success. The idea is that an employee starts on the bottom rung and climbs their way up. This analogy has been used as inspiration for the graduate on greeting cards, employees on motivational posters, and more. The idea sparks the idea of overcoming challenges and striving to achieve. Employees want to know that you have a figurative ladder prepared for them.
If you want a productive and efficient workforce, then you must commit yourself to challenging your employees to inspire engagement, commitment, and a sense of value in your work environment. Remember that one of the keys is communication: do not be afraid to ask your employees if they feel challenged and —if not— how you can improve. Follow-up with questions on how they feel they could improve, and ways they would like to be challenged.
Eric Czerwonka Co-Founder BuddyPunch