Engaging project teams

Engaging project teams

Project management learning is influenced increasingly by the importance of engagement.

Dr Guy BrownTenets of engagement such as trust, relationships, communication and collaboration are all part of the behavioural and contextual competencies emerging in project management.

Vodafone defines engagement as “an outcome measured or seen as a result of people being committed to something or someone in the business – a very best effort that is willingly given”. Another major company, BT, believes engagement is “a combination of attitudes, thoughts and behaviours that relate to satisfaction, advocacy, commitment, pride, loyalty and responsibility”. The company claims it is “broader than the more traditional concept of employee satisfaction and relates to the extent to which employees are fully engaged with the company and their work”.

Gaining commitment or engagement, whether between colleagues inside an organization or with wider external stakeholders, requires effort and competence. This is why engagement is increasingly a key part of education and professional education programmes such as PRINCE2®. In the past two years, it is notable that over 60% of Northumbria University London Campus Masters in Project Management final work-based projects or dissertations have been based on this theme - a clear indication of its importance in the sector.

But what are the critical success factors for an engaged project team?

First, having an organizational culture where there is a collaborative and participative leadership style is more likely to drive employee engagement.

Second, it is important that team members have challenging and varied work that uses old and new skills. This includes committing to regular performance reviews, informal catch-ups and a commitment to regular staff development and skills updating. Recognising success and achievements of team members also ensures they feel valued and appreciated for the work they do.

And running throughout this is the need to build good relationships between team workers, especially between employee and manager. This fundamentally requires quality and regular communications to ensure all team members understand the project and organization’s values and goals and how their role contributes to these.

A simple assessment tool would consider the following in your project organization:

  • Vision: Does the project team have a clear sense of the future that engages hearts and minds and creates pride among team members?
  • Opportunity: Does the work on offer provide a chance to grow both personally and professionally, through participation in the project activities?
  • Incentive: Is the compensation package is fair and equitable?
  • Impact: Does the work itself makes a difference or create meaning, particularly as it connects the employee with a customer who recognizes and benefits from the team member’s contribution.

Or we can consider the Ten Cs of employee engagement developed by Seijits and Crim (2006)

  • Connect: leaders must show they value their team members
  • Career: leaders should provide challenging and meaningful work with opportunities for career advancement
  • Clarity: leaders must communicate a clear organizational and project vision
  • Convey: leaders clarify their expectations about employees and provide feedback on their functioning in the organisation and the project
  • Congratulate: exceptional leaders give recognition for strong performance
  • Contribute: good leaders help people see and feel how they are contributing to the organization and project’s success
  • Control: leaders create opportunities for employees to exercise control over workflow and pace
  • Collaborate: great leaders build teams that create an environment of trust and collaboration
  • Credibility: leaders should strive to maintain a company’s reputation and demonstrate high ethical standards
  • Confidence: good leaders help create confidence in a company by being exemplars of high ethical and performance standards.

As such, this brings together the themes of leadership, team working and wider behavioural competence we have considered in previous blog posts. Given the significant impact an engaged team member can have on project success this is why university and professional qualifications, alongside competence frameworks, place increasing emphasis on developing such behavioural and contextual skills alongside the technical skills required by an effective project management practitioner.

See our PRINCE2 section for more information.

Read other blog posts in this series from Dr Guy Brown

The challenges of virtual teams in project management

Creating leadership in Project and Programme Managers

The universal value of project and programme management skills

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