A key to successful team projects is high team engagement. Below are five simple ways to improve team engagement early on in the project.

1. Create Meaning

One of the most important factors affecting motivation in team members is the feeling of meaningfulness. This does not mean that goals need to be life-changing, but the individual contribution should feel important.

A simple solution is by demonstrating how valuable each of their contributions is to the overall project. Most projects should contain inherent meaning for the projects team. Setting clear goals and making sure team members understand their roles to meet project outcomes contribute significantly to producing meaning.

However, by ignoring and dismissing ideas, while also removing ownership of the project, meaning can be depleted.

In terms of motivation, there are really two types; reward and punishment; and autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Reward and punishment work well with monotonous work, while non-routine and conceptual work require autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy within a work role facilitates employee creativity while establishing a perception that their contributions are highly valued. Autonomy can also increase accountability as members take responsibility in decision-making. This will increase engagement in the overall outcome of the project. Next, mastery provides the feeling of accomplishment and can be achieved within projects through allocating tasks that have varying degrees of difficulty.

2. Start Engagement Before the Project Starts

Allowing input of any caliber by the employees prior to the commencement of a project will result in higher engagement. This closely relates to the discussion around meaningful work. They will already feel their contribution has been valuable before the project starts, giving them a running start full of positive energy and motivation. One way to achieve this is through involving employees in brainstorming sessions prior to a project start. Not only will this improve engagement, but will also bring different perspectives that may not have been considered until further into the project.

3. Offer Continuous Support

A PMI Pulse survey from 2016 found that having an effective executive sponsor was the top driver for project and program success. There are multiple reasons for this.

Firstly, they can connect the project to the company’s strategy. Projects lose access to vital resources, employee engagement and are often canceled when they no longer fit with the overall strategy. Secondly, executive sponsors have the experience and authority to clear roadblocks, make swift decisions and champion the project to remain a top priority. Knowing that an executive supports the project demonstrates its importance to the members of the team. This support should start during the inception of the project to maximise the benefit.

4. Communicate Daily

In general communication is important, but when trying to increase team engagement, it’s vital.

During the planning and forming stages of a team project, progress can often feel slow. It is therefore important to celebrate progress. Research has found that a team member is 76% more likely to have a great workday when progress has occurred. This conclusion is important as the research also argued that the positive aspects of a great work day can positively affect consecutive days.

Being able to have access to different people when needed can be the difference between progress and being held back. This sharing also includes learning from difficulties and successes. Instead of ignoring problems or punishing members for failure, problems should be dealt with as they appear. If they cannot be overcome, learn from them to prevent reoccurring failure in the future.

This communication is spurred by a manager’s enthusiasm and motivating the team members through respect, encouragement, emotional support and affiliation. What this means is being able to connect the members through a shared vision and commonalities, provide encouragement while highlighting the importance of the work, being empathetic and recognizing and acknowledging the effort contributed.

5. Minimize Daily Hassles

Not surprisingly, daily hassle can have a negative effect on team members and how they work. Setbacks and not proactively handling problems will create frustration and annoyance.

Removing daily hassles also means eliminating all toxic situations in the team. These are situations where team members feel disrespected, discouraged or antagonized. These nuisances make work feel less meaningful, demotivating individuals and affect the final success of a project. Therefore early in the project, it is important to minimise these effects.

If you’re interested in how to improve teamwork why not check out “How Idea Management Will Take You Further” or how idea management works in teams.