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5 Ways to Participate at Work: Then vs. Now

Lacey Grim | July 2, 2020

Once upon a time, the characters in the average workplace knew their roles: Boss is king and his word is law. Everyone is to do as they’re told, no questions asked. In those days, employee participation generally meant focusing on your tasks and keeping your thoughts to yourself.

Fortunately, times have changed. Companies have discovered the value of nurturing an engaging work environment. Today, teamwork often runs all the way to the top, with leadership placing value on their employees’ ideas and insights. You should expect to be heard and involved at work. And that, it turns out, is good for everyone. Parul Shorey, an executive leader at eBay, believes that, “Speaking up and participating can get you just as far as training and ‘book knowledge.’”

Consider these 5 Then vs. Now opportunities to get involved:

Then: Suggestion box

Drop in your feedback. Someone might read it. Someday!

Now: Digital survey

Far beyond a one-size-fits-all questionnaire, insightful leaders spend effort developing surveys that get to the heart of what employees like you might be experiencing and opening the door to issues that may not be on their radar at all. And the insights don’t end there. Well-planned surveys can prompt robust team meetings. Once a potential growth area has been put on the table, everyone involved can come together to brainstorm where to go next. The results are measurable; business blog Bonusly says that highly engaged employees are 3.1 times more likely to say their organization takes their feedback seriously than actively disengaged employees.

Then: Annual review

A detailed list of an employee’s weak areas. Who would feel inspired by that?

Now: Open communication channels

Sure, detailed reviews are still in use, but they’ve changed. Managers have come a long way in genuinely flipping “weaknesses” into “growth areas.” Instead of feeling attacked, you can participate in coming up with ideas to close gaps in your abilities. And there are other healthy changes:

  1. Frequent and casual feedback helps you learn in real time, which is far more productive than being ambushed with a concern from five months ago.
  2. You have a voice, too. Today, employees are often asked to review and provide feedback to their own management.

Then: Boss as BOSS

Remember that monarchy example? That’s right. No one collaborates with the king.

Now: Boss as coach

Today’s manager is a team player who is invested in your growth. Unlike performance reviews, which focus on the past, career conversations with your manager are a tool specifically for building your future. Beyond how to get your numbers up this quarter, participating in these conversations could help you fill your manager’s shoes one day. Show up prepared, with specific growth goals and development questions in mind, to make the most of your boss’s expertise.

Then: Exit interviews

How many valuable employees have spent an entire exit interview thinking, “Oh, now you care about my frustrations?”

Now: Stay Conversations

Why let problems build?  Ongoing conversations are part of a healthy company culture, and a reminder that your voice matters. When you’re asked to share your thoughts, your participation will make your workplace more engaging to you. Look for helpful ways to share your opinion and get involved. You’ll feel empowered, trusted and respected.

Then: Annual company picnic

Although grilled burgers and hotdogs on a sunny afternoon are always a good time, gathering the entire company together may be off the picnic table for a while.

Now: Impromptu digital connecting

Team building is more important than ever. Small groups are easy to assemble, so don’t be shy about suggesting a virtual happy hour. If your team has a topic to discuss, you could suggest a late-afternoon start time with a casual catch-up to follow.

When your employer makes efforts to enhance your participation, you become an integral part of the business. That elevates your engagement and makes you want to stick around. Just remember, participation is a two-way street. If you’re asked for your views through a survey or in a team meeting, there’s only one person who can make you contribute – and that’s you.

Interested in a career at Paycom? Apply today!

About the author
Author picture, Lacey Grim
Lacey Grim
As a sales enablement marketer for Paycom, Lacey Grim supports the sales team and sales trainers by developing marketing materials to meet their goals and strategies, including email campaigns and collateral for product launches. A business administration graduate of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Grim served as a marketing specialist for Bank of Oklahoma before joining Paycom as a recruiting marketer. With a love for a challenge, she is excited for where her Paycom career will go!