Boss Lady

Why projects are your most powerful source of engagement


We’re entering an era where exceptional businesses will be the product of exceptional workplaces. Not just compliant workplaces filled with obedient, productive workers, but a working environment where employees are actively and meaningfully shaping the business for the future that it aspires to. These exceptional workplaces will be driven by the effectiveness with which you engage and motivate your people. Strategic projects provide HR managers within an opportunity to be intentional about creating engagement and motivation because they give people future-focused work to be engaged in and a meaningful purpose to be motivated by.

Engagement is more than fulfilling a social contract with your people

It has become clear that engagement takes more than bean bag chairs, foosball tables and trendy in-house cafes. Engagement research over the last 15 years has consistently shown that there is a direct link between an engaged workforce and performance-based cultural traits. Organisations with high levels of employee engagement out-grow, out-perform and outlast other businesses. For example, Gallup’s 2015 Employee Engagement Assessment found that companies in the top quartile in engagement out-performed companies in the bottom quartile by 10% on customer ratings, 21% in productivity and 22% in profitability.

This begs the question: Does engagement drive better business performance or do high-performing businesses elicit more engagement from their employees? The answer is a resounding YES! To create the sort of exceptional workplace that drives the business forward, the organisation needs to not only engage its employees in a powerful way, it also needs to direct that engagement towards work that makes the business stronger.

Engage your people in the strategic journey

By giving employees the responsibility for turning strategic intent into operational reality you connect them to your business purpose – you give them work that has meaning. Strategic projects are the ideal vehicle for undertaking this journey because they turn workplace benefits for employees into performance benefits for the company.

Projectifying the business’s strategic execution activities, not only shapes the business for the future, but also creates the opportunity to grow highly-engaged and intrinsically-motivated teams.

The projects we’re talking about are not big transformational undertakings. They are targeted initiatives that make meaningful progress toward your business’s strategic objectives. These projects have very specific engagement attributes:

  • Short-duration, high-priority initiatives. This translates strategic goals into something that your people can relate to and, as a result, allows them to more readily incorporate this work into their operational activities.
  • Target a single, strategic outcome. This allows your people to clearly see the strategic contribution they’re making. It also makes progress visible and meaningful progress is the single greatest workplace motivator.
  • Undertaken by people closest to the strategic opportunity being pursued. By empowering the people that have the greatest knowledge of the business area you’re trying to create, enhance or improve, you get better strategic outcomes. Your people will be more invested in the change because they’re creating that change.

Strategic projects can take many forms, but to deliver both the workplace and performance benefits they should focus on shaping the business’s future and be of high strategic value.

HR managers can play an essential role in using projects to create an exceptional workplace

HR professionals, who are often asked to improve employee engagement and increase workplace motivation, can utilise these insights by:

  • Giving employees ‘a voice’ in defining the projects that will create strategic improvement opportunities – reinforcing their connection to your strategic purpose.
  • Helping develop the leadership skills necessary for frontline staff to lead projects and managers to support and enable the project work, rather than direct it.
  • Ensuring that team members selected for projects are both deeply satisfied and personally challenged by the work.

It’s in these conditions that people will not just do their best work, they will aspire to be their best.

About Jeff Schwisow'

Jeff Schwisow is a Melbourne-based strategy specialist, speaker and the author of Projectify - How to use projects to engage your people in strategy that evolves your business. Jeff helps businesses use the power of projects to engage the very best of its people, consistently delight its clients and constantly evolve to generate exceptional business results. Find out more at

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