Every good people manager will know the importance of staff engagement within a business, especially in a high stress environment like the credit industry. Every year we all face the struggles of that ever tightening budget, revenue targets and client retention levels. These are a just few things we are required to take into consideration every day. While trying to concentrate on the experience of the customer and looking after the people working for you, we are participating in two completely different battlefields. Hard work, right? Well, it shouldn't be.

As we shift into the silly season we should start considering the next year ahead. Now I know what you're going to say! You're still trying to negotiate Christmas with a smile on your face and 400 family members invading your lounge room for lunch on the 25th December.

But trust me you won't regret walking into a positive and infectious environment moving into the New Year and 2016 in all its glory. Why not make the change to encourage productivity and manage a high performing team?

Richard Branson and other business royalty alike will agree, they have even spoken about the importance of their teams and owe a lot of their success to the people that surround them.

They also have the view we need to treat our colleagues and team members like capable and smart adults. In doing this they will make better decisions that will benefit the business.

Australians work an average of 60 hours a week from the age of 22 – 65. This is over 14 years of our entire lives in the office! While you're digesting that information think about how much harder it would all be if the team you worked in wasn't a cohesive and functioning unit? You will consistently fight a losing battle and none of this is good for the business you work for, or the people involved on the ground.

Staff engagement isn't something that should be left up to the manager. This is the responsibility of everyone in the company. From the CEO making those sometimes difficult decisions, to the people a business can't live without, which is every single other person in the company. Regardless of the size of the teams, this effects everyone in the exact same way.

Keep in mind our teams usually work better when they feel supported and respected by the company that pays their salary. We all have a common goal and we are essentially on the same team, so why would working against each other be a productive environment for anyone? Driving the employee engagement can be hard, but when done correctly the result is extremely satisfying for both yourself and the team you're working with.

To get all this going there are a couple of very easy things everyone can do to start moving in the right direction.

Have your team set their own values. Take the time to listen to each individual and what is important to them to succeed. Your role in making sure this is an effective exercise is to steer the conversation towards tangible results. Encourage brainstorming, no matter how wild it may seem. Encourage everyone to think about their initiatives and how they can execute these ideas successfully. Consider leaving them alone to discuss the different ideas.

If you have given them clear guidelines of what you are expecting, and trust them, you will be surprised with what is presented back to you. Then, as a group, decide on the three most important and tangible ideas. Plan how you're going to implement them and place times frames around it. Be realistic with this, you don't want to under deliver.

There are a few different benefits that come from this exercise. Your team will feel valued and listened to, as well as gaining a sense of accountability and responsibility. When humans feel like they are making a difference and their opinions matter, they automatically participate more willingly.

Action Plans are a vital part of making sure you can track and keep ahead of what you are doing. The corporate world is constantly changing, being able to keep track of where everything stands is paramount to the success of a business. Delegate tasks to everyone to play on their strength as an individual. Have you got one team member that is exceptional in a specific task within the workplace?

Can they transfer this knowledge to the rest of the team? Why not have them work amongst themselves to organise a small training session? Then follow up on the progress of these items in regular pulse checks. Once everyone is satisfied with the outcome, everyone can agree on the next item to tackle. Repeat this and don't stop.

This exercise isn't designed to change company policy but to encourage participation and responsibility, demonstrate trust and move in the direction of a team that work to the best of their ability to achieve an overall goal.

And the goal for all of us is to be successful, both individually and as a business. Remember that we are only as great as the team we work with. And from one manager to another, it worked with my team and it can with yours. So what will your 2016 look like?

Stacey Feaver is State Collections Manager for Austral Mercantile Collections Pty Ltd www.australmercantile.com.au

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