Managers need to make work more motivating and engaging, Curtin researchers say
The Sector > Workforce > Leadership > Managers need to make work more motivating and engaging, Curtin researchers say

Managers need to make work more motivating and engaging, Curtin researchers say

by Freya Lucas

October 04, 2019

Those leading and managing a variety of teams, including teams working in early childhood education and care (ECEC), play an important role in motivating their employees at work, researchers from Curtin University have found. 


Managers who drive initiatives which make work more motivating and engaging are more likely to achieve better results in the workplace, researchers said, pointing to their findings which showed that poor work design (the process by which specific elements of a job role are designed, assigned and carried out) continued to be a problem in workplaces around the world and could be worsened by rising unemployment rates, underemployment, automation and precarious work.


In an ECEC context, a poor work design example may be that one educator is assigned to change nappies for the duration of their shift. Not only would that employee be exposed to greater hygiene risks, this assignment also exposes them to an increased risk of repetitive injury, isolates the employee from their peers, and does not recognise the rights and dignity of the child who may be unfamiliar with the carer changing their nappy. 


Another example may be assigning an employee with bend and lift challenges to work in a nursery space, where more bending and lifting is required when compared with working with children of an older age group. 


Recently published in Human Relations, the Curtin research investigated whether senior managers who led work redesigns across whole organisations or departments improved individual and organisational performance.


Lead author Dr Caroline Knight noted that roles which offer autonomy, social support and feedback can be more motivating for employees, leading to positive outcomes such as increased job satisfaction and wellbeing, as well as improved work safety and work performance. 


When poor work design is present, she said, employees feel strain, resulting in burnout, poor wellbeing and increased absenteeism from the workplace.


“Our research found that senior managers who design work to be more interesting and motivating, who give their employees more tasks and more responsibility, and the ability to make their own decisions, are more likely to see improved performance in the workplace.” Dr Knight said. 

“We also found that managers who value their employees’ opinion, give their employees the opportunity to contribute to the design of their work, and build strong relationships with colleagues and co-workers, will help create a sense of purpose and belonging to the organisation, allowing employees to thrive in their roles.”

Professor Sharon Parker, a co-author of the work, hoped the findings would positively influence workplace performance, as they encouraged motivation, on the job learning and quick responses.


“Organisations and senior managers should be looking to redesign work that can improve both the wellbeing and performance of their team, moving the world towards a society in which decent work exists for all” she said. 


Professor Parker cautioned the need for managers to ensure that initiatives are applied on a case-by-case basis, as some may need to be targeted at those who are most likely to benefit, also considering the appropriateness of each initiative and how it may impact their employees and their roles in the team.


The paper, titled, ‘How work redesign interventions affect performance: An evidence-based model from a systematic review,’ can be found online here.

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