How Pet Projects Nurture Employee Engagement


Research for the 2018 SCALE revealed that 78% of employees feel disengaged. Employee engagement is a critical predictor of organizational success, and according to Gallup, slipping employee engagement is costing companies around half a trillion dollars annually.

To combat disengagement and rekindle employee interest and productivity, competitive employers have made it their top priority to boost employee communication, corporate culture, and their team members’ sense of purpose. Keeping employees feeling engaged and valued is to empower them with a project they can call their own, from beginning to end. Productivity experts recommend encouraging employees to spend approximately 10% of their time nurturing a “pet project,” which can be any initiative, enhancement, or best practice that might be beneficial to your company. Pet projects have been found to not just boost engagement, but also lower stress levels, build camaraderie, and boost overall team morale.

  1. Pet Projects Promote Creativity. We have all heard the phrase “job burnout,” that sense of mental, emotional, and even physical exhaustion some employees feel when their enthusiasm for their job turns into boredom, frustration, or even dread. Providing employees creative outlets that give them opportunities to do something meaningful, useful, or even fun has been known to revive employee engagement. Examples of creative projects include developing campaigns to increase customer satisfaction, or employee self-care initiatives that show your support for your employees’ well-being.
  2. Pet Projects Make ‘Small Wins’ Possible – and Visible. It’s human nature to want to feel valued and successful. Many companies recognize top performers periodically, but victories of all sizes are won all the time, and while managers and executives may not think it’s a big deal, it is for the employees. Whether it’s implementing a small change (reducing paper waste by creating a better printing protocol or a better recycling system), or promoting community involvement (organizing a volunteering group, or a 5K for a cause), giving employees the freedom and support to make a difference in and outside of the office can be a simple yet powerful strategy.
  3. Pet Projects Foster Growth and Enrichment. In these days where planned obsolescence is a given, we are constantly challenged to learn new techniques, processes, and even ways of thinking. While there may be some chances to do this within our individual scopes of work, exposure to something new and different is often more exciting, more of a ‘treat’. Encourage employees to venture beyond their comfort zones, and be ready to support ventures that, while not directly job-related, directly impact their job satisfaction. It could be a workshop for design software, attending a convention, or even rounding up a team for an investment presentation from your 401 (k) administrator. No matter what our age or where we are in our careers, any opportunity to grow, learn more skills, and, yes, earn more, is a great motivator.

Going after your goals as a company is easier when your employees are in step with you. The more you encourage them to work on a project under their own terms, the more likely it is that their ideas might come to fruition.

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