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Why Shaking Up the Routine Could Increase Employee Engagement

Amanda Sollman


This post is the second in a series about Tony Robbins' 6 Human Needs (you can find the first post here). The concept of the 6 Human Needs is one of our "4 Cornerstones" and is taught in every training+coaching program, including The Thriving Leader, Millennial Mastermind and Agribusiness Relationship Mastery Experience. You can learn more about those programs here.

If you've worked in the professional world for any amount of time, you've probably heard from someone (or maybe you've experienced it yourself) that they took a new job "because they got bored" in their old one. If we aren't given new projects, allowed to work with new people, or given a new standard of execution, it's easy to get bored and feel like you do the same thing every day. Even if it was exciting on the first day of the job, the same tasks will be incredibly dull by the time their six-month review rolls around.

While it's important for employeees to know that they're going to have a job tomorrow or a year from now (that's that Certainty piece I talked about last week), it's also important to make sure that you're constantly challenging them to stretch their strengths and try new things.

variety as a basic human need

Renowned personal development expert Tony Robbins writes about six human needs that – after reliable access to food, water, warmth and rest – are critical if we are to feel a sense of personal fulfillment and accomplishment. Those needs include:

  1. Certainty
  2. Variety
  3. Significance
  4. Love and Connection
  5. Growth
  6. Contribution

Over the course of six weeks, I'll be breaking each of these needs down and diving into how you can apply these concepts to the business world. Last week I talked about Certainty, so up next...


Robbins describes Variety as "the need for change, stimulation and challenge" and it can be accomplished in any number of ways, depending on the employee and what type of variety they seek.

variety and employee engagement

Take a minute to think about the role you're in currently (or maybe even a previous role, if you're fairly new to this one). What was your energy like on your first day on the job? It was probably pretty high! You were meeting new people, learning new tasks and skills. Chances are you were pretty excited and engaged with your work.

Now, think how you felt after even just a few months in that role. You were probably getting used to the tasks. You started seeing the same people every day. Things began seeming a little more routine.

And you probably were ready for a new challenge.

That's the power of Variety.

As we get more comfortable with our responsibilities, situations and communities, we start to get a little complacent. Now, that doesn't mean you have to change jobs or companies. But it does mean that you want to "shake things up," so to speak.

If you don't give employees Variety in their role, you will fall prey to the "I'm bored" phenomenon – where people disengage from their work because it's no longer interesting. Maybe they start missing details because they stop paying as close of attention as they once did. Maybe they start taking more vacation days because they'd rather be anywhere than the office. Maybe their attitude is just kind of crappy.

Those are all signs that it might be time to inject a little Variety into their day.

helping employees experience more variety

If you want to increase employee engagement among your team members, here's a few ideas for adding some Variety:

  • Put them on a team or in a work group with someone they like, but don't get to work with very often. They'll get to build new relationships within the organization and learn from the experiences of others.

  • Take a look at their strengths and then identify opportunties for a challenge. Do they have "Developing others" as a strength? Have them teach a teammate about a new app or encourage them to take a younger sales rep out on calls with them. Do they have "Creativity" as a strength? Share a challenge with them that you've been struggling with, and ask them to come up with five possible ways to solve it. "Detail Orientation" or "Efficiency" as a strength? Ask them about their ideas to improve a company process that they think isn't going well. Using your strengths in new and different ways can be a great way to add Variety to someone's role and push them to grow their skills at the same time in a way that energizes them.

  • Give someone the opportunity to attend a conference that they wouldn't normally go to. Get them out of the office and learning in a new environment.

  • Create a "job shadow" program between different departments. For example, have someone from marketing ride along with a sales rep for a day. Or have someone in accounting work with your operations manager. This is a great way to change up the routine AND get people out of the silos of their department (building empathy for another person's role).

  • Increase your expectations. Are your salespeople easily making 20 calls a week? Set a new goal of making 25 or 30 calls a week. People will often rise to the expectation you set, so – if they're hitting goals easily – it may be time to raise the bar.  

Increasing the Variety that employees experience can have a huge impact on their level of engagement in the workplace. It can also help you identify those with a high potential for leadership or advancement within your company, by seeing how they handle a challenge or new situation. If you can constantly be looking for ways to shake up the routine, you will be a better leader – and a better organization – for it.

Have other suggestions for adding variety for your team? Leave them in the comments!

Photo by RhondaK Native Florida Folk Artist on Unsplash

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