In a call centre for a major American bank, there were vastly different levels of productivity among the teams. Some teams just seemed to be able to handle calls so much faster. But why? They were all operating from the same script, working the same number of hours with the same equipment. Turns out the difference was attributable to how they took their coffee breaks.

Managers of the poor performing teams had scheduled individual coffee breaks for team members – to cut down on socialising. Consequently, there was little sense of community or opportunity for knowledge sharing. When they changed that practice to having team wide coffee breaks and encouraged people to share ideas not just about work but life in general, productivity skyrocketed. When the practice was implemented across all the call centres for that bank – profits rose by $15 million.

This research was done by M.I.T’s Human Dynamics Laboratory. Director Alex Pentland, has also investigated how ideas and information spread through an organisation. He and his team have used ‘collaboration wearables’ to analyse the correlation between idea flow, collaboration, information exchange and performance. In an article called “Betting on People Power” published in Scientific American Mind [1] he reports on findings that show that a team’s success had little to do with their collective IQ but rather it was about how they could optimise communication and engagement within the group.

ENGAGEMENT! Get this right and you increase productivity, decrease ‘presenteeism’ and deliver great outcomes. Get this wrong and you are constantly frustrated!

Engaged employees are more productive, innovative and satisfied. Organisations with engaged employees are more profitable and effective. Engaged people give more discretionary effort, are more loyal and deliver higher levels of customer service.

Engagement levels are an accurate predictor of organisational success. And yet research from around the world suggests that in most organisations less than 30% of employees are actively engaged. In the United States Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity.

It is widely acknowledged that the two critical factors in an employee’s level of engagement is firstly the quality of their relationship with their manager and secondly the quality of the relationships with their colleagues. When people leave a job, often what they’re REALLY doing is leaving the people.

Here are a few suggestions for increasing engagement:

  1. Generate ownership and buy in through ‘co-creation.’ People support what they help create;
  2. Help employees to understand and appreciate why they do what they do and not just what they do. People are looking for purpose. The workplace that provides that is more likely to have engaged employees. Studs Terkel Pulitzer Prize winning author said, “Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than Torpor”;
  3. People are more engaged when they feel connected to their colleagues. Get them talking to each other;
  4. Provide people with the opportunities to improve and develop their skills and capabilities so they can advance their careers; and
  5. People become more engaged when they feel that their leaders have a genuine interest in them. So, if you are a task focussed leader – take an interest! Put your Emotional Intelligence on steroids and actively listen.

Engagement is not a set-and-forget process.

Engaged team members don’t magically stay that way indefinitely without ongoing support and input. As with any relationship – ongoing nurturing is required. Contact me if you would like to discuss how to boost your team’s productivity and engagement.

“Irena’s program has provided increased knowledge for our team, built their skill and also their confidence to challenge their perceptions and change their behaviour. She has an ability to relate to and engage with everyone in the group when presenting, bringing in everyone’s contribution.  I am already seeing great results in altered thinking, and application of the learnings.   Thank you, Irena, for your contribution in helping our leadership team master collaboration for dynamic business outcomes.” S. Gillanders. CEO. Hy-Performance Fluid Power Pty Ltd.

My half day Solution Centred Teams workshop is ideal for teams wanting to increase collaboration and communication for even more effective outcomes. Talk soon.

Until next time, 

Dr. Irena.

[1] Volume 27, No. 5. September/October 2016

Dr. Irena Yashin-Shaw


E: irena@direnayashinshaw.com

Make a time to chat with Irena

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And we are LIVE!


I’m EXTREMELY excited to share that following on from the success of our sold out event in March 2019, we are hosting the 2nd Australian Intrapreneurs Summit in Brisbane, 2020.


“Enabling Intrapreneurialism through Technology & Diversity”

Check out the website and have a look at our fantastic lineup of speakers and panelists here.

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Dr. Sarah Pearson.

Chief Innovation Officer & Chief Scientist

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade




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My book “INTRAPRENEUR” is available to order online.

“Dr. Irena Yashin-Shaw has cleverly captured the future of leadership in this ground-breaking book. She shows how creative and enterprising individuals – INTRAPRENEURS – are transforming their organisations from the inside out. A must read for leaders aspiring to unleash their inner entrepreneur to change the world.

– Allan Pease. Chairman of Pease International and author of 18 top ten bestsellers.

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