If we had to condense our employee engagement philosophy into a few simple principles, these are the ones we would highlight. Think of them as The Five Commandments for engaged, productive and happy employees. Investing in learning how to create an engaged and happy workforce is critical to the success of every business. A recent study at Warwick University showed that employee happiness leads to a 12% growth in productivity. When your employees are happy in their job the companies’ retention rate is higher, attendance is higher, tardiness is reduced, individuals become more focused on their work, their success and the success of the company they work for.
1. Treat employees as individuals.
Employees are people with lives. They have kids, a spouse or significant other, friends, hobbies and a life outside of work. They have needs, desires, goals and ideas. The more you know the people who work for you, the better you will understand that individual’s behaviors, driving forces, work patterns, job preferences and learning needs. Build relationships by inquiring about their families, get to know their favorite activities, discuss a current event, music, or maybe where they have traveled. This insight is a powerful in helping communication as well as a motivation tool and not just for you, but for the employee as well. When an employee notices your genuine interest in them as a person and not just an employee number they gain a sense of belonging. We feel happy when we are somewhere we feel we belong and we are more productive and engaged.
2. Treat employees as adults.
We all want control over our lives and our work. Control means making decisions. Acknowledge this in your employees and use this powerful motivator to empower your staff. When an associate asks a question, don’t jump to answer. Don’t assume that simply because an employee asks a question they don’t have an answer. In many cases, this is a learned behavior. Employees are conditioned to ask. Turn your answer into a question. “What’s your opinion?” “How do you think this should be done?” By turning problem-solving back to the employee, you send a message that says, “You can do this”. The manager/employee dynamic can take on many different forms, teacher and student, parent and child but never forget first and foremost the relationship of adult and adult. Giving your associates the respect they deserve is the first step in receiving respect in return.
3. Spur employee engagement through involvement.
Encourage employees to ask, “why”. Questioning means involvement. When employees cease to ask questions, they cease to care. Employee engagement comes from being involved. Effective managers know when their people are asking questions, they are thinking about their work and the company. Effective managers also encourage healthy criticism and disagreement. They actively listen, and then ask for recommendations or solutions. Ownership begins with inquiries. Seek their advice on particular challenges. Ask for ideas about an upcoming event. Involve them by asking them to interview job candidates.
4. Make employees partners.
People won’t give their best and experience full employee engagement if they don’t understand the how and the why of their efforts. Of the companies we surveyed, 86% of managers and associates did not know their company’s general financial performance. Up to 65% of associates thought that the difference between an item’s purchase price (wholesale) and retail price was net profit for the company. Many training programs do not address the financial basics of business. Worse, many companies do not discuss profits and losses with sales and service associates, except as it relates to individual productivity. When employees are treated as partners in business, a sense of ownership, involvement and responsibility sets in. Pride in contribution fills a powerful personal need.
As with any good business relationship, the partners share in the rewards of their contributions. When associates come through for you and the organization, the best reward is to acknowledge them. Show appreciation and empathy when it’s warranted. Inquire about their dreams and career goals and ask how you can help them achieve them. Recognize when extra effort is put forth, and offer appreciation, acknowledgment and in some cases a reward.
Building alliances and paying attention to top performers sends a clear message that you value and reward those who do a great job. This is critical to achieving excellent leadership and retaining top performers. Great employees who aren’t appreciated will find someone who does appreciate them if you do not. Many managers spend more time with poor performers because they demand more attention. Unfortunately, the message is interpreted incorrectly; do poorly, and I’ll spend lots of time with you to improve your performance.
5. Respect employees.
Respect is one of those basic requirements in management – without respect for your employees your chances or it being reciprocated for you and/ or the company is unlikely. It really does all boil down to treating others the way you would want to be treated. Uniqueness in people should be celebrated. Differences are encouraged. Opinions are considered. When you give respect, you get respect. I once asked a sales associate to define respect. Her answer was simple: “I know it when I feel it, and I know it when I don’t.”
Employee engagement isn’t easy, if it were we wouldn’t continue to have only 32% of the workforce engaged. Listen to your internal customers (your employees) as diligently as you listen to external customers. Listening is all-important. The automatic assumption is employee happiness is about their monetary satisfaction with 89% of managers believing employees leave for more money. This assumption is false, only 12% of employees leave for more money – the number one reason they leave is they are unhappy. When people voluntarily leave their job they don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. In order for you to maintain employee engagement you need to develop an engagement strategy. Being engaged in your employees will breed an environment for engagement and happy, productive associates. No great idea ever enters the brain through the mouth!
Terri Kabachnick’s Latest Book
Own What You Do and Love It Too: For Anyone Who Works for Anyone
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