9 Employee Engagement Tips to Kick the New Year Off Right

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Today's Question: Here's a New Year's resolution we can all get behind: Solve the employee engagement problem plaguing organizations across industries and around the world. A tall order for sure, but January is a time for optimism, especially following an almost universally decried 2016.

In the spirit of starting 2017 off right, we asked the experts for their best employee engagement tips. Check them out below:

1. Find a Leader Who Cares About Engagement

First of all, an organization needs a leader who gets the importance of employee engagement.

There are a lot of components to engagement, in the sense that, yes, an individual manager can help their employees become more engaged, but if that manager is not being rewarded and the culture doesn't reward them or acknowledge them, then that manager is going to find there is no benefit to doing it.

— Peter Rosen, HR Strategies and Solutions

2. Appreciate Your Employees – All the Time

My top tip for employers would be that you can never say "thank you" or "I appreciate you" enough. Part of knowing that your job matters and is pushing the company as a whole is knowing that what you do is valued by your boss, and there are a multitude of ways to do this. Providing incentives, occasionally buying lunch for the team, giving small gifts around the holidays, employing fun ways to keep people engaged in the company's social aspects – all of it builds a teamwork-oriented instead of individual-oriented atmosphere and keeps each member of your workforce involved in the company's well-being.

— Reagan Toal, Federal Brace

3. Conduct 'Stay Interviews'

Arrange stay interviews with current employees. You can learn a lot from people on their way out, but you can learn even more actionable information from employees who are choosing to remain in your company.

— Brandon Carter, Access Perks

4. Meet Your Employees' Basic Needs

As a business owner and HR professional, I have seen the same basic issue over and over again when it comes to employees checking out: Basic human needs going unmet.

There are six basic human needs that drive all human behavior: certainty/comfort; uncertainty/variety; significance; love and connection; growth; and contribution. The issue is that employers assume that just because they are paying their employees and that it is a place of business, they do not need to fulfill these needs. The common trend is "leave your needs at the door when you show up for work." The contradiction here is obvious: People cannot just turn off the core mechanism that drives all of their behavior.

Focus on meeting basic human needs, and you will have engaged humans instead of disengaged robots who do just enough not to get fired.

— Pavel Vosk, Business Consultant and HR Professional

5. Pay It Forward

My favorite tip is to pay wins forward. Whenever we have a win in my business, we do something to help young people, usually immigrants or kids from the poorer areas of our community. My employees are happier at work because they know we help others.

— John Paul Engel, Project Be the Change

6. Align Your Employees' Personal Goals With Company Success

As a small business owner, I enjoy the luxury of knowing my employees more closely than most managers, and there is one single thing I did a few years ago that elevated GlobaFone from prior years: I met with each employee and learned about their personal goals. Buy a house, pay for college for three kids, learn about investing for retirement, investing for retirement – these are the actual goals. Then I tied these financial goals to company performance, in a couple of robust years paying out $200,000 in bonuses to five employees.

By aligning employees' personal successes with that of the company, we all win. They have achieved or made progress on their goals, and as the owner, I have profited from our common goals. When you take the time to learn about employee goals and help them achieve them, the progress is astounding.

— Lou Altman, GlobaFone

7. Give Your Employees Autonomy

Over the past five years, I have launched and scaled multiple online businesses with mostly remote teams. My current startup, PriceOye.pk, is no different. The majority of our team works out of office. Employee engagement is particularly challenging in such cases, since you don't have the benefit of rich face-to-face communication.

We make up for it by giving our team members more than the usual amount of autonomy in how and when they complete their tasks. Though there is great temptation to micromanage, we avoid it by giving clear task descriptions and sharing an idea of what we expect; the rest our team members handle on their own. We don't force them to be online all day, but do expect them to respond quickly if anything urgent comes up (which is rare since we plan in advance). This works especially well if the management has a good process for work and communicates clearly.

— Awais Imran, PriceOye

8. Spend Time With Your Employees

Many C-level folks assume their employees want gold watches and expensive vacations, but when you ask employees what they want most, the most frequent answer is time. Employees love to see the CEO visit their office. They would die for lunch with the V.P. of their department, and they would be so much happier and more efficient if their direct manager spent more time with them.

— Suz O'Donnell, Thrivatize

8. Implement Personal Training Budgets

One benefit we implemented to show we appreciate our employees was personal training budgets. Everyone has a budget to spend on their own development. If they identify a course they would like to do or a conference they would like to attend – and as long it is within their budget and can be used to benefit them within their role – it will be approved.

— Sam Boothroyd, Rhymer Associates Online Accountants