Motivated employees make a difference to a company’s bottom line. Keeping employees engaged takes time and effort, but the payoff can be those employees who are willing to go that extra mile.
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“The big value for an employer is that when employees are engaged, there’s a ripple effect of benefits that include productivity, employee satisfaction, creative thinking and good communication,” says Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor.
Employee engagement is also about believing in a company’s values and products. “It’s about creating opportunities for people to think, feel and act on the brand,” says Marie Chan, senior director of employee engagement at Siegel+Gale. “Make sure you translate that purpose into clear values so that you can drive the desired behavior that you want out of your employees.”
Knowing how to do this takes time and commitment. It’s a continuous process to go from understanding and awareness to action and advocacy, but the end results are engaged employees. Experts provide tips on how to motivate staff.
Walk the Talk
“If you’re a leader and manager in an organization, the first step would really be to ‘walk the talk’,” says Chan. “People really learn by example.” Employees want to see a commitment to the purpose coming from the top, and the leadership’s actions set the tone throughout a company or group.
“Really engage with the team in open dialog,” says Alison Hooker, EY Americas Chief Talent Development Officer. “[Managers] are the ones who allow teams to speak openly about the quality of work and technical questions people have, but it also means allowing people to talk about career aspirations.”
Regular team or one-on-one meetings are a great way to start the dialog. “Provide greater transparency into what the entire team is doing, what priorities need to be shifted and how everyone’s work matters and relates to someone else’s,” adds Dobroski.
Recognize Good Work
Experts suggest that managers send weekly emails to their group about that week’s accomplishments, as well as calling out and thanking individuals for their good work. “Recognition is always great, and you celebrate the small successes,” says Chan.
Sending handwritten notes to individuals when something big happens go a long way and make people feel like they matter. “It costs nothing and takes very little time,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of Human Resources at career website Indeed.com.
Provide a Sense of Purpose
Employees become more engaged when they know the goal they’re working towards and understand their role in delivering that purpose. “It’s not just the values,” suggests Chan. “It’s about the purpose of your company and the impact you’ll have as a company beyond what you sell.” An employee’s personal connection and responsibility for their work is key.
Help employees translate values, mission and purpose by using real metrics that can be tracked. “Make sure performance reviews and any kind of metric are aligned with the purpose,” says Chan. “As long as it’s measurable and tangible, people will know what to do.”
“When the time off to do volunteer work is tied explicitly back to the purpose, then you have a positive halo back to your brand and company, which creates engagement and commitment,” says Chan. Do this by organizing volunteer opportunities that use your company’s products and services to help others.
Experts suggest discussing an employee’s potential career trajectories within your company so they’re aware of the available opportunities for advancement. “A huge signal for employees to know their employer cares about them is that they feel they are getting a chance to learn and grow,” says Chan.
Have regular conversations to help an employee track their progress. “Figure out what it takes to help people move into the roles they’d like and provide access to classes that will help them get there,” advises Wolfe. Also, ask employees to work on certain projects and give them exposure to senior management when possible.
On-the-job training is also integral to employee development. “The most critical thing is to insure that when people show up for work, that they’re learning every day and are in that continuous learning mode,” says Hooker. Monotonous tasks can become learning opportunities if a manager takes the time to ask probing questions and explain the bigger picture.
Know Your Employees
“Recognizing your employees during special times in their life by sending a card for a birthday or work anniversary to their home, for example, or planning an evening out on a special occasion keeps the employee engaged,” suggests Wolfe. A nice by-product is that their family and friends know that the company cares about the employee, and they become engaged too.
When an employee knows they can talk about their ideas and potentially change a business, they feel like their ideas matter. “Having a CEO who’s willing to talk to people creates that environment where people feel that they can make a direct impact in the business,” says Wolfe.