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Engaging Your Employees

Employee EngagementMotivating employees to go that ‘extra’ mile can be extremely difficult for any organization. Arguments can be made on whether the ‘carrot and stick’ approach will result in the necessary motivation desired.

For years, organizations have strived to more fully engage their employees to create an environment where workers emotionally connect to their employer. After all, engaged employees are known to provide critical contributions to organizational performance and success through consistent brand delivery, exceptional customer service, innovation, and day-to-day commitment to product and process excellence –  all greatly affecting the organization’s bottom line.

Understanding what is most important to employees within the workplace is often overlooked. Being able to intentionally manage this is absolutely crucial. At engagement’s core is the fundamental notion that most employees want to make a difference by contributing within their workplace. Most employees bring a wealth of skills, such as personal experience, knowledge, agility, creativity, discipline and two large intangibles – passion and motivation.

Employees choose to use or withhold their skills based on whether their organization allows them to exercise such skills and desires at work. For example, allowing employees the opportunity to provide input on a given project can be powerful, in addition to handing them challenging work that will allow for continuous learning opportunities. Listening closely to what they have to say and involving others to obtain better solutions will allow employees the room to grow professionally.

A good book on employee engagement is “Closing the Engagement Gap,” by Julie Gebauer and Don Lowman, both from the consulting firm, Towers Perrin. Until recently, this book collected dust on my bookshelf for over four years before being rediscovered. Much like an aging bottle of wine, the contents appear to be timeless and, well, satisfying.

The authors suggest five ways to actively engage employees, which are summarized below:

  1. Know Them – Make a sincere effort to get to know employees by using personal touch approaches, such as scheduling small, casual Q&A sessions. Encourage candid conversations with employees, making sure that they routinely grasp the overall direction of the organization to ensure that the message, values and priorities are sinking in.
  2. Grow Them – Establish a flexible, training curriculum that provides opportunities for personalized growth experiences via a mix of learning activities.
  3. Inspire Them – Establish venues to share organizational, team and employee successes with the entire workforce on a regular basis. Foster pride throughout the workforce. Articulate the organization’s products or services and how they impact the overall good for others.
  4. Involve Them – Equip every boss with the ability to show employees how their day-to-day responsibilities ultimately contribute to product quality, customer experiences, the organization’s brand and the overall profitability.
  5. Reward Them – Encourage employees to recognize the contributions of their colleagues. Publicly reward performance and valued behaviors. Understand what employee’s value most, and design benefits and compensation packages that balance those values.

Finally, much like we learned from our 2007 Iowa Employment Values Study, it’s really about the sincere relationships we develop with others, and relating in a genuine way that allows each employee to know they are respected and valued. This gives them a sense of purpose and meaning with their work. An employee’s sense of well-being will go a long way in the engagement process at any organization.

This is good, vintage stuff – just like that glass of aged wine!

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