Business of Well-being

The Art and Science of Employee Engagement - Six Simple Strategies That Reap Real Rewards

The Art and Science of Employee Engagement

How would you react if someone suggested that you get to know your staff by taking one of them to lunch every day until you met with everyone in your department? Would you be willing to meet with your employees one-on-one for at least fifteen minutes to get to know more about them? What about simply showing interest in the people that work for you?

These are some of the approaches utilized by successful leaders with the benefits of greater loyalty, engagement and commitment from their employees. Sound crazy? Are you thinking that you just don't have the time to invest in this? Well, what are your options? Think about it, people don't leave their jobs - they leave their bosses.

When your employees feel that they are a valuable part of your organization, they stay. When they don't, they leave and you risk losing your best talent. Why develop your top talent only to lose them to someone else? By implementing a few simple strategies, you and your organization will receive huge payoffs in your employee retention, satisfaction and performance.

Here are six ways you can take your T.H.A.N.K.S. to the bank:

T = TRUST is the foundation of a productive work environment; without it, nothing else matters. By being transparent and sharing what is going on within the organization - good or bad - employees learn to take the leadership team at face value. An organization's leadership team builds employee confidence by emphasizing mutual goals, sharing corporate missions and values and treating staff members as partners.

Getting feedback and buy-in from employees when implementing new processes also plays an important role in developing confidence in management. Creating a trusting environment is as simple as the leaders of the organization doing what they say they're going to do.

Telling the truth or admitting fault is hard, but it's a big part of building employee trust. When situations come up where they can't follow through with their original commitment, managers need to honestly share what happened, and let the employee know how the situation will be resolved.

A Forbes Magazine article states, "If a manager is ineffective at earning trust - the lack of team performance will speak for itself and turnover will become increasingly apparent. You can't hide if you are an ineffective manager who has trouble earning trust."

H = HELP your staff envision their career path within the organization. A clear and concise career path is one of the biggest factors for improving employee retention. Even if there are not a lot of opportunities for upward advancement, see what you can do to take advantage of the skills and experience your staff members bring to the table.

Schedule regular meetings with your employees to find out what's working for them, and what's not. Create a safe environment for them to share their feedback with you openly. Care about your staff's careers, and they will care more for your company. When you train your employees, you allow them to develop abilities and skills that make them more productive.

Unfortunately, training budgets are usually the first to get cut. This is a mistake. Think about it, if you spend money training your staff, sure they may leave and go somewhere else. However, what happens if you don't train them - and they stay. Make an investment in your team and you'll reap the benefits.

A = APPLAUD the efforts of your team members. What gets recognized gets repeated, so be specific in your praise. Make sure that you are being sincere - your staff can tell when you're not. Catch your employees doing something right and thank them in the moment. Timing really is everything.

Let your employees know how their individual actions are beneficial to your firm. A handwritten note goes a long way in giving your employees tangible "proof" of their contributions. It's important to acknowledge your employees in the manner in which THEY want to be recognized. There are people who absolutely love public praise and others that abhor it.

In their 2012 Mood Tracker report, Globoforce found that "Unhappy employees keep a company's revolving door turning. One major factor in how quickly that turnover happens-or doesn't happen-is recognition. More than half of employees are at risk and 55 percent of workers say they would leave their current jobs for a company that clearly recognizes its employee efforts/contributions.

And those employees aren't kidding - 47 percent of them list lack of recognition or negative company culture as a reason for leaving their last company." When you consider the costs of employee turnover, these percentages are significant - and all comes down to just two words - "Thank you!"

N = NAVIGATE the work/life balance. Whether your employees are dealing with young children, aging parents or anything in between, look for ways you can accommodate how the work gets done. Pay more attention to the outcome than the means of finishing the job. Incorporating flexible schedules, telecommuting, comp time, and other variations of the work day can make a huge difference.

Working within your employees' timeframes helps them to be more productive; they are able to focus on the job at hand and not be distracted by all that is going on in their personal lives. A little known fact is that navigating work/life balance also plays a role in worker safety on the job.

When an employee is preoccupied with issues on the home front, they may not pay as much attention to their job, increasing the risk of serious injury. There is no longer a clear line between our work and personal lives. With smart phones and technology making us available 24/7, it's important that we realize that this issue is here to stay.

Look for ways you can work with your employees when they are going through a time of crisis. The crisis will eventually get resolved, and your employee's loyalty to your organization will be stronger in the long run. Remember those turnover costs?

K = KNOW your staff. When you show interest in, and listen to your team members, they feel more connected to the organization. Meet them where they are: if they are open to sharing, pay attention to what they're saying; if they want to keep their personal lives personal, don't pry.

It can be as simple as noticing a new picture on the employee's desk and asking about it. By asking general questions, in a safe environment, your staff will feel more like a person than just a number within the organization. You'll help to make a positive impression and create a more open culture. There are lots of fun ways to get to know people on the job.

One of my personal favorites is an icebreaker called, "Two Truths and a Lie." Each person writes down three statements, two of them are facts about themselves and one is a lie (Keep it rated "G," of course). The goal is to see how many people you can fool. You will be surprised by the interesting people who are working for you.

In doing this exercise during a recent team building workshop, we found that two of the kitchen managers that worked for the restaurant had cooked for two different U.S. Presidents. Even the company owners did not know this about their talent on hand.

your team. Look ways to provide reinforcement for your staff. If you see someone struggling with an assignment, pitch in and assist them. Once the leadership team shifts from ignoring employee issues to jumping into the trenches with them, management generates a spirit of collaboration that permeates the organization.

Encourage, energize, empathize, and most of all, lead with your heart. Robert K. Greenleaf first coined the term "Servant Leader" in 1970. He says, "The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being met.

The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those aided grow as persons? Do they, while being attended to become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? "By asking these questions, your management team can discover if they are truly serving their staff in the most supportive way possible.

When your employees TRUST you, they will perform at a higher level. When you HELP them envision their career path, they engage. When you APPLAUD their efforts, they are proud to work for you. When you help them NAVIGATE work and life balance issues, you reduce their stress.

When you get to KNOW them, you make your employees feel significant. And, when you SERVE them, they feel included in the process. Harness the power of T.H.A.N.K.S. and your organization will reap the rewards.

About the Author

As Founder of Grategy, Lisa Ryan works helps organizations keep their top talent and best customers from becoming someone else's. She is the author of six books, and co-stars in two films, the award-winning: "The Keeper of the Keys," and "The Gratitude Experiment."

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