By Shayna Hodkin

Happier customers. Increased sales. Higher profits. “Lifer” employees.

It only takes one thing to guarantee all of this: employee engagement.

What’s employee engagement all about? It’s not about happiness (ping pong tournaments), and it’s not about satisfaction (interesting, challenging work). Engagement is about emotional connection — it’s building a deep, genuine connection between your employees, their work, and your mission.

An emotionally involved employee, simply put, works better: they work harder, they set their standards higher, and they give more of themselves. Getting someone to this point, however, isn’t easy; to connect the employee to the company, the company has to connect with the employee.

How can you do this? Happy you asked.

Work from the top down

Employees won’t create culture on their own; it’s a message that has to come from upper management. For your employees to feel connected to their workplace, they have to feel like they’re a part of something genuine — and that’s not something that comes easily.

To make employees feel like a part of something bigger, the company has to be accessible from the top down – meaning employees have to have a channel that allows them to communicate with upper management, the company values have to be consistent and accessible, and the company’s mission has to be something deeper than profit.

Create a positive environment

We all want to feel good about what we do.

That means, we want to go to work and feel like we’re working towards a goal that we’re personally aligned with, as part of a team that values us and needs our support.

To keep employees feeling indispensable, create an environment that rewards involvement. Praise freely and frequently, give credit for great ideas, and allow employees to publicly acknowledge each other.

Cultivate honest dialogue

No employee should be afraid to speak their mind.

Feeling appreciated isn’t just about getting recognition for good ideas; it’s about having veto power. If an employee doesn’t agree with a concept, or thinks they could do it better, they should feel the same freedom to contribute to the conversation as if they supported the idea.

Engagement is predicated upon transparency — and lack of fear.

Emphasize transparency

Employees don’t want to feel like employees. Especially as the economy leans further into encouraging young entrepreneurship and freelancing, we all want to feel empowered in our careers – especially when it comes to how much we’re getting paid.

Demand radical transparency. Make your employees accountable for themselves, your team leaders accountable for their teams, and your upper management accountable for their departments. Let your employees be a part of the big things happening around them, and make sure they feel connected to their role.

Save work for work hours — but live your mission.

Assuming your company isn’t a hospital, no one’s life is at stake if you don’t answer an email. You can save your work for work hours.

Let your employees come in and leave at normal hours — but make sure their mission stays with them.

Committed employees aren’t just into their work; they live their work. They have a purpose, and their job is getting them there. They believe in what they do, what their team is working towards, and how they can work together to get there.

Building relationships between your employees at all levels is what will keep them motivated through whatever challenges they’re going to face. Hire employees who are more than their jobs — they’re ambassadors.

Create a culture that your employees want to take home with them.

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