By Donna Fluss
Employee engagement is an important topic to me. Prior to becoming a consultant, I spent fourteen years building and managing contact centers, customer service groups, and other operating departments. I’ve seen firsthand the power of engaging my employees. The most successful and truly enjoyable departments I ran were those where my staff was actively engaged in all aspects of the business; they came in every day knowing they made a difference to our customers and the company. (In one credit card shop, this was reflected by an annual attrition rate of less than 7 percent.)
Employee engagement is frequently viewed as a soft topic. It is often overlooked because there is always something more important to do. I may be a contrarian, but I believe engaging employees is one of the most valuable and powerful investments managers can make. And when it’s done well, it can have an amazingly positive impact on the operating environment, employees, customers, and the bottom line.
Consider Zappos. There is a reason they are number one in customer service. Their job isn’t just to sell shoes and other retail products. Their job is to thrill their customers with outstanding everything: products, service, and anything else the representative feels is necessary to help customers, and management leaves it up to them to decide the meaning of help. These employees are empowered, and that is the key.
Here are some proven approaches for engaging employees:
- Listen to Your Employees: Invite employees to share their recommendations, and really listen to what they say. These are the people who are doing the job every day, and it’s likely that they’ll come up with ways to do it better. Create an environment that welcomes new ideas and demonstrates this by applying staff input and giving credit to the people who made the suggestions.
- Involve Them: Invite staff to get involved in activities that go beyond their primary job function. This encourages people to do more than just the basics, which is desirable in employees. Create an operating environment that welcomes innovative ideas and actions.
- Support Them: Be there for your employees, just as you want them to be there for you and your department. This means everything from just listening to them when they need a friend to supporting them when they come up with new business ideas. Help them succeed.
- Excite Them: Communicate your department’s direction and plans to your employees. Share what is happening and get them excited about the changes; help them see the opportunities that change and innovation can give them.
- Invest in Them: Give of your time, just as you want them to do for your department.
- Develop Them: Create a warm and welcoming operating environment that gives employees an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.
- Challenge Them: Give employees new opportunities; help them succeed and grow to the next level.
- Recognize Them: Recognize, thank, and reward employees for doing a great job; show your appreciation when your staff does outstanding work or comes up with a great idea.
- Celebrate Them: Celebrate every employee success, and create a positive and fun operating environment so that your staff enjoys coming to work.
- Respect Them: Show employees respect for the work they do.
- Compensate Them: Pay people for doing their jobs; use pay-for-performance to motivate and recognize staff for doing more than necessary.
- Promote Them: Whenever possible, promote from within the department; this goes a long way in demonstrating that your department and employees are appreciated by you and your senior management.
This is a partial list of proven best practices for engaging your employees. I invite you to send me ideas and suggestions you have used to engage your staff and create an outstanding work environment. Please email your suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[From Connection Magazine – Jul/Aug 2014]