While it may be your job as a marketer to look outwards towards the customer and discover what really turns them on and keeps them engaged with your brand, your job as a wise leader or manager is to look inward.
By: JoAnna Brandi
Are your employees engaged in their work, excited about your mission and delivering the ‘go the extra mile behavior’ to make your customers happy, loyal, and coming back?
Overwhelming evidence suggests that the more engaged and happy employees are in what they do, the better their performance and the better your profitability.
The key is to have managers and leaders who are skilled at creating employee engagement, loyalty, and happiness at work. Happy employees are more productive, more creative, and more likely to deliver that discretionary (extra mile) behavior your customers always seek.
Are your employees giving your company 'their best’? Do they believe that what they're doing is important? Do they feel appreciated? Do they show up for work each day with passion and purpose?
A 'red flag' should go up if you answered "no" to any of those questions. Why? Managers who aren't taking care of their employees are missing out on significant cost-savings and profits.
I've been spreading the word about this for over 30 years, but only in the last few years have I been able to 'rest my case' on a growing body of research. For example:
- Gallup International reported that businesses in the top 24% of employee engagement had less turnover and remarkably higher percentages of customer loyalty, profitability, and revenues. One Gallup study shows engaged employees 21% more productive! HBR tells us that happy employees are 31% more productive!
- Extensive studies by HayGroup revealed powerful links between employee engagement and productivity, which ultimately impacts the bottom line.
- According to workplace values expert John Izzo companies that are in the top 10% in employee engagement also enjoy 50% higher customer loyalty, 44% above average profitability and 29% higher in revenue!
For business leaders in companies of all sizes, the writing is on the wall: You can make and save money by keeping employees engaged and happy. It's never been more important for business leaders to stop dismissing internal customer care as 'soft and unimportant'.
Let's face it, employees are not just humans 'doing;' they're human beings. Today's managers must make it a priority to get to know them so that they, in turn, can provide whatever's needed to keep their teams fully engaged in what they do. This creates wins for everyone. With that in mind, here are nine management tips for creating and sustaining employee engagement and creating happiness:
1) Let go of any negative opinions you may have about your employees. Approach each of them as a source of unique knowledge with something valuable to contribute to the company. Remember that you are co-creating the achievement of a vision with them. It helps to keep a list of the positive aspects and strengths of each of your employees. Communicate the “good stuff” frequently. Of all the steps, this could be the hardest one if you are harboring feelings and opinions for a long while and have not been able to bring them up.
2) Make sure employees have everything they need to do their jobs. Remember when you started a new school year, and you'd prepare by getting all new school supplies? Why not build just such an opportunity into your department simply by asking each staff member, or the team as a whole, "Do you have everything you need to be as competent as you can be?" Remember, just as marketplace and customer needs change at daily, so do your employees' needs change. Since COVID has entered our lives needs have changed. Don’t assume you know what they need NOW.
3) Clearly communicate what's expected of employees — what the company values, vision and mission are, and how the company defines success. Employees can’t perform well or be productive if they don't clearly know what it is, they're there to do and the part they play in the overall success of the company. Be sure to communicate your expectations and to do it often. When you add something to new to their “to-do” list make sure you ask if they need guidance managing their now changed priorities.
4) Get to know your employees — especially their goals, their stressors, what excites them and how they each define 'success.' I'm not suggesting you pry too deeply or start 'counseling' your team members. What I am suggesting is that you show an interest in their well being and that, when appropriate, you do what it takes to enable them to feel more fulfilled and better balanced. So many people are now managing childcare and schooling as well as work. Keep that conversation fluid. Since COVID it’s become a leader’s responsibility to pay attention to the mental health and well-being of all employees.
5) Make sure they are trained — and retrained — in problem solving, conflict resolution and communication skills. These critical skills will help them interact better with you, their teammates, customers, and suppliers. It's common sense: better communications reduce stress and increase positive outcomes. Most speakers and trainers are well equipped to work virtually now and more than willing to split a half or full day program into smaller “bites.” Consistent training over time rather than one big gulp is often absorbed better too!
6) Constantly ask how YOU are doing in your employees' eyes. I know it can be difficult for managers to request employee feedback — and it can be equally if not more challenging for an employee to give the person who evaluates them an honest response. To get strong at this skill and to model it for employees, begin dialogs with employees using conversation starters such as, "It's one of my goals to constantly improve myself as a manager. What would you like to see me do differently? What could I be doing to make your job easier?" Be sure to accept feedback graciously and to express appreciation.
7) Pay attention to company stories and rituals. Are people laughing at each other or with each other? Do they repeat stories of success or moments of shame? Stay away from participating in discussions that are destructive to people or the organization and keep success stories alive. Celebration nourishes the climate. Do it often! Especially now!
8) Reward & recognize employees in ways that are meaningful to them (that's why getting to know your employees is so important). Remember to celebrate both accomplishments AND efforts to give employees working on long-term goals a boost. Strive for a 5:1 “Positivity to Negativity Ratio.” It’s proven to deliver high performance. Five times more recognition, praise, acknowledgment, affirmation, and celebration!
9) Be consistent for the long haul. If you start an 'engagement initiative' and then drop it your efforts will backfire, creating employee estrangement. People are exhausted and exasperated from 'program du jour' initiatives that engage their passion and then fizzle out when the manager gets bored, fired, or moved to another department. There's a connection between an employee's commitment to an initiative and a manager's commitment to supporting it. A manager's ongoing commitment to keeping people engaged, happy and involved in and excited about the work they do and the challenges they face must be a daily priority.
Ultimately, keep in mind that employees along with customers are a company's greatest assets. Their collective ideas, feedback, and enthusiasm for what they do can help your business grow and succeed. Some people are naturally wired to give their all and do their best no matter where they work. But the majority of people require the guidance of skilled managers and leaders who welcome their ideas, ask for feedback and generate enthusiasm in order to have a sense of purpose and energy about what they do.
Do you energize people with your way of leading? Are you contributing to happiness at work every day?
There’s a great pay off when you do!
JoAnna Brandi is a Speaker, Consultant, Coach and author of 2 books on Customer Loyalty and a gift book “54 Ways to Stay Positive in a Changing Challenging and Sometimes Negative World” which is available for custom printing. She is the creator of online course on Positive Leadership based on the Science of Happiness. You can find her work here. You can find her E-Course here.