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Why Employee Engagement is Crucial

Sharon’s October Dynamic Business Article has gone live!

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel” ― Maya Angelou

A well-known entrepreneur once said to me, “If a business owner can’t keep the members of their family happy and engaged at home, how can they expect to keep their employees happy and engaged at work?” Although my immediate response was “ha, good luck with that”, I also acknowledged that job satisfaction and employee engagement are for me, just as they are for most business owners, front of mind. We both agreed, however, that it’s difficult. Very difficult.

Now, I personally don’t buy into maintaining the happiness of my staff, just as I don’t buy in to keeping all my family happy  at least not all at the same time. The reality is that life is a series of ups and downs and the workplace is absolutely no different.  It’s how we deal with adversity and challenges ― not the good times― that usually makes and shapes us.

However, like most well-intentioned business owners, I have a damn good crack at nailing employee engagement. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn’t. Even tools such as professional development courses, social clubs, a relaxed view on sick leave, flex-time ― all positive in their own right ― don’t, in isolation, always lead to greatest rewards for employers in terms of employee engagement.

So, how do you keep your team engaged and happy? I’ve been in the workforce ‘long enough’ to have worked across three continents, have three children and, during my time as an entrepreneur, hire approximately 200 people from, probably, more than 1000 interviewees.

My main tip is to get to know your team as people and understand what makes them tick so you can engage and help them. The sooner you can get to know your employees (and they have to allow you to get to know them, which is easier said than done) you can work towards ensuring not only the success of the business, but the individuals too. The 1 on 1 approach is high up on my agenda. The trick, of course, is for you both to remain authentic in the communication, so the truth is being exchanged and dealt with.

Why is it important to pursue this? From all my years of employing and managing individuals, I have seen clear reasons why it’s important to have employees who are engaged and on the same wave-length:

  • They usually keep all the balls in the air on your behalf.
  • The last thing they would do is let you, a client or each other down.
  • They brainstorm solutions to problems for you and proactively create positive change, without having to wait for your say-so.
  • They put into action those things you’ve been meaning to get to but just haven’t found the time for.
  • They are more fun to spend time with.
  • They don’t leave you suddenly but tend to plan their transition to their next role in a way that protects you, their team mates and the business.

As for how to keep team members engaged, I once read a quote by Maya Angelou that said, ‘At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”  Understanding this could be a pivotal moment. Public figures such as Mother Theresa, Princess Diana are renowned for their personal touch and how they left people feeling. It’s a great skill and one we could all review and pursue. How do people feel after every interaction with you?

This isn’t so easy for some business owners who are busy juggling a multitude of tangible problems and pressures and certainly if you came from a traditional working background, where you worked hard and got paid well and promoted. You won’t remember being asked if you were happy, whether your seating situation was OK, or if you wanted anything else for free. I certainly just did well because I was self-motivated. Nobody spent time asking me what was important to me personally. Today’s workplace is different and it demands a different approach. As a business owner, this is important to understand. The workplace is an ever-evolving maze to navigate. Constant change (as with all other aspects of running a successful business) is part of the deal. You have to evolve with the times.

If you can put a ‘’leave them feeling good’’ philosophy in practice, it is worth taking time (and it does take extra time) to leave people feeling whole, engaged, motivated and confident. Invest the extra time and there is a very strong chance they will stay with your company or at least be straighter with you.  In a busy day, juggling all the usual CEO pressures, this is hard  but not impossible. You just have to find time.

There is exponential joy in providing those you work alongside with the ability to take a good look in the mirror and help them find the true value of themselves and realise their potential. Whether it’s the motivation to move to a new city, learn new things, change careers, achieve work-life balance, kudos, reputation, strive for ever higher standards or just get a foot in the door. These are my most rewarding moments when I’m able to create environments where my team can grow and experience things that extend their worth.

My final observation is that its best to hire people you like and respect and who have similar core values you both recognise. The fact remains that if people are going to like being around you (however challenging things, or you, or they become) the journey will be easier to navigate.  For me, after 21 years in business, this is key.

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