Three Secrets of Employee Engagement for Small Business

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By Beverly Crowell

“I own a business with less than 10 employees.  Since I can only offer so many promotions due to my size, other than raises and bonuses, what are some ways I can keep my employees engaged?”

There’s great news for small business owners. While it’s true that pay matters, it often isn’t what matters most to employees. In fact, much of what does matter won’t cost much at all. In a recent study by Career Systems International and The Jordan Evans Group called “What Matters Most,” employees surveyed said the top five reasons they stay at work and stay engaged are:

  1. Exciting and challenging work
  2. Supportive manager/great boss
  3. Being recognized/valued/respected
  4. Career growth, learning and development
  5. Flexible work environment

If you look at the top reasons employees stay at work, it’s easy to see that many are areas where small business owners can make a difference. Even so, you can’t do it all.

Here are three secrets of employee engagement that will go a long way toward engaging your employees.

1. Don’t assume. Every employee is different. Henry Ford once said, “I hired an employee and got a person.” If you want to know what inspires, motivates and engages your employees, simply ask. Don’t wait for them to walk out the door before you ask what would make them stay. Ask now and ask often. In the book, Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay, the authors suggest you schedule regular stay interviews with employees. Not sure what to ask or where to start. Try the following question, “what makes for a great day at work” and then really listen to their answer. It will reveal the reasons they stay and what might make them leave.

2. Once you know why they choose to stay, don’t let that information fall by the wayside. Do everything you can to provide them what matters most. By doing so, realize that engagement is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Don’t worry about being “fair” and doing the same thing for every employee. One employee may want to learn something new on the job while another is happy doing the same thing every day.   The one thing you should practice for all your employees equally is asking, not assuming. Don’t leave the disengaged employees out of the loop either. They may not leave and their disengagement can be viral – spreading to everyone they come in contact with.

3. Finally, remember that all employees want to work in a place where they feel valued, respected and appreciated. Take time out of your busy day to say good morning; recognize an employee when something is done well; and show respect as a great boss by asking what matters most to them, listening openly and doing what you can to meet their needs. Put down the smart phone, step away from the desk, and spend time with your employees.

Ultimately, the biggest secret about employee engagement is this – it’s doesn’t have to be hard or cost a lot of money. It’s common sense stuff, uncommonly practiced. Put your common sense to work – talk.

Check out this article by Advance Systems which provides ideas on how to engage your staff at each stage of the employee lifecycle.

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