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Employee engagement — what it is and how you can improve it.

Patrick Zuercher
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I just experienced the difference between an engaged employee and an unengaged employee. It once again made me realize how much of a difference employee engagement makes for a business’s success.

Employee engagement is how passionate employees feel about their work, their commitment to their employer, and how much effort they put in every day.

On my way to work, I stopped by a local coffee shop and ordered a coffee to go. The barista was a middle-aged woman with a big smile on her face. When she prepared my order, she told me about the beans used for my coffee and their aroma. She wished me a great day, and I left with a smile as wide as hers.

In my afternoon break, I went to the same coffee shop. A young man, probably a college student, was taking my order. He looked tired and bored. I ordered my coffee and watched him press the button in silence. The only time I heard him speak was when he asked if I wanted sugar with it. I didn’t leave with a smile this time.

To make sure your clients have more interactions like the first one with your company, read on. 

I’ll give you some stats on why employee engagement is so important and how you can improve it in the long run.

Employee engagement is key to a company’s success.

Engaged employees do more for your business than making customers happy.

I’d bet next month’s salary that the middle-aged woman who served me my coffee keeps the equipment cleaner, works faster, is easier to work with, gives more feedback to her supervisor, pours more precisely, and — even more important — is happier with her life.

There is a real war for talent going on. Every industry is suffering, but it’s especially ferocious in high-end fields like biotech, medtech, and digital health.

Companies can’t afford to lose top players.

Retaining employees is harder than hiring, say 63.3% of companies. Those who invest in keeping their employees engaged, and therefore happy, will save money in the long run.

Because those who freely stay at a job that doesn’t engage them won’t contribute to a business’s success. The good employees will seek engaging work elsewhere.

Engaged employees make more money.

Companies with engaged employees are 22% more profitable.

According to Forbes’s 11 years evaluation, companies without a thriving company culture grew 166% in revenue, while those with a thriving company culture grew 682%.

Engaged employees call in sick less.

Once upon a time, I worked at a place where people were treated as commodities. Management let us know that they could replace us at any time. Morale was low, and nobody cared about their work. People called in sick all the time.

Here, everyone is treated like the important part of the company that they are. The company needs all of us to be healthy, and we know it. The result: massively fewer sick days.

Employee engagement means empathy.

Since forever, business owners want to know how they can engage their employees and make them work as hard for the company as they do.

They can’t. It’s a losing battle.

While the employees are working on a salary, you’re the one owning the business. The two of you don’t have the same stakes in the game.

What you need to engage employees is empathy.

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Your success depends as much on your employees as their success depends on you. They rely on you to help them develop their skills and advance their career.

To make this a win-win, you have to know where they stand now and where they want to be in the future.

You have to meet your employees on a personal level. Organize a sit-down with each and every employee reporting to you. Take your key employees out to lunch or dinner.

Talk with them about their situation, their goals, and their needs. Be open. Have a real conversation.

“How can I help?”

The one thing that matters most in those conversations is learning how you can help your vis-à-vis.

It might be something in their daily work that they want to change. It might be a path they chose and want to embark on. It might be a career change. Whatever it is, you’re the leader that needs to help them get there.

It’s wildly important to meet your employees eye to eye. Be yourself and allow your employees to do the same.

Get to know your employees on social media.

Every leader should connect with their employees on social media.

Read their content and their comments under your content, and you’ll have an immensely improved understanding of them.

Spend some time listening. We never do that enough.

Basic drivers for employee engagement.

There are certain criteria an employer needs to fulfill that make them an acceptable employer. They don’t make you great. They’re the mere basics. Sadly, they get neglected sometimes, which makes for miserable (and unproductive) workers.

  • Money. Compensate everyone fairly. You don’t have to pay the highest salary in the industry, but morale will drop if your employees feel ripped off.
  • Appreciation. Don’t only point out the mistakes. Show your appreciation for well-done work. You can’t shower your employees enough with genuine appreciation.
  • Security. An employee that feels like you could replace them any day will always be on the lookout for another job opening.
  • Promotions. Promote quickly and promote often. As soon as you see an employee could take on more responsibility and is willing to do so, give it to them. Help them grow, and they’ll help the company grow.
  • Interesting work. Nobody likes to be bored. If your employees are bored at work, they will start entertaining themselves with long coffee breaks, social media, and surfing meme pages.

Start your employee engagement mission today.

To go beyond the basics, talk to your employees and learn how you can help them.

Send out invites for lunch, dinner, drinks, or one-on-one meetings today. Let your employees know that you want to help them in any way you can.

Follow them on LinkedIn, interact with their comments and posts and share your thoughts with them. 

Most importantly, meet them on a human level.

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