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CEO Insider

The 7 Secrets to High Employee Engagement

Business leaders talk a lot about employee engagement, but how often do they get it right? It’s a goal that all companies aspire to but few actually achieve.

The problem isn’t a lack of effort. Companies devote plenty of time and resources to employee engagement, but those programs often come off as irrelevant or inauthentic.

At the same time, however, employees have incredibly high expectations as it relates to work. Keeping team members engaged now requires a complex balance of challenges, opportunities, relationships, and freedoms.

As difficult as it might be, engaging employees is absolutely worth the effort. For instance, companies that excel at engagement enjoy four times higher earnings-per-share growth than their competition. Those companies enjoy greater productivity, less turnover, fewer accidents, and healthier employees who serve as brand ambassadors and strive for better results. Disengaged employees are just the opposite: they do the minimum necessary, resulting in poor quality and unhappy clients.

When companies take care of employees, they take care of clients — it’s that simple. Highly engaged teams are 21% more productive and have 20% higher sales. Simply stated, companies full of engaged employees are better at everything.
Make the Culture the Focus

There is a direct link between the quality of a company’s culture and that organization’s level of employee engagement. People do their best work for companies that prioritize employees. The tricky part is developing the culture organically. Otherwise, it’s nothing more than a dreaded “initiative.”

Authenticity is key, and it starts with the CEO. Employees can tell when executives are being honest versus when they’re paying lip service. The best way to grow culture, then, is by rooting it in your company and employees.

To achieve the best results, leaders must explore what kind of culture would be most meaningful to their specific employees. Younger workers might like social gatherings, whereas parents might prefer child care options. Companies should learn what employees actually need, want, and value — and then reflect it in their cultures.

It will take some fine-tuning, but stick with it. We tailor our annual rewards and recognition events to the unique needs of our team. Many of our managers are fond of the outdoors and committed to fitness, for instance, so we take them on a hiking retreat each year. Our engagement efforts are customized to our employees, which is why they’re successful.
Secrets of Employee Engagement

Engagement isn’t a buzzword — it’s the forward face of your company. People who love where they work reflect that passion to clients. By now, we know what actually works when it comes to engaging employees. To foster true engagement, try these seven secrets to a high-quality employee investment strategy:

  1. Go slowly. High employee engagement doesn’t happen overnight. A few team-building exercises won’t transform an apathetic workforce. Plan to make changes over a long timeline, and don’t be surprised if you encounter some resistance along the way.
  2. Don’t mandate. Forced fun is no fun at all. Employees shouldn’t be required to attend company functions. Find ways to make these events appealing to your employees so that they are eager to attend.
  3. Recognize excellence. Take the time to recognize and reward individual employees or teams when they do something great. It’s important to engage all employees equally while still singling out top performers.
  4. Follow through. Nothing hurts engagement like promising a new perk and then not delivering. Employees lose trust in leadership and become cynical about all engagement efforts. You should only announce the ideas you can realistically deliver on.
  5. Take the lead. Companies are defined by their leadership. Employee engagement is a companywide effort, but it truly comes from the top down. As the captain of the ship, the CEO defines the company’s character and attitudes about work. It’s up to the entire leadership team to set an example for others to follow.
  6. Be honest. Employees can smell a half-baked engagement effort from a mile away. They can also tell when a CEO is serious about engagement for the wrong reasons. Leadership has to be honest and transparent if employees are going to get on board.
  7. Stay visible. As the embodiment of the company culture, the CEO should be visible and accessible throughout the office. Part of keeping people engaged is interacting with them face to face on a regular basis.

The secret to employee engagement is really no secret at all: Treat people how they want to be treated. It’s never easy, but it’s not impossible. As the CEO, you’re in the driver’s seat.

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David Lesniak
David Lesniak is the CEO of Personiv, a people-powered outsourcing provider that offers solutions from finance and accounting to customer care and creative. Personiv quickly builds teams and adds specific skills to scale businesses of any size. David is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.
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