Hiring that first employee is a key milestone for many business owners. But hiring the right people isn’t enough; fostering employee engagement is important to retaining the best talent and creating a successful business.
As soon as you start building a team, it’s time to look deeper at how you can influence your employees to work together and reach their fullest potential. Here’s a look at strategies for boosting employee engagement and setting your team up to succeed.
1. Outline Clearly Defined Expectations and Responsibilities
Too many business owners hire employees without detailing expectations and responsibilities. The job responsibilities are typically highlighted in the job posting and discussed in the interview; However, if the discussion stops there you’re committing a disservice to your employees and business.
Without clearly communicated responsibilities and expectations, your new hires can’t succeed. It’s up to you to provide them with the resources and information needed to do their job and contribute to company goals.
Don’t rely on a single conversation to clearly define expectations.
Make it a formal document and request that they refer to it often during their first few months. Defining performance expectations has been shown to help employees perform well.
Sit down and write out the expectations and responsibilities for every role in your company, including yourself so you can model good behavior. Provide that written material to present and future employees.
2. Provide the Right Equipment and Materials
If someone hired you to dig a ditch and set the expectation that it needs to be three feet deep and twenty feet long, then left, would you start digging with your hands? Or would you wonder why they didn’t give you a shovel and eventually quit?
Don’t do that to your employees.
Provide your people with everything they need to get the job done – and get it done well. Many of the same tools that all business owners should be using can also be provided to employees.
Examine each role in your organization and discover the right tools for people in those roles. You will also benefit by providing employees with detailed training materials about their role.
3. Regularly Recognize and Praise Employees to Boost Engagement
Recognizing employee excellence goes a long way to boost morale and foster employee engagement, which can help you retain quality talent and reinforce company values.
Think about your company culture and your existing team members. What types of recognition and praise will resonate with them? The right answer will vary dramatically from business to business. One great way to find out is to simply ask your employees what will help them feel recognized. Don’t be surprised if you hear gift cards, cash prizes and the latest tech gadgets as the answer.
That said, providing praise doesn’t have to cost you a dime. When it’s earned, a sincere “great job” will go far. Sending company-wide “kudos” emails can also boost morale when a team member does something truly amazing.
4. Care About Each Employee as a Person
Some businesses treat employees as assets. They invest in their salary and expect a certain result.
While this perspective makes sense from a business standpoint, it can discourage employee engagement as it feels impersonal. That’s why working for large corporations has become less desirable for many employees; they want to be treated like people, not cogs in a giant machine.
Go out of your way to care about every employee as an individual. Learn their life story, future dreams and everything in between. You can’t learn everything about them during the interview, but over the course of employment, take time to get to know them. Frequent one-on-ones with your employees and team lunches are great opportunities to do this.
Caring about them as people is also evident by the benefits you provide. Even if a certain health care package costs more, invest in it! Many professionals care more about benefits over raw salary these days.
5. Make Sure Everyone’s Voice is Heard
Employees want their input to be valued. Even if you don’t enact their feedback, listening and acknowledging what they have to say will go far.
Learn how to become a great listener, which includes identifying nonverbal cues and avoiding distractions.
Many business owners have an open door policy and a suggestion box, but get creative and try something new.
Create an entire process for soliciting employee opinions. Remix the open door policy by specifically having times where you ask people to come share work-related concerns or opinions. Talk to people to hear how they’re feeling about their job.
6. Offer Ample Opportunities to Learn and Grow
The type of team members you want will yearn for growth. If you hire a writer, they will hopefully strive to be the best writer they can be.
Offer paid opportunities for employees to learn new skills and enhance their value to the company.
Ongoing training programs are perfect for imparting new knowledge and skills. Giving employees paid “free time” to explore new subjects and topics may also be effective.
Chunk out one hour per week for everyone to dive into whatever topic they want to learn more about. If they discover a new passion, encourage them to talk to you about it. If it’s relevant to your business, you can then create new training programs based on what they discover.
Not only does this encourage employees to become more engaged in the business, but it also helps improve your bottom line. Making time for training and developing training programs is much less expensive than hiring new employees to fill their roles when they leave.
7. Promote Internally Instead of Externally
As your company grows, promote from within.
Not only does this encourage employees to stick around, but it means that you’re continually investing in your own organization and boosting employee engagement. If you hire someone at an entry level position and grow them into a skilled manager, you’ll have a loyal and effective leader.
External hires are sometimes necessary, but make it a point to hire internally whenever you can. If employees know that there’s room for advancement, they’re less likely to look elsewhere to grow their careers.
8. Create an Organizational Structure that Encourages Upward Career Growth
Create a hierarchy that leaves room for senior level employees. Some business models have a place for employees who just want to clock in, do something easy, and clock out. But the employees you desire are driven and motivated, and that often means they’ll be looking for ways to grow their careers. Create opportunities for them to do advance within your company so they don’t get bored (or frustrated) and start looking elsewhere.
Any service-based business absolutely needs employees who are motivated, engaged and ready to learn. Building a company that intentionally helps employees reach their full potential is a company destined for long-term success.
What have you done to help bring out the best in your people and boost employee engagement? Would you add anything to this list? Would you take anything off this list? Let us know!
About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter @UrbanMuseWriter.
This is an archived post from the FreshBooks Blog and was originally published in February 2016.