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How to Engage & Retain Employees

by Roberta Matuson, Staples® Contributing Writer

Why do we bother to engage employees? Shouldn’t they be giving it their all because they feel fortunate enough to be employed by you? If that were the case, every person on your payroll would be giving 110 percent and your employee turnover would be minimal. But it takes more than a paycheck to inspire most employees to go above and beyond what you expect.

Knowing how to engage and retain employees is vital to your business’s success. Learn what you can do to create a more committed workforce.

The Importance of Engaging Employees

Businesses that make engagement a priority can enjoy a competitive advantage in talent recruiting and business results, one that's hard for others to replicate. The 2013 Trends in Global Employee Engagement study, conducted by consulting firm Aon Hewitt, confirms a strong correlation between high levels of employee engagement and sales growth in the years following the increased engagement. Employees are a critical component to every organization, and their morale and motivation can be the difference between high levels of profitability and barely getting by.

What Do Employees Need?

Begin by asking yourself what your employees need to be fully engaged. This will vary from one business to another. Consider conducting an employee survey or holding focus groups to learn more about your employees’ needs.

The drivers of employee engagement that surface in surveys typically include three components:

1. Opportunity for development: Employees are seeking continuous growth. This can be particularly challenging for small businesses that typically operate as flat organizations. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you think big like your larger competitors do.

Provide employees with opportunities to stretch themselves in their current positions. Establish performance goals that encourage employees to learn new skills. Wherever possible, cross-train employees so they can make a lateral move should another internal position open up. Demonstrate your commitment to employee development by providing reimbursement for those seeking to take classes or attend seminars to improve their performance.

2. Employees want control over their work: Most people want to do good work, yet many employers operate as if this isn’t the case. Instead of asking employees for their input, they create policies and procedures that prevent employees from doing their best. I recently experienced this while shopping at a drugstore without my loyalty card in hand. I could tell the man ringing up my transaction really wanted me to receive the discounted price, as he knew his job was to please the customer. However, company rules said that he could not do so without the risk of being fired. Eventually this clerk will tire of not being able to do his job well and will look for a role at another company that will give him more control over his work.

Ask employees for input when making changes that directly impact their jobs and allow your people the ability to be in control of their work. When in doubt, ask those working most closely with your customers how to best service your clients.

3. Employees want management to be sincerely interested in their well-being: The most engaged employees have a clear sense that their manager is always looking out for them. They know their manager will go to bat for them in any situation.

Invest the time necessary to get to know your people so you can provide them with the support they need to flourish. Most employees know how rare it is to be working for an exceptional leader and will think twice before entertaining an offer from a competing firm.

The Bottom Line

Knowing how to engage and retain employees will become even more important as the economy continues to improve. In some industries, we are already seeing an increase in employee turnover as workers seek greener pastures. Take action today to ensure your people are extremely engaged so you can minimize the disruption that comes with high employee turnover.

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