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9 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged Follow these tips to power up the performance of your employees and your company.

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Are your employees giving your company their all? Do theybelieve that what they're doing is important? Do they feelappreciated? Do they show up for work each day filled with passionand purpose?

A red flag should go up if you answered "no" to any ofthese questions. Why? Business owners who aren't taking care oftheir employees are missing out on significant cost-savings andprofits.

I've been spreading the word about this for 15 years, butonly recently have I been able to rest my case on a growing body ofresearch. For example:

  • Gallup International recently reported that businesses in thetop 24 percent of employee engagement had less turnover andremarkably higher percentages of customer loyalty, profitabilityand revenues.
  • Extensive studies by organization and HR consulting firmHayGroup have revealed powerful links between employee engagementand productivity, which ultimately impacts a business's bottomline.
  • Through real-life examples, workplace values expert John Izzohas abundant proof that this generation of employees is moreconscious of their own needs and of their place in the world.

For business leaders in companies of all sizes, thewriting's on the wall: You can make and save money by keepingemployees engaged. Coupled with The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, requiringbusinesses to document internal controls relating to employee andcustomer satisfaction, it's never been more important forbusiness leaders to stop dismissing internal customer care as"soft and unimportant."

Let's face it, employees aren't just humans doing;they're human beings. Today's entrepreneurs must make it apriority to get to know them so they can provide whatever'sneeded to keep their employees fully engaged in what they do. Thiscreates wins for everyone. With that in mind, here are ninemanagement tips for creating and sustaining employeeengagement:

1. Let go of any negative opinions you may have about youremployees. Approach each of them as a source of uniqueknowledge with something valuable to contribute to your company.Remember that you're co-creating the achievement of a visionwith them.

2. Make sure your employees have everything they need to dotheir jobs. Remember when you started a new school year andyou'd prepare by getting all new school supplies? Why not buildjust such an opportunity into your department by simply asking eachstaff member, "Do you have everything you need to be ascompetent as you can be?" Remember, just as marketplace andcustomer needs can change daily, so can your employees'needs.

3. Clearly communicate what's expected of employees, whatthe company values and vision are, and how the company definessuccess. Employees can't perform well or be productive ifthey don't clearly know what it is they're there to do andthe part they play in the overall success of the company. Be sureto communicate your expectations--and to do it often.

4. Get to know your employees, especially their goals, theirstressors, what excites them and how they each define success.I'm not suggesting you pry too deeply or start counseling yourstaff. What I'm suggesting is that you show an interest intheir well being and that, when appropriate, you do what it takesto enable them to feel more fulfilled and better balanced.

5. Make sure they're trained--and retrained--in problemsolving and conflict resolution skills. These critical skillswill help them interact better with you, their co-workers,customers and suppliers. It's common sense--bettercommunication reduces stress and increases positive outcomes.

6. Constantly ask how you're doing in youremployees' eyes. I know it can be difficult for managers torequest employee feedback, and it can be equally if not morechallenging for an employee to give the person who evaluates theman honest response. To develop this skill and model it for youremployees, begin dialogs with employees using such conversationstarters as, "It's one of my goals to constantly improvemyself as a manager. What would you like to see me do differently?What could I be doing to make your job easier?" Be sure toaccept feedback graciously and express appreciation.

7. Pay attention to company stories and rituals. Arepeople laughing at each other or with each other? Do theyrepeat stories of success or moments of shame? Stay away fromparticipating in discussions that are destructive to people or theorganization, and keep success stories alive.

8. Reward and recognize employees in ways that are meaningfulto them. This is another reason why getting to know youremployees is so important. Remember to celebrate bothaccomplishments and efforts to give employees working onlong-term goals a boost.

9. Be consistent for the long haul. If you start anengagement initiative and then drop it, your efforts will backfire,creating employee estrangement. People are exhausted andexasperated from program du jour initiatives that engage theirpassion and then fizzle out when a business owner gets bored withit. There's a connection between an employee's commitmentto an initiative and an owner's commitment to supporting it. Anowner's ongoing commitment to keeping people engaged, involvedin and excited about the work they do and the challenges they facemust be a daily priority.

Ultimately, you must keep in mind that employees are acompany's greatest assets. Their collective ideas, feedback andenthusiasm for what they do can help your business grow andsucceed. Some people are naturally wired to give their all and dotheir best no matter where they work. But the majority of peoplerequire the guidance of skilled managers who welcome their ideas,ask for feedback and generate enthusiasm in order to have a senseof purpose and energy about what they do.

JoAnna Brandi, president of Boca Raton, Florida-basedJoAnnaBrandi & Company, teaches businesses how to successfullyimplement customer care, loyalty and retention initiatives. She isthe author of three books, including Winning at Customer Retention: 101 Ways to Keep'em Happy, Keep 'em Loyal, and Keep 'em ComingBack, and the publisher of the Customer Care Coach, aninternet-based training program for managers who are committed tokeeping employees engaged, customers loyal and the bottom lineprofitable.

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