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3 Things You Should Regularly Tell Your Employees (But Probably Aren't)

Helpful conversations will increase employee engagement.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whether you went to business management school or learned how to manage employees in a non-traditional way, you know this -- positive reinforcement works. Offering such support will, more often than not, increase employee engagement.

Jacob Ammentorp Lund | Getty Images

The Workplace Research Foundation says highly engaged employees are 38 percent more likely to have above-average productivity. Employee engagement software company, 15five, published a blog post covering some very interesting employee engagement trends for 2016. According to the post, there is an abundance of data and real-life case studies that suggest employee engagement can be a growth strategy for businesses of all sizes, across any industry.

Related: 7 Excellent Reasons to Focus on Employee Engagement

Along with statistics, it's interesting to read what proven business leaders have to say about employee engagement. Here are three of my favorites:

  • "When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute." -- Simon Sinek
  • "It's about getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment and helping to find a way to innovate." -- Marissa Mayer
  • "A company is people … employees want to know… am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted." -- Richard Branson

The three conversations I believe most managers fail at having with their team members are to think long-term, invest in yourself and be curious.

1. Think long-term.

When I was growing my career as a wide-eyed, anything-is-possible, eager employee, my greatest strength was that I was able to think long-term. I knew that my efforts would pay off one day. I never chased a pay check; I chased the dream of having a fulfilling career. My dream was to one day advise, invest and keynote speak for multi-million and billion dollar companies.

Often this long-term mentality led me to willingly make short-term sacrifices to win in the future. Working for free (i.e. staying an extra 15 to 30 minutes without asking to be recognized or paid) was common. Did I care about receiving recognition or extra pay? No. I was aware that others would notice my diligence and hard work. As the saying goes, "Work hard in silence. Let success be your noise."

As a leader in your organization, it's your responsibility to help your team members peer into the future. Allow them to envision what it looks and feels like, then gently bring them back to reality. Help them create a plan for themselves and share real-world examples of how colleagues of yours have propelled their future by making small sacrifices in the short-term to win long-term.

Related: 10 Signs You've Got a Toxic Workplace Culture, Bro

2. Invest in yourself.

I believe if your team members are truly going to be successful and exceed their own expectations, they need to take ownership over their career. This belief was inspired by an idea I had while at an airport. In short, my belief that an employee who wants to excel can't rely on their manager. Rather, they must take ownership over their own destiny.

My friend Annette Franz, a master in customer experience and employee engagement, shares her stance. "I wholeheartedly support my employees investing in themselves," she says. "As a matter of fact, I tell them they are in charge of their careers, their development and how far they will go; I'm here to support them along the way, to provide some tools, guide rails, encouragement and direction. I'm always happy to answer any questions they have or to provide whatever help they need, but I also suggest that they look at the vast majority of external resources available to advance their skills and knowledge: books, blogs, Twitter chats, LinkedIn groups, webinars, meet-ups, whitepapers, continuing education courses and more."

What I liked most about her advice is that several of the ways that you can invest in yourself are free. All it takes is effort.

3. Be curious (and ask a lot of questions).

Ever since I was a boy, I have always asked a lot of questions and been very curious. Whether it was turning over a stone to see if there were any worms underneath it, or being in the workforce and asking a neighboring department what they were up to, I always had a desire to ask questions so I could learn new things. These questions led me to conduct my first round of research on customer experience -- which eventually became my profession.

A primary reason why I'm an advocate of open-office layouts is because it increases the ability to have candid conversations and reduces silos. Furthermore, it allows team members to freely ask questions without skyscraper high cubicle walls to overcome.

Related: The 5 Traits (Some Surprising) I Look for When Hiring New Workers

Interview tip.

When I advise companies to help them refine their interview strategies -- to recruit customer-centric team members -- I always suggest that they ask a question or two to understand how curious the candidate is. You can ask a question like, "When was the last time you were curious about something that eventually became a hobby or regular occurrence." Candidates may say things like salsa dancing (after watching Dancing with the Stars) or archery (after watching The Hunger Games).

My friend and former colleague, Rhys Green, Director of Field Operations at O2E, takes it one step further with a profound thought. "I don't hire people who aren't curious," Green says. "Curiosity is the fuel that drives learning, and a person who doesn't want to learn is as valuable today as they'll ever be. I hire for what you're going to do for the organization in the future, not what you've done in the past."

When managing employees to excel in their current positions, and help them propel their careers to new heights, we must re-evaluate how we are mentoring them. It's easy to go through the suggested management best practices, by identifying your strengths and working on your weaknesses, but that isn't enough.

The three suggested conversations worked for me when I developing my career and, if you hire correctly, you will be able to inspire your team to exceed your expectations as their leader.

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