Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Throughout my career, I have built and directed teams of all shapes and sizes. With over three decades of experience in leadership positions, I can definitively say that one of the easiest and most effective ways to shore up your business in times of difficulty or uncertainty is to work on retention.
A company with solid retention benefits from cost savings, increased productivity and improved morale. It can provide better customer service and crucially maintains knowledge retention. As leaders of an organization, entrepreneurs should be taking the time to analyze their retention rates and ask themselves how they are working to ensure top talent is sticking around.
The old idiom goes, “Money talks,” but I have found that monetary compensation such as raises or bonuses is not the best way to keep employees happy. People want a feeling of fulfillment from the place they are dedicating 40+ hours a day to, and employees who believe they are in the right company, everybody is on the same page, and they are in their position for the right reasons are a team of highly functional individuals who together create a solid and adaptable organization.
Related: 4 Ways to Boost Your Employee Retention in an Uncertain Economy
How to identify an engaged team
If your business has an engaged workforce, the people are wholly committed to the company and its success. They are motivated and emotionally invested in the work they do each day. I believe this goes deeper than simply liking a job: an engaged employee is actively involved in their work and strives to achieve a shared objective that aligns with the organization’s vision.
Engaged team members are acutely aware of the values held by the organization they work for and feel equally committed to upholding them in their work. They recognize how their individual roles contribute to the company’s overall objectives.
Leaders that have established a culture of strong employee engagement have created a workforce that places their faith in leadership and perceives them as exemplifying the values they uphold. When employees are engaged, they tend to be more efficient and capable and project a positive image to customers. Moreover, increased collaboration fosters innovation as ideas flow freely from many sources instead of being limited to a select few.
As an entrepreneur and leader, you must recognize that nobody wants to arrive at work each day simply to collect a paycheck. People want to feel that they are working towards something more significant, and improving engagement in your business can help each person want to show up and work hard. Fostering a workplace environment where the employees feel supported and conduct their responsibilities within a team-focused atmosphere is good for the entire company.
Below, you will find six ways to ensure you are keeping employees engaged as a leader.
1. Ensure you have concrete purpose and values
If your company does not have a mission or value system set in stone, it can be difficult for employees to understand what is expected of them fully. Engaged teams have a clear vision of what their organization is working towards, and if this vision is cloudy, it can be easy for them to lose sight of what’s important in the day-to-day. Often, workers who are more task-focused than goal-oriented are actually misunderstanding where they should be focusing their efforts due to an unclear mission.
As stewards of their company’s culture, entrepreneurs should thoroughly evaluate its purpose and values to ensure that they are both clear and being represented throughout the business. Incorporating the values into employee evaluations or even adding your purpose to screensavers can be ways to communicate to your team the big picture and what they are working towards.
Related: How to Create a Connected Workforce Through Quality Core Values
2. Put the time in with employees as individuals
It is a common perception that professionalism means not knowing the personal lives of those you work with, but throughout my time leading in business, I have found that to be untrue. It is amazing how knowing more about someone — their families, backgrounds, and personal goals — can change how you view them, and vice versa.
Getting to know your employees makes them feel valued and can help managers find the best use of their strengths in the company. As a result, employees will feel valued as more than simply a body to fill a chair and will be more engaged in the business as a result.
Related: Why a Personal Touch Pays Off In the Workplace
3. Maintain an open channel of communication
While it may seem tempting to keep high-level information about the company’s performance confidential, a team knowledgeable about the organization’s standing is more likely to feel invested in the results of their efforts. Since employees have a personal stake in the company’s success, withholding information will only lead to distrust and speculation. To cultivate a committed workforce, it is essential to establish regular communication.
Effective communication goes two ways, meaning leaders should also work to ensure that their employees feel their voices are heard and valued. Some of the most effective solutions I have come across in my career came from a lower-level employee that felt comfortable enough to bring their idea to the table.
4. Provide them with opportunities for personal development
To keep employees engaged, providing them with opportunities for growth and development is crucial. This can take many forms, such as offering additional training, delegating tasks to a team without micromanaging or assigning a seasoned employee to mentor a new recruit.
While promotion is a common way to advance within a company, it should not be the sole source of advancement opportunities. Good leaders understand their employees’ strengths and weaknesses and encourage them to expand their skills while mitigating their shortcomings. When employees feel stagnant or unchallenged in their roles, they are less likely to be engaged in their work. This is why it is important to provide them with avenues for growth.
Related: Why Are Companies Still Holding Back on Investing in Employees’ Development?
5. Recognize and reward often
Recognizing an employee’s accomplishments is a powerful motivator that shows the workforce is heading in the right direction and reinforces actions that align with a company’s values and objectives. There is no need to be sparing with recognition when it is deserved. While financial compensation is one way to show the appreciation that employees would welcome, it is not the only means of acknowledging their efforts. Offering words of encouragement, sending a brief note or sending an email that recognizes an employee’s hard work can make them feel appreciated and respected for their contributions, resulting in a more engaged workforce.
6. Create teamwork opportunities
While it is important to encourage employees to work on their personal goals, it can also be easy for them to lose sight of the bigger picture when working in an organization. Fostering camaraderie and teamwork is essential for workplace engagement, and leaders can promote collaboration by implementing policies that encourage team-building or conducting weekly interdepartmental brainstorming sessions. A committed workforce understands that their colleagues have each other’s backs and are all striving towards a common goal.
Employee engagement and strong retention in a business are inextricably linked. They are a direct cause and effect: if you, as a leader, keep your team members engaged in their work and committed to your company’s purpose, you will be able to keep great people around, and for longer.