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Struggling to engage your employees? Start here

You call your team together to roll out your strategy for the coming quarter. Everyone gathers around and all eyes are on you. You’ve spent at least forty hours over the last two weeks planning, modeling, forecasting, all in anticipation of this day. OK, take a deep breath, and begin your presentation. Five minutes in you start to notice some people drifting off, getting lost in their own thoughts. You’re not being inspiring enough. Have to up the energy… The presentation is over in 20 minutes and you look around the room and see expressions ranging from puzzled to just plain blank. A few people tell you it sounds like a great plan and that they’re excited to get started, but excited is the last word you’d use to describe the sound of their voice. You say, “Let’s do it!” And everyone files out of the conference room…

… disengaged.

Is this how you want your employees to feel? Have you created the kind of company that you are proud for your team to be a part of?

When an owner sets out to create fundamental change in their business—the kind of change that comes from building a business that values what you value, that’s connected to what you’re passionate about, that brings like-minded people together to work toward a shared vision—the result is bigger than just improving financial returns for you. You’re making changes that impact your employees, and if you’re good at it, the lives of everyone your employee comes into contact with. Engagement is the single greatest predictor of employee happiness and retention. And what builds engagement? Being clear enough about your values to hire people whose values align with yours. Developing a shared vision for your organization that the team believes in. That they can feel a part of. That they can get inspired by and find ways of connecting to the work they’re doing for the business every day. Providing them feedback, mentoring, opportunities to grow, and–most importantly—praise when they are helping bring your vision to life.

And what would that mean to the employee and everyone with whom they interact? This employee is walking out of work energized by an engaging and dynamic work day, rather than feeling drained by the aimless boredom of a vision-less company. They have more energy for their family. The mentorship you provide is teaching them lessons that apply not only to how they relate to their work, but to their lives in general. They’re satisfied and fulfilled, and look for opportunities to create the same feeling for others in their community, their church group, their nonprofit. They understand on a deep level the magic that can be created when someone is operating from a place of alignment. And it’s teaching them to strive for alignment in all aspects of their lives.

If this seems too unrealistic or overly romantic, it’s not. Just ask employees of Nationwide Insurance, Charles Schwab, USAA, or any other business that leads the world in employee engagement and satisfaction. These businesses are meeting their objectives, while providing something special to their employees that is so rare…and it’s something every business owner is empowered to deliver. It doesn’t take a lot of money. It takes a commitment to communicating: sharing your values, repeating your vision, and talking about the impact your employees are having on the business.

So imagine instead…

You walk into the room. Your team is assembled—and early, because the anticipation has been building for this strategic rollout for weeks. As you sit down, all eyes are on you and there’s a smile on every face because even if they don’t know exactly what you’re going to say, they know that you’re taking them in the right direction. Five minutes in, you see nods of encouragement and even relief that the staff’s concerns have been heard and addressed in your plan. Twenty minutes later you wrap up and look around, noticing excited side-conversations starting to take off as teams can hardly wait to get started. There’s a buzz. And then, before you even have a chance to say anything, everyone files out and gets right to work.

Change in your business has the power to impact so many lives. What would it mean to give your team the company they always dreamed of working for?

Martin Kamenski

Written by Martin Kamenski

Martin is a CPA and former business owner whose passion for small business began with childhood memories of Al’s Carpet Cleaning—his grandfather’s business. Martin writes about leadership, strategy, finance, and entrepreneurship.