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Engagement: holy grail of success

Employee engagement is fast becoming the holy grail of organisational success. The key: capturing the hearts and minds of employees. The catch: finding out what inspires employees to make that extra discretionary effort. The payoffs: work becomes pleasurable, more productive and more profitable.

If you don't catch the hearts and minds of your people - no amount of money will keep them long term - and when there is no cash to splash around and bonuses are non-existent then smart companies are looking for alternatives.

To be competitive in this economic climate you need to have a focused team of engaged employees - who are there for the long haul. In troubling times it is those that focus on their people that will be able to maximise the opportunities that will arise.

Here are our top five steps to employee engagement.

1.    Be nice
People are people - and we all like to be noticed and treated well. Simply noticing people's contribution will make a huge difference. Everyone likes to feel they are doing a good job and that what they are contributing is making a difference. Dr Anthony Grant, Director of Coaching Psychology, University of Sydney, says high performing teams have five times the number of positive interactions than low performing teams. "This includes positive reinforcement and meaningful compliments, saying thanks and 'good job'."

2.    Right resources to get the job done
You've got to give people the tools to get the job done - by nature people do want to do a good job - but if they are stopped because they haven't got the right resources then they are going to be far less productive. At RedBalloon it is a continual process of review and we learn along the way. Even small things can make a big difference.

3.    Inspiring leadership and individual autonomy
As a leader, you've got to tell it how it is - there is no point trying to dress things up. The people who can help the most to get you through tough times are your people. They're the ones with ideas on how to save or make money. Being decisive and getting the whole organisation aligned to the single purpose will make the biggest single difference to employee engagement. Dr. Grant says, "Good relationships work when people don't feel the other person has a hidden agenda." If businesses are to make a contribution toward the billions of dollars wasted each year due to unproductive and disengaged employees, they need to focus on leadership behaviour to produce engagement results across their teams." A third of people leave their jobs because of bad management - most say they were simply not noticed.

4.    Saying thanks in an authentic way
People want to be noticed in different ways - saying thank you is not a one size fits all solution. Some prefer a quiet note from their direct boss, others prefer acknowledgment from their peers. According to Gallup people will have forgotten the acknowledgement as little as seven days. So you have to do it regularly and in a real way.

5.    Personalised, non-monetary rewards
Shared experiences produce relationships, they generate conversations, create memories and build emotional bonds; they are the currency of making dreams come true. Sork says, "Salary and remuneration is essentially regarded as compensation for minimum performance. Acknowledgement and recognition is a key ingredient or driver of discretionary effort."

It does not have to cost a lot to be effective. Employee engagement comes down to ensuring your people know what they are there to do, that they have the tools to get the job done, that they are noticed for what they contribute and go home feeling like a winner.
If you do that you will be on a winning formula, and one that will greatly enhance your competitive edge.