In the past several weeks I’ve met with prospects that shared a myriad of issues they’re facing regarding their concerns around new business development. In reviewing those conversations, a common thread emerged – each company, in part, questioned whether they had the right people.
I suggest that we expand on that question and ask: Do we have the right people performing the right job functions based on their inherent talents and passions? Are we giving them the opportunity to do those things each and every day? Have we set clear expectations for them so they know, without a doubt, when they’ve succeeded and/or what they need to work on? Do they understand how they are being measured and how often?
As we strive to create workplaces filled with talented, happy, engaged employees, we must address these questions. I’ve witnessed and come to believe that when talented individuals are given the opportunity to regularly perform tasks that align with their innate abilities, productivity increases. Simply stated, doing tasks they enjoy on a regular basis seldom feels like ‘work’ to them and, as a result, they are happier, remain upbeat and have a positive attitude. These factors lead to engagement in their roles, which, in turn, leads to increased productivity and results and decreased negativity and turnover.
Those who are happy and positive tend to be more open-minded, willing to explore options and aware of opportunities and possibilities that exist even in problems presented by clients. Conversely, those who aren’t happy become bored and boredom leads to bad attitudes that lead to closed-mindedness and inaction.
Here are some tactics that managers can and should employ to make sure their teams become and remain engaged in their work.
Attract and Assess. When creating job postings, write your copy to attract the behaviors you need. For example, for positions requiring new business development, ask “if you love generating new business and have a track record of success that can be proved, we want to talk to you!” People want to be able to do the things they care about and do best on a regular basis. Work hard to put the right talent in the right role. Assess your final candidates before hiring; preferably use a tool that is statistically proven to predict success in a given role. This will increase your odds of finding the right fit.
Set clear Expectations and Accountability Metrics. This is critical if you want to attract and retain talent. The best performers want and need to know what’s expected of them so that they can measure their performance. At the end of the day they want to know that they’ve made a contribution. Put your expectations in writing; be specific answering what, how much, by when? Include what will be celebrated and what consequences will result. Review these with your employees and have them sign the document indicating their understanding. Regularly check on their progress to hold them accountable. Be consistent.
Recognize and Praise desired Behaviors. When you catch someone doing something well, thank them. You can do this publicly or privately, verbally or in writing based on their preference – please ask them which they prefer. Ask them who else you should tell and send that person a note or leave them a message. This is powerful. Make this a regular practice; it will fuel the desire in others to perform at the levels that garner your approval.
Reward Desired Performance. When someone delivers or over-delivers reward them based on what’s important to them. Some of the most effective rewards I’ve used have been: time off; letting them skip one-on-one meetings; letting them come in at 9am instead of 8:30am for one month (this is great for parents who deal with a lot of commotion in the morning); bring in a brief case full of $1 bills and offer a stack of $50 to each seller who was over budget that month. Something magical happens when you personalize how you reward employees based on their individual contributions - you make them feel valued as a person.
Provide the materials, equipment and support they need to perform well. Top performers do not like to be sidelined, distracted or stopped by broken down copiers, ineffective support staff, etc. Put the resources in place to support your team’s high performance goals. Routinely ask for feedback on what could be done better, more consistently, etc. to support them? Respond quickly to their requests and recommendations. Even if you can’t provide what they seek, they’ll appreciate your consideration on their behalf.
Engaged employees are those who are properly placed in roles, given the chance to do what they enjoy each day, understand what’s expected of them and how they’ll be measured, given praise, recognition and/or coaching for improvement and have the tools and support they need to succeed. If your employees are engaged, you’ll never have to worry about customer service again because your staff will make sure your customers are well taken care of.