Top 6 Rules of Employee Engagement

Everyone talks about customer engagement, but what about employee engagement?   As a small-business owner,…
April 06, 2011

Everyone talks about customer engagement, but what about employee engagement?

As a small-business owner, this may be the last topic on your mind. You are focused on attracting new customers, retaining current ones and simply making ends meet. But creating an environment that breeds motivated and enthusiastic employees will pay off.

“If you have satisfied employees, they will treat your customers better. Then your customers will come back and refer you to others,” says Jack Zenger, author of The Extraordinary Leader . “We’ve done several studies on this topic and always found that when you improve employee engagement, you improve customer satisfaction—which then turns into increased revenue.” 

Not sure how to implement employee engagement? Try following these rules.


1. Show real concern

As the owner of your business, you work hard to show compassion and understanding for your employees and, by most counts, they love you. But how are your middle managers treating client-facing staff?

“It is incredibly important to show concern for how immediate supervisors treat employees,” Zenger says, adding that his employee engagement tips come from a blog post written by his business partner, Joe Folkman. “Sometimes we tolerate managers yelling at treating others unfairly. As a small business owner, you can’t do that.”


2. Share information

Gone are the days of hiding bad news from employees and instituting stiff organizational hierarchy practices.

“Employees need to feel like they are insiders, rather than outsiders,” says Keith Ayers, president of Integro Leadership Institute, a business consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. “They want to be involved in decision making. This extends out to physical things as simple as preferred parking spots for leadership members. This is an example of something that can make someone feel as if they sit on the outside.”


3. Communicate job purpose

Let's say you come in Monday morning to find your administrative assistant looking blue and just going through the motions. How do you perk him or her up and make them excited about their day-to-day tasks?

“Communicate the purpose of their work; how it brings value to the end customer,” says Ayers. “Everyone’s job contributes value to someone. It is important to remind people of this. Focus on the purpose of the work rather than just job activities."


4. Listen

Have you ever worked for someone who came in, did their work, barked orders at subordinates and left? Chances are, you didn’t work there for long. Your dissatisfaction may have stemmed from their lack of listening skills.

“Business owners tend to be a little outspoken and aggressive,” says Ron Orleans, CEO of, an online gift service based out of Scituate, Massachusetts. “Without knowing it, they may not be letting employees get a word in. Next time you are talking to your employee, stop speaking and let them talk to you. It is vital to make an employee feel heard.

“Ask employees for their feedback and solicit their ideas for improving the business—regardless of their title. Every employee wants to feel valued and feel like they are an important member of a team.”


5. Invest in professional development

Many moons ago, I worked in a role where I yearned to better my skills. On my six-month anniversary, I asked Mr. Boss if I could attend a professional development seminar. He said no. I asked again and again until, finally, I just gave up. My productivity went down and I started developing feelings of apathy toward the organization.

“People are like bicycle riders; if you are not moving forward, it is easy to fall over,” Zenger says. “Educational opportunities are really important.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money—start off with an internal training seminar and ask people to bring brown bag lunches. It will make people’s day to learn something new about their job or the organization.”


6. Say "thanks"

Think back to the last time you received a hand-written thank you card. Didn’t it make you feel great?

“Take time to recognize your staff’s hard work and let them know it is sincerely appreciated,” suggests Orleans. “Try to remember important dates such as work anniversaries. Then go over to them, in person, and say congratulations. Tell them how great it is to work with them. Or write them a thank-you note. That personal touch will go a long way.”


Here are a few great books on employee engagement.