Many leaders fail to fully recognise how crucial their employees are to their success. Understanding how to engage your employees is imperative, and by doing so businesses can reduce staff turnover and improve company performance. Reece Tomlinson provides five easy-to-implement concepts designed to enhance employee engagement in businesses of all sizes
The aesthetic industry, from a business perspective, has observed fundamental and ongoing changes to the way in which companies, and particularly clinics, must operate to maintain their competitiveness. As more procedures, manufacturers and practitioners enter the market, the need to stand out from the crowd is both increasing and critically important.
Fortunately, how we preserve our competitiveness is largely, as leaders, up to us. Regardless of the size, shape, location and feel of your business, continued success is a result of your ability to make sales, ensure those sales are profitable, generate sufficient cash flows, and most importantly encourage repeat customer business.
One of the most influential, yet often overlooked, aspects of any business is the impact that your employees have on your ability to excel at these tasks and retain customers. When it comes to maximizing the effectiveness of those that we lead, what we should actually focus on is creating high levels of employee engagement.
Engage your employees
An engaged employee is generally defined as someone who is emotionally connected to the organisation and enthusiastic about their work. Research undertaken by Gallup (2013) suggests that a lack of employee engagement costs $450–550 billion per year, in the US market, in lost productivity. It was also found that only 30% of employees are engaged and inspired at work (Gallup, 2013). Statistics published by Dale Carnegie Training (2016) also show that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%.
Although studies of the human perspective have inherent bias, regardless of the statistics, it is generally recognized that, engaged employees are substantially more effective and loyal than those who are not. As a result, companies with high levels of engaged employees often do substantially better than those without them.
From my experience of leading teams and organisations with operations across North America, Europe and Asia, I have concluded that it is our general philosophy towards how we lead that is the most determining factor in our ability to maximize employee engagement. Aspects of an organisation, such as company culture, the workplace environment, the industry and salary, may all have some impact on employee satisfaction. However, I would argue that employee engagement starts at a much more fundamental level.
Five key concepts for leaders
Below are five concepts that any leader in any business can incorporate. They have helped me become a better leader and increased employee engagement at the organisations I have led.
Treat your employees as people
If you have read any traditional books on business or taken any related courses, you have probably come across the term ‘human resources’, which refers to employees as resources a company uses to achieve its objectives. However, I believe the most important exercise required to generate employee engagement is to distance oneself from this way of thinking and treat your employees as people, rather than some form of asset the company has at its disposal.
This is a very simple philosophy, yet surprisingly many leaders fail to treat people in such a manner and do not understand that employees choose who they work for. The old school premise of an employee simply being thankful they have a job is both limiting and no longer relevant. This is particularly important with the millennial generation; because of the way we now raise and educate children, combined with the rampant use of social media in the modern world, today’s millennial employee considers themselves unique and expects to be treated as the person they are.
Treating employees as people is such an important yet subtle concept that any organisation should consider embracing. At the company I lead, we intentionally don’t use words like ‘human resources’ or refer to our employees as ‘assets’. To us, our employees are simply people who choose to work for us and are treated accordingly.
Your primary job as a leader is to positively influence those who you lead. It may sound simple, but if you consider the capacity you hold as a leader to impact the lives of those you lead, then there is no wonder why servient leadership—putting their needs first and helping to develop them so they can perform as highly as possible—has a major correlation with increasing employee engagement and overall performance.
When someone invests time in another person for the sole purpose of selfless improvement, it creates a bond and trust that supersedes a typical employee-leader relationship. In turn, this creates a high
level of engagement because the employee observes that there is a real concern for them and their well-being, and in return will do the same for the company.
In my experience, working to build up those whom I lead is the most satisfying element of my role. Not only does it give me a greater purpose as a leader, it has built lasting relationships and contributed significantly to the success of the teams and organisations I have led.
Spend the time
More than ever before, employees are actively seeking to improve themselves and a large part of this comes from the training, coaching and mentoring they receive at their work. This can be as simple as providing access to better training to help employees do their job, formal courses on subjects of relevance, and mentoring or coaching to help them improve their skills, move up or take on more.
Recent studies have shown that furthering education and experience is an increasing consideration for which employees determine whom to work for. In particular, the millennial generation places significant emphasis on access to mentoring and coaching in the workplace. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Study revealed that 71% of UK respondents expected to leave their organisation within the next 2 years, with the largest single reason for leaving being due to lack of personal training and skills development. Further, it was recently reported that 30% of millennials plan to leave their job in the next year, mainly because of a lack of access to training, coaching and mentoring (Abbot, 2016).
When you are in a position of leading a team or an entire organisation, you will be getting pulled in all directions on a daily basis. From experience, I know that it is easy to neglect to spend that time coaching and mentoring your people—I have been guilty of this many times. However, the reality is that spending time developing, coaching and mentoring your staff is one of the most important things you can do to ensure you have engaged employees.
The time and commitment you show your employees is almost always returned by the employee in the form of increased commitment, performance and engagement. It is a simple yet unwritten promise that states ‘if you invest in me, I will invest in you’, and it works. I have found that one of the most effective ways to do this is through monthly one-on-ones with your direct reports, where you can discuss issues, provide feedback and coach on any topic you or your employee feels relevant.
Provide clear expectations
Leaders often fail to provide clear expectations and regular feedback relating to employee performance, job duties and acceptable norms in the organisation. A lack of any one of these can create the potential for misalignment. Misalignment combined with a lack of feedback can prolong behavior that may be less than acceptable, and as a result create dissatisfaction for the employee and the organisation.
Conversely, providing clear expectations surrounding an employees’ position and performance will eliminate the unknowns, reduce the potential for inferred understandings, and therefore reduce those times when an employee does not know what they are responsible for and what they should be focusing on. Not only is it necessary to provide employees with the expectations associated with their role, but also it is incredibly important to provide regular, honest feedback on performance. Whether this is done formally or informally, it is enormously important to regularly provide employees with candid feedback on what they are doing well, how they can do better and what needs to improved.
I believe that most people generally want to do a good job. By being intentionally clear about expectations and performance, leaders can reduce the time in which it takes for an employee to get up to speed, encourage the right behaviors and make it known that performance is important.
There is a misconceived notion that to be successful in a leadership role, one must act in a certain way, which all great leaders invariably know and understand. The truth is that the most successful leaders are often the most genuine; they act from the heart and stay true to who they are.
The best example is to lead in a manner that exemplifies how you act as a person, staying true to your values and leveraging your strengths. Nothing appears less sincere than seeing someone in a leadership putting on an act to be someone they are not. Be genuine and your employees will respect the fact that you are simply being you.
Whether or not you are leading one or hundreds, you can use the above concepts to help you maximize employee engagement and your effectiveness as a leader.