Engaged employees are a rare commodity nowadays. These employees are reliable, produce a high level of efficient work, and bring future-thinking opportunities and innovation into the organization. Attracting and retaining these individuals is a success factor of many of top companies.

Modern career paths differ from those of previous generations, when employees would start their journey with a company and stay there for 30-odd years and retire with a golden watch. Now, regardless of generation, employees embrace change and seek new opportunities to engage their minds, fuel their passions and be excited about coming to work each day.

This new reality presents a set of strategic and behavioral challenges for organizations. Leaders must adapt in order to drive employee morale, customer satisfaction and business results. Here are three tips to help engage your employees.

1. Identify Influencers

Start by finding the influencers in your organization. Identify the most influential people. These employees are not necessarily influential because of their tenure, hierarchy or job title, but instead are the “go-to” people who can always help, even if it means pointing you in the right direction. Performing an organizational network analysis across departments identifies your influencers and provides you with a core group to engage.

Pull this influencer group together, roll up your sleeves and kick off an engagement program (not a project, but an ongoing program) with them. There may be angst among the group, especially if your organization functions with a more traditional hierarchy. Some members of the group may be reluctant to speak up. You must earn their trust by assuring them that you are not going to report out to their leaders. Gathering their feedback and presenting it in aggregate to leadership is a more fair and balanced approach.

Once this collective feedback starts rolling in, take action. Plans, spreadsheets and presentation decks are helpful, but true value comes from senior leaders’ making it happen. Take ownership of specific actions, complete them and then return to the influencer group with your results. This effort to work hand-in-hand with the team to drive change establishes that you are not only a leader but a contributor as well, gaining their trust and encouraging them to be continue being open. They will also return to their own teams encouraging an idea exchange and creating a bridge to the rest of the organization.

2. Listen, Learn, Lead

Next, extend the feedback loop by listening. Go beyond traditional focus groups or simple surveys, and truly listen to what your employees want. You’ll begin to recognize trends in employee attitudes and opinions by listening through online social collaboration communities where employees can comment freely and without prejudice and where they can share when they’re struggling.

Take common concerns, ideas and inputs to the broader organization, and create opportunities for employees to become a part of change in real time – not after the fact or at the tail-end of an initiative. Through this type of engagement, employees begin to dialogue and think through best practices. As much work as the human capital team does to develop the company culture, the true measure of that culture is employee behavior. Employees should not only feed into company culture but help tweak it, evolve it or even revolutionize it.

Finally, start developing action plans for improvement, and make sure that action is visible. Just as it is important to both accept customer feedback and show how that feedback has changed your product, price or process, your employee feedback should function in the same way. Evolve your internal processes and policies to drive the type of employee engagement and satisfaction that will support your organization’s long-term success.

3. Engage, Enable, Empower

By treating employees like you treat your customers – as individuals with impressions, intentions and opinions that matter – you create an atmosphere that makes employees want to perform. An area ripe for feedback are employee recognition and reward programs, which incentivize employees to demonstrate behaviors that the organization wants repeated. One of the techniques that is successful in these programs is gamification. A gamified recognition program reinforces good performance by, for example, providing points that employees can “cash in” or use for items or activities. Effective rewards can be as simple as “dressing down days” or company-branded merchandise.

The practice of simultaneous learning is also important, whether it’s using in-store digital communications, online forums or user-generated content. By taking this approach, you can capture and harvest the most relevant information and use it to train employees on specific knowledge or technical items.

Having happy, engaged employees impacts your customers. Regardless of how the customer is interacting with your brand, an engaged employee will provide a better customer experience. That positive customer experience has a direct correlation to the financial impact and growth of your business.

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