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Employee engagement is an overused phrase these days. You see it written and talked about everywhere. But until employees are fully engaged in their jobs, it should continue to be written and talked about.
Employee engagement -- energy, enthusiasm, focus and commitment to their job and company -- has a powerful effect not only on productivity, but on profitability and customer metrics as well. But it's not something you can buy. A key to employee engagement is the relationship between employee and their immediate supervisor. Good leaders make their employees feel part of something, while demonstrating concern and support for them as individuals.
If you think a lot has been written about employee engagement, Google the phrase "leadership books." Makes you wonder why truly good leaders are the exception vs. the norm. Rather than bore you with the "Top 1,000 Leadership Traits" (God knows there's probably more), here are only three I'd like you to consider:
1. Empathy. Seeing the world through your employees' eyes changes everything. This is how you connect with your employees on their level. When you connect with your employees, you understand what makes them tick, which enables you to better motivate them to perform at a higher level. The best companies care deeply about their employees and have employee development as their No. 1 priority.
2. Inclusiveness. Involving your employees more in the business -- for example, the simple act of asking for their suggestions on how to improve operations -- makes them feel more a part of the company. When you feel part of something, you have more invested in it. This is how you get your employees to act and think like an owner vs. an employee. Tucked away in their heads, employees have great ideas on how to improve the business. McDonald's Egg McMuffin and Starbucks' Frappuccino were invented by store employees, not management. What kind of Egg McMuffin ideas do your employees have in their heads? You'll never know unless you ask. So, ask.
Good leaders have the confidence in themselves to stand up and say, "Hey, the business is struggling in this area (sales, foodservice, customer service, appearance, etc.) and I don't have all the answers. I need your help and I need your ideas. I need to know what I need to do better to support you efforts in this area." This is the type of leader that people will follow. People want to have their voices heard. When you give them that and respect what they have to say, they are more engaged and that makes them more productive.
3. Balance. Contrary to popular belief, people do not have two lives, personal and professional; they have one life. Good leaders recognize that and do what they can (within reason) to accommodate their people. It's hard to come to work and focus on suggestive selling and providing world-class customer service when you have sick, elderly parents at home that you're taking care of, or your five-year-old little boy didn't want to go to school today because some bully is picking on him. In many instances, you as the owner (leader) just have to be a good listener, show empathy and perhaps offer some advice where you can. It doesn't necessarily mean giving people days off from work.
You want your employees to be loyal to you and your business? Then be loyal to them. Loyalty, like so many other things in life, is a two-way street. The sooner we recognize that, the better off we all will be.
Terry McKenna is principal and co-founder of Convenience Store Coaches & Employee Performance Strategies Inc., where he helps convenience retailers achieve greater financial results by optimizing their workforce. McKenna can be reached at (910) 458-5227 or [email protected]. He also maintains a blog at www.terrymckenna.typepad.com.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner.