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Overcoming Low Engagement: An Essential Step to Business Growth

A staggering 87 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged at work. What does this mean for your business, and what can you do to overcome low engagement?

Why Does Engagement Matter?

Many business owners and people in the C-suite dismiss engagement as a trendy buzzword, but it is really a very valuable concept for employers. Engagement is essentially when employees begin to adopt an ownership mentality. Engaged employees look out for one another, for your business, and for your customers. They make fewer mistakes and are more productive. And very importantly, engaged employees don't leave—saving you the enormous costs associated with turnover (estimates place the cost of replacement at around 150% of the departing employee's salary).

In other words, engagement should be a high priority for all businesses. While there are tools you can use to assess engagement, the best thing you can do as a business owner is to be engaged yourself—i.e., be out in the trenches, getting to know exactly what is happening on the front lines.

Asking questions about engagement can be a difficult process for executives because you have to be comfortable hearing honest answers and taking action based on those answers. But there are some great tools you can use to get you started on this path. We recommend the Gallup Q12 survey, the TINYpulse and RoundPegg. Whichever one you choose, you should use it regularly in order to account for the ups and downs in every employee's life cycle. You can customize smaller surveys based on things that are happening in your company, too. Just remember that open-ended questions will always give you better information.

The Gift of Professional Development

A lack of professional development is often a reason for low engagement and high turnover. Too often, companies cut professional development and training because of budget constraints, but these should really be the last thing to go. You can think creatively about how to provide professional development even with a very limited budget—for instance, creating a mentoring program that draws on your existing network.

Good professional development leads to personal development as well—which means happier, more curious employees. When employees feel like they can pursue their own interests within the context of the business, they are much more motivated.

Training needs to begin at onboarding, continue as you develop A-level players, and be at the heart of a solid succession plan. And it needs to be personalized to your employees—some people do well watching a PowerPoint presentation, while others will glaze over immediately if asked to sit in a darkened room. Knowing which type of training your employees will respond to goes back to putting yourself in a position where you see what's happening on the ground.

Paying Attention to the Personal

Beyond noticing what type of training will suit your employees best, you should also be paying attention to who they are outside of work. Asking about people's children, noticing their outside interests, and realizing how these things impact their work lives are essential to building trust and engagement.

Connecting Employee Loyalty and Customer Loyalty

Here's the bottom line: employee loyalty and customer loyalty go hand in hand. Engaged employees will treat your customers with respect and do everything they can to make them happy. So you need to do the same for your employees.

Want to learn more about how to overcome low engagement for a happier, more productive workforce that will help your company grow? Purchase your copy of Kathleen Quinn Votaw's book, Solve the People Puzzle today.

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