Employee engagement is something that is discussed often in small businesses and among HR professionals. According to Gallup, only 31% of the American workforce is actively engaged in their work, but here is a lot of evidence showing that actively engaged employees are also your highest performers. It is important that small business leaders take notice of this and find ways to increase engagement at their organizations if they want to continue to compete and win among larger corporations.

In a post on the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) blog, Brady G. Wilson, author of the new book Beyond Engagement: A Brain-Based Approach That Blends the Engagement Managers Want with the Energy Employees Need, describes ten things employers can do to take employee engagement to the next level.

1- Manage energy, not engagement: Protect your employees’ ability to focus, make good decisions and take action by recognizing when they are low on energy and need a boost.

2- Deliver experiences, not promises: A promise of a future reward can only motivate a person for so long. Deliver real, positive experiences for your employees daily. Celebrate the little wins along the way.

3- Target emotion, not logic: Understand what is important to your employees and why. This shows compassion for your employees and builds trust.

4- Trust conversations, not surveys: Conducting a survey only gives you the options of employees in a snapshot. And even then, it is hard to gauge how honest your employees are. Having ongoing conversations with employees allows you to really get to know them and more easily identify if they need extra attention.

5- Seek tension, not harmony: A little managed competition actual creates stronger teams. You want employees who will speak up when they don’t agree with something and freely share their ideas. This helps prevent “groupthink” and leads to more innovation and better decision-making.

6- Practice partnering, not parenting:  Set appropriate expectations and hold employees accountable and then allow them to perform. Leaders who micromanage employees never create to a successful working environment. Create a partnership with employees where leaders are working together with employees to reach their goals.

7- Pull out the backstory, not the action plan: Trying to create a one-size fits all employee engagement plan based on an annual survey will only lead to resentment among a majority of employees. Understand what motivates each employee and work to create an environment that supports them.

8- Think sticks, not carrots: As we mentioned above, recognition programs, or promises of future rewards only motivates for so long. Working toward a company goal should be as rewarding for employees as reaching it.

 9- Meet needs, not scores: Meeting an employee’s needs is the best way to ensure you get the highest level of performance out of them. Focus on making sure you meet the core needs of your employees, instead of worrying about the scores on your last employee engagement survey.

10- Challenge beliefs, not emotions:  Wilson writes, “According to brain science, it is not our capability but our belief in our capability that affects how effective we are.” Consider how powerful it could be to challenge your employees’ beliefs about their abilities. Show that you have confidence in them.

These ten things do not require expensive perks or any real financial investment. This has to do with a culture shift that allows employees to thrive. If you have questions about ways you can put these ideas into action, contact one of our HR Advisors.