Give an employee a gourmet muffin, and they’ll smile for an hour. But will this actually help that employee be more engaged at work in the long run?
Sure, a quick gift like a baked good will help people feel better. In just a few moments, you can make your employee really, really happy. But that’s not a long-term change.
By themselves, perks can bring employees temporary happiness, but that’s not enough for engagement. Happiness is fun, flashy, and often instantaneous, but when it comes down to it, employee engagement is never just about making employees happy.
Instead, let’s consider some other factors that will create the deep commitment and personal investment that you want your employees to have – all without spending a dime.
Do employees feel like their jobs have an extraordinary purpose? In healthcare, for example, it seems like this should be easy. Most team members know that their job duties (no matter what their role) have the ultimate purpose of helping heal the sick.
However, with the daily stresses involved, even the most dedicated care professional can wonder if they’re truly doing something worthwhile. And what about engaging those employees who rarely (if ever) interact with patients? They, too, play a critical part in helping heal the sick, whether they realize it or not.
It may be harder to find purpose in other industries. But in all cases, our purpose is to serve customers. Make sure your employees know why even routine tasks (like drawing blood, answering the phone promptly, or keeping a squeaky clean facility) can make a huge difference in the customer experience.
Do your employees feel like they can speak with you honestly?
Sometimes, it’s hard to keep an open mind when faced with honest (and perhaps unwanted) feedback, but if an employee cares enough about an issue to discuss it with you, then it’s worth considering his or her point of view.
For some of us, lending a sympathetic ear is easy, but don’t stop there: make sure your employees feel like the feedback they give you will be put to good use.
It’s true that you may not be able to change policies or procedures, but your staff should know that when they speak with you, it isn’t in one ear, then out the other.
Employees need to feel like you’ll use what you’ve just learned to actually make some positive changes when possible. If you listen attentively but do nothing to address their problems (even if it’s just acknowledging the problem as valid), then their trust in you will diminish.
Who would you rather work for: someone who encourages you to stick to your usual routine and never grow out of it, or an employer who actively seeks to help you develop your skills?
While the first scenario may be less challenging, most of us would pick Door #2. If you’ve hired the right guy or gal, then you’ll want them to stick with you. One great way to make that happen is to show them you’ve got their back when it comes to professional development. If your company already offers tuition reimbursement or other educational benefits, encourage your employees to take advantage. If not, try to offer flexible scheduling so employees can undergo new training.
Either way, you’ll show your staff that you think of them as individuals with loads of potential, not just cogs in a corporate machine.
Don’t Aim for Happy Employees
Much digital ink has been spilled over the Millennial desire to be engaged, but the truth is, the desire for engagement isn’t limited to a certain age-range. And while giving employees fun treats and perks can do a lot, remember that these should be part of a deeper engagement strategy.
Remember: happiness is a result, not a goal. Once employees are engaged with their work, happiness won’t be a problem.