Engaging employees often leads to greater job satisfaction. So – what does it take to keep employees ‘happy’ and motivated in their jobs? Surprisingly, not as much as you might think. This is good news for organizations that struggle to attain and retain qualified staff members. Following are 26 “low-cost/no-cost” ways to motivate and retain employees. Whether you’re supervising staff yourself or advising your organization’s managers on how to keep their employees engaged and satisfied, these simple techniques can really make a difference.

Engaging Employees From A to Z

A – Acknowledge

Make the time to tell employees how much you appreciate them. These acknowledgements don’t have to be complex – simple words of thanks, public recognition of an employee’s efforts, or a notice in the employee newsletter would do the trick. Employees, themselves, will be the first to tell you that, when it comes to acknowledgement, it’s the little things that count.

B – Benefits

While most companies offer the basic employee benefits like paid time off for vacations or sick leave, health care, etc., in a competitive environment, the basics may not be enough. As health care costs rise, employees are concerned about the rising costs of their premium contributions.

Also, work-life issues are becoming more important and can help you differentiate yourself from the competition. This may be by allowing flexible scheduling, sponsoring a bring-your-child, or even bring-your-pet, to work day, etc.

C – Care

Employees have lives and problems outside the workplace. You can, and should, express concern for employees. When managers or organizations genuinely care, employees develop a strong sense of loyalty in return.

D – Determine What They Want

Employees don’t respond the same way to the same forms of recognition or reward. Not all employees will welcome public recognition.

E – Equity

In your employees’ perspective, are they treated fairly and are disciplinary actions consistent? Keep in mind, equity does not necessarily mean equality. Employees don’t expect to be treated the same as their coworkers because their needs and situations are unique. What they do expect is that they will be treated fairly.

F – Forgive

Employees make mistakes. When they do, how the company responds makes a huge difference in their self-esteem and loyalty. Help everyone involved, the company included, learn from mistakes. Consider whether work processes – and not employee ‘incompetence’ – may be contributing to errors or mistakes. Enlist the employee in determining and implementing a workable solution and then move on.

G – Give Feedback

Feedback should be ongoing, not just an annual performance review requirement. Make sure employees know what’s expected of them and that they have frequent feedback to let them know how their performance compares with expectations.

H – Honesty

Employees appreciate your honesty, even if the information may be unpleasant. Better to hear from you directly than to hear news or feedback through the grapevine.

I – Involve

Are employees offered the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect the organization and particularly their jobs? Being asked for their opinions on issues large and small can be extremely motivating and push efforts toward engaging employees.

J – Jump!

How quickly do you respond to employee requests? Whether you’re a manager or a human resource professional, service to employees is an important requirement of your position. Even if you can’t fix the problem, commit to providing some form of response, even if it is simply, “We received your comment/request,” as immediately as possible.

K – K.I.S.S.

Keep it Short and Simple. Employees want to perform effectively and efficiently. They can’t if the processes or tools provided to work with are inefficient or ineffective.

L – Listen

Do you have formal and informal mechanisms in place to listen to your employees? Whether in the form of suggestion boxes, online forums, or one-on-on conversations, offering employees the opportunity to share their comments, suggestions, and concerns is key to keep them engaged.

M – Manage Effectively

How well do your managers manage? Studies continue to show that an employee’s direct supervisor has the greatest impact on his or her performance, loyalty, and motivation to the company.

N – Nudge

Don’t accept mediocre performance from employees. Push them to do their best, to give a little bit more next time than they did the last time they performed.

O – Opportunities

Notice which employees are upwardly mobile. What opportunities exist internally for employees to move into higher-level and/or more challenging positions?

P – Pay

While pay isn’t the most important motivator for your employees, it’s right up there. The key is equity – both internal and external. Make sure that your pay practices are consistent between positions within your organization as well as within the market you draw employees from.

Q – Question

You can learn a lot from employees if you take the time to ask them. Concerned about turnover? Ask employees what they think the problem might be. Wondering whether it’s a good idea to expand into a new market? Ask your staff what they think.

R – Reward

“A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” is an outdated view of the relationship between employees and the companies they work for. Engaging employees relies on offering more. You need to reward individual or group efforts that contribute to the organization’s mission or exemplify the kind of performance or behaviors you’d like to continue to see. Be creative. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to offer meaningful rewards and incentives to employees.

S – Share Information

Employees need to know anything that will help them make a more valuable contribution to your organization. That contribution may be simply sharing positive information about your company’s products or services with friends and acquaintances – or it may be making decisions on the job that directly impacts the bottom line. Don’t hoard information as a source of power.

T – Talk to Them

Talking with employees indicates that you’re interested in them and their opinions. They appreciate the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers directly from those who are in-the-know.

U – Understand Their Issues

The issues that are important to your front-line customer service representatives are different from the issues that are important to your order processing employees. Stay informed with what those issues are.

V – Value

Perhaps your organization is one that employees feel proud to work for or your benefit package is particularly generous. Maybe your on-site health club facility is better than any place in town. That value may already exist, but you have taken the time or thought to remind employees that it’s there. What unique extras does your organization offer to employees?

W – Why?

When going through the process of decision making, implementing a new policy, or changing an existing one, do you let your employees know why? Many companies lament that employees don’t like dealing with change, but that isn’t necessarily true. What employees don’t like is change they don’t understand. Communicating the why behind the decisions you make is a simple step to take toward engaging employees.

X – (E)xcellence

Employees like to feel like they are part of an organization that they can proudly brag about to friends and family. They want to tell others about the great things their company does and how they help contribute to those great things. Employees feel proud when their organization reaches its goals, creates new products, or achieves recognition. Strive for excellence.

Y – Yes!

It’s easy to say, “no.” It takes more time to find ways to meet employees’ needs. Nobody likes to hear, “no,” but we all appreciate a demonstrated willingness to find some common ground.

Z – Zest

Having fun at work isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s great! When employees enjoy their jobs, they enjoy coming to work. Consider ways that your organization can create a zestful environment that makes employees wanting to be there and doing their best for years to come.

Employee Engagement or Performance Challenges?

HR Service, Inc. can help you identify and resolve employee burnout, motivation, and performance challenges. In addition, we train leaders on how to create an engaging work environment and to resolve performance problems.

This article was carefully crafted after “Engaging Employees – From A – Z” by Lin Grensing-Pophal, SHRM