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You can hire, fire, and tell people what to do. You can't make them like what they're doing. Some business leaders are content with an unhappy team; as long as they do what they are paid to do, their mental health is considered superfluous. This way of thinking is not only incorrect, but it is also detrimental to a company's long-term survival.

Gallup has published some excellent articles that show the difference between engaged and disengaged employees. They emphasise several additional benefits that engaged employees bring to the table, including motivation, innovation, and a willingness to take on more responsibility within the company. So, what can you do?

Employees who don't want to be there don't have the same level of motivation. They do their jobs, but they never go above and beyond the call of duty. Expect them to never go beyond the scope of their job description, and if the opportunity to skip work without being fired exists, they will take it. Obviously, you don't want a team made up of these people. However, if you don't know how to motivate a team, you won't be able to inspire your employees to go above and beyond what is expected of them.

A great company cannot exist without great employees, and there are steps you can take to mould them into the people you want to work for you. These are tried-and-true methods for getting your employees to care about what they do, and anyone can learn to use them:

1) Act like a team rather than a dictatorship

Every ship requires a strong captain, but that doesn't mean you have to spend every second reminding your employee who is in charge. Your employees look to you for direction, but they also want to believe that you are aware of everything that is going on. Some managers appear to be giving mandates from heaven, or worse, they rattle off long lists of orders because they don't want to do the work themselves. If you issue the directive and then pitch in to achieve the goal, you will demonstrate to your employees that they are all part of a team and must sink or swim together.

2) Allow them to shine

Some people are perfectly content with being a cog in the wheel. I'm sure you know at least one person working a job they despise to collect a pension in twenty years. Those who fit that profile will gravitate towards jobs with few opportunities to stand out and plenty of job security. Those who want to achieve more will never settle for a job that requires them to push pencils all day. These restless employees are constantly looking for ways to demonstrate to you that they are capable of far more than low-level work. If you deny them this opportunity, they will either leave for greener pastures or, if they can't/won't quit, they will become disillusioned with what they do.

Allow someone to demonstrate their abilities if you find one. An employee who takes the initiative and wants to improve themselves will be of enormous value to your company. Don't let this opportunity pass you by.

3) Don't take them for granted - express your appreciation

This goes beyond simply saying "thank you," though those two words can have a lot of power on their own. If your employees do not believe that their contributions are recognised or rewarded, they will have little incentive to go above and beyond in their work. How you express your gratitude is just as important as the action itself because a perceived token gesture is even more insulting than no reward at all. To put it another way, if someone has a brilliant idea and you give them a monogrammed lanyard as a gift, don't count on them sticking around. The opposite of punishing failure is rewarding success, and creating the ideal team requires striking a balance between the two.

As obvious as these three characteristics appear, you probably know from personal experience that many managers struggle to effectively implement these strategies.

If you are having trouble reaching out to your employees, we can help you!

- Robin Olivier (ActionCURVE NZ)

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