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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Lessons from a Flea: How to be an Engaged Employee

A few years back I had an employee that was totally NOT engaged in his job. He would drag into work, wait to be told what to do and then half-way complete his work while not paying attention to any details. He had no "fire" or passion. No pride or ownership in his work. It wore me out!! At first I thought it was my fault - but then I realized he had to take responsibility for the job he was hired to do.

Engaged employees are those who have passion for their work and the organization they work for. The online shoe company Zappos takes this concept so seriously that they offer new employees $2,000 to quit after the first month of training. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says, "We want people to be here because they are passionate about customer service and because they like our culture...not just here for the paycheck." In the long run the company feels the $2,000 buyout is cheaper. Wow!

In his book, The Daily Drucker, Peter Drucker states, "Fleas can jump many times their own height, but not elephants." In other words, the smaller the entity, the greater the potential for achievement of gigantic proportion. Now, I'm not calling you a flea or suggesting that your organization has fleas! What I am saying is that you, as an engaged employee, can have enormous impact on your organization. In today's economy it's up to you be as valuable to your employer as possible.

Are you an engaged employee? Do you think the people in your organization are giving it their all? Do you think employees in your company feel appreciated and look forward to coming to work each day? If you answered "No" to any of these questions then your company could be missing out on 40% more profitability, 50% lower turnover and 56% more loyal customers.

If you watch the Celebrity Apprentice you saw what a not-so-engaged employee looks like when Joan Rivers fought with Clint Black. Click here to watch it.

Organizations in the Smart Zone have engaged employees and leaders. Here are some tips to help you and your organization become more engaged.

  • Be a "Can Do" person. Instead of focusing on what you cannot do, focus on what you can do. Be action oriented. Many times people don't take action because of their belief that they aren't worth much. Our beliefs affect the way we feel, which affects the way we think, which affects the way we act. So the next time a co-worker asks you to help organize a customer appreciation day, instead of saying, "No, I can't do that," say, "What I can do is coordinate the customer invitations."

  • Get to know people. Learn what excites your employees, co-workers and customers. What are their goals? What stresses them out? How do they define success? (Just for fun watch how Michael Scott of the TV show The Office defines success). I don't suggest prying too deeply into a personal conversation. Just show an appropriate and genuine interest in those with whom you work and their well-being.

  • Use meaningful rewards and recognition. An employee appreciation golf outing on a Saturday might not feel rewarding to a single parent who has young children. Also, recognize efforts and accomplishments of those working on long-term projects to give them a boost towards achieving their goal.

  • Say "bye bye" to blame. The process of blaming and figuring out who to blame is a time waster. Mistakes should be acceptable and encouraged. Mistakes show that action was being sought. We can't all hit the bulls-eye every time. When things go wrong ask "what" and "how" questions like, "What can we do in the future?" or "How can we change what has happened?"

By the way, I call an employee who is not engaged "disengaged." But what do you call a person who is not in the Smart Zone? We have been trying to come up with a name for someone who is out of the Smart Zone and want your input. Please email us with your ideas!!

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