Don't let employees drop off - how to keep staff engaged

Only 12% said they regularly or consistently deal with staff issues such as motivation, willingness to go the extra mile and identification with company goals.

The research canvassed those working in big businesses, but it would be foolhardy to say a lack of employee engagement is a problem that only affects larger companies. The good news is, getting your team fired up is easier the smaller your business is.

Yes, small businesses are closer-knit and more communicative than big firms. Tere are fewer layers of hierarchy the smaller the business is, fewer people messages have to be passed on to, fewer seniors and less time needed to sign off new initiatives. In a small business, staff can usually go straight to the boss with a problem or idea, or straight to the second in command. In a big business, there might be dozens of levels of management before they can get heard.

That's why so many people prefer working in small businesses - the speed an idea can be implemented in, the entrepreneurial fast-moving nature, and the access to people of every level within the business. All make for better opportunities to get your views heard. But that certainly doesn't mean small business owners can afford to rest on their laurels, nor that all people working for a small business will feel engaged with their work by default.

So here are our guidelines for keeping employees engaged, to help you avoid being stuck with unmotivated, sluggish and ultimately unproductive teammates:

1.    Carry out regular performance appraisals with staff - at least every six months - to let them know how they're doing  and to get their feedback on the business and their role. Sort out any problems quickly. Find out more about how to carry out employee performance reviews.

2.    Give staff targets. It helps them understand what's expected of them and keeps them motivated. Targets should be quantifiable, realistic and linked to some kind of reward, financial or otherwise, so employees are incentivized to reach and, hopefully, exceed them. Read more about setting targets for your business.

3.    Lead by example. You're there to inspire your team and show them how it's done. If you want them to always act and dress the part, you have to too. You set the bar. Keep. Find out more about why it's important to lead by example as a manager.

4.    Treat your staff. To keep motivation and general cheeriness and team spirit high, take you team out on jollies and socials. You don't have to break the bank at Michelin-starred restaurants. Getting a few rounds in at the pub or just organizing a day out on a picnic or to the cinema is enough to show them you care.

If you're really tight on funds, introduce things that will make their week: letting them come in at 10am instead of 9am on a Monday morning, or leaving an hour early on Fridays. Group pizza lunches in the office always help brainstorms, too - we speak from experience!

5.    Give your team responsibility. Most people live up to responsibility, and when you let staff lead on projects it makes them feel trusted, and therefore valued. No one likes being nannied and patronized. Treat your staff like adults and let them learn in at the deep end. The extra responsibility will keep them growing - and personal development is the best antidote going for job fatigue.

6.    Support responsibility-giving by fostering a culture where all ideas are welcome, so team members start developing their own initiatives they can then lead on. This has a double advantage: as well as keeping employees engaged, the business will become more creative and innovative as other people minds work to push it forward, rather than you having to think up and run everything all the time. Your time will be freer to work on top-level strategy.

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