How to fully engage your staff in five easy conversations to ensure that everyone is working together as one team.
By Kim Seeling Smith, Contributing Editor
The rest? They might be bringing their B or C games, and the last segment is trying to avoid being fired.
As an industry, this is the employee engagement crisis with which many employers are familiar.
Countless c-stores dedicate much of their annual budgets to solving employee engagement issues, when in reality, such issues—as well as performance and behavioral problems—can be solved through a simple two-way dialogue.
But most managers don’t talk to their staff frequently enough, don’t know how to talk to them or what to talk about. Managers are unaware as to how to plug into their employees’ minds and figure out what they really want, and what they need to be fully engaged and productive.
There are no psychic forces to decipher the minds of your employees in order to glean the information needed to engage them.
It can be as simple as conducting the following five FOCUSed conversations: Feedback, Objectives, Career Objectives, Underlying Motivators and Strengths.
Conversation 1: Feedback. There are two types of feedback that make up constructive dialogue. First, give praise where praise is due.
Studies have shown that a vast majority of employees do not feel appreciated enough for the job they do. Praise can be a scarce commodity in the workplace. So if your staff is doing a good job, be sure to let them know in short order.
Conversely, one of the key factors in employee engagement is the ability to have your say. Be receptive to your staffs’ feedback. Who knows, they may just come up with a brilliant idea that makes a huge difference for the team and the company.
Conversation 2: Objectives. Most performance issues stem from a disconnect between what the manager perceives as meeting objectives and what the staff member perceives. To drastically reduce performance issues, managers must clearly define and articulate expectations. Yet few do.
Your employees need to know what they must do to be successful in their jobs, and how that success will be measured. And you need to have a clearly defined yardstick by which to objectively measure performance. Aligning their expectations with yours will result in less frustration and anxiety—for both sides.
Conversation 3: Career Development. Many studies list career development within the top three factors that employees gauge to determine whether to choose to stay with their current employer or look for another job. Yet, many managers avoid this topic like the plague for the following reasons:
• Some managers don’t understand how to manage their own careers, so are limited in helping subordinates.
• Other managers fear if they help their staff, they will surpass them on the corporate ladder.
• Some supervisors are afraid to talk about career development because they don’t feel they can meet the employee’s expectations. This is especially true in smaller companies or niche functions where vertical career advancement is limited.
Helping staff manage their careers makes good business sense. Ensuring that they understand what opportunities exist within your company (something they may not recognize without your help) will inhibit them from looking outside of the
organization as well. Find out what your employees’ priorities are and then have open and honest meetings pertaining to how the organization is equipped to help them achieve objectives that satisfy their goals and the company’s goals. Recommend internal opportunities within the organization that allow them to develop needed skill sets.
Conversation 4: Underlying Motivators. The Underlying Motivators conversation helps to uncover those intrinsic factors—Currencies of Choice— that science has shown to be much more highly motivating than extrinsic ones, such as pay and benefits.
By tapping into each individual’s Currencies of Choice, you will help uncover what they need to ‘go the extra mile.’ Conversely, once they do, those workers should be recognized.
The old adage, “Praise in public, correct in private” is only half true. Many people don’t respond well to public recognition. Identify the drivers of each individual staff member to unlock productivity and unleash potential. Then recognize them appropriately when they do go that extra mile.
Conversation 5: Strengths. According to Gallup, company teams whose members play to their strengths most of the time are:
• 50% more likely to have low employee turnover;
• 38% more likely to be highly productive; and
• 44% more likely to earn high customer satisfaction scores.
Strengths can be defined as the innate abilities or behavioral patterns that are neurologically hard-wired into our brains between the ages of three and 15 years of age. The context of the behavior will change over time, but the patterns remain the same.
So children who share their toys at five years old may become teenagers who volunteer at a local charity. And after the age 20, they may become the employees who are the most collaborative in the workplace.
Strength-identification also requires a minor time commitment, where two hours per week can help employees’ development.
If you can help your staff determine behaviors that come naturally to them, you will find that their stress is decreased, they become more engaged—and of course more productive.
There is no reason to spend mass-amounts of time and money on ‘engagement’ programs when all it takes is tapping into the minds of your personnel.
By hiring the right staff members for your convenience store and then employing the five FOCUSed conversations, managers can significantly increase overall employee engagement.
Communicate with your staff frequently, effectively and about the things that matter to them.
More employees are jumping ship to look for greener pastures. Convenience store retailers can keep their hourly workforce satisfied through empowerment, recognition and training.
According to a survey by workplace consultancy Mercer, nearly one-third of U.S. workers surveyed were seriously considering quitting their jobs. The survey also showed that the inclination toward voluntary turnover is higher among younger
workers, with 44% of employees 24 and younger planning to leave their jobs.
While pay or benefit increases may not be on the table, you can increase your workers’ engagement in three non-monetary ways.
• Empowerment. Give your employees the power to make decisions to provide better customer service and they will begin to own their job. When employees feel that they must ask permission to offer a disgruntled customer a free soda or a 5% discount to make things right, they miss out on a connection to their work—a connection that could make it harder to walk away.
• Recognition. Never underestimate the power of a sincere “thank you.” If you have an employee who has gone above and beyond, let him know that it did not go unnoticed. Look for overt ways to call out those employees who consistently deliver.
• Training. The majority of your workforce does not want to do the same thing, day in and day out for the rest of their working lives. Offer your employees cross-training opportunities that will allow them to learn new skills and change up their days. As employees learn more about the business, they will become more engaged in their work and more skilled at the same time.