By Cara Sievers
If yours is like most organizations, you overlook your greatest marketing asset – your employees. You’re already paying them, they spend most of their lives with you and (hopefully) they are your biggest champions. By engaging your employees, you can grow your marketing “team" exponentially without additional cost.
Here are seven ways to engage employees — no matter the size of your team and regardless of your line of business:
1. Ask for your employees’ opinions, and actually use them. If you want employees to buy into what you are doing as a company, give them ownership. But, if you ask for feedback, be prepared to listen to it and use it. A thinly veiled attempt to include colleagues in your decisions can backfire. It’s not necessary to give away every single leadership decision. If something has to go a certain way, make that decision behind closed doors. If not, give it up to the people.
2. Cross-train and commingle. When employees learn about other areas of the business, it instantly increases engagement and melts away the “that’s not my job" mentality. Have an accountant sit in on a sales meeting or the CEO shadow a customer service rep. Another tack is to assemble a team from people in different departments to work on a special project or charitable initiative. Each of these opportunities increases an employee’s knowledge of and loyalty to an organization, and reminds them that the company cares about their career growth and well-being.
3. Trust your team. When left to sink or swim, people usually will swim, so don’t continue to keep your employees from situations where lessons can be learned. If you constantly protect, guard or silence your employees, you will create a self-fulfilling prophecy, wherein they will continue to provide you with only what you expect – the minimum, the status quo, the norm. Engage your employees by allowing them to thrive. People who are constantly built up and challenged always will have a better work ethic and a stronger positive belief in their employer than those who are not.
4. Share the good news. How can you expect your employees to adequately share your story if they don’t know it? Equip your employees with good news, such as your company’s history, community involvement and new products in the pipeline. Not only will this help employees feel more engaged, it will give leadership control over what messages are disseminated. Stories about your company will surface; it’s just a question of whether you want to have an active role in their development.
5. Reward and recognize. Appreciation and employee engagement go hand in hand. Employee recognition programs can be extensive and in-depth, but they don’t have to be. Just taking your group out to lunch or having a mini awards ceremony annually can go a long way.
6. Share non-office time. Whether you’re volunteering as a group, grabbing a coffee, or organizing a outing, sharing social time with coworkers can enrich employee engagement. Although it might be leadership’s responsibility to realize when an “outing" is needed, everyone in the organization can do their part to engage with others on a personal level. When relationships deepen, so does commitment to portraying the company in a good light.
7. Do unto others. Yes, the golden rule applies here too. If you want someone to get back to you in a timely manner, do the same. If you don’t want someone to take two-hour lunches on a normal basis, then don’t do it yourself. As a leader, the best way to engage your employees is to lead by example. Associates always will work harder for a boss who works hard. Once they feel like you have shared goals and a shared work ethic, they will feel more like part of the team.
It might seem like fuzzy math to draw a direct correlation between employee engagement and marketing success, but if you think about it, it makes sense. An engaged employee will not only have a better attitude while at work, but they will take that with them into the community. In the era of uber-networking, your employees’ voices are being heard loud and clear by potential customers, investors and future employees. So, ask yourself … are your employees engaged enough to tell your story the way you’d like it told?
Cara Sievers, a former telecom journalist, now works in corporate communications, marketing and public relations, and is a freelance contributor for a variety of trade and consumer publications.