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9 ways to increase employee engagement

Nurture engaged employees at your farm or workplace.

An "engaged employee" is one who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work and thus will act in a way that furthers their organization's interests.

Your operation’s leaders should ask themselves the following questions with respect to employee engagement:

-Do employees feel as if what they are doing is important?

-Do employees understand their role? Have expectations of what is wanted from them been made clear to them?

-Do employees feel as if they are advancing in their careers? Are they growing, developing and improving themselves?

-Are employees getting frequent and regular informal feedback on performance in addition to an annual performance evaluation?

-Does the employee have a good relationship with his/her immediate supervisor?

Employee engagement is a fancy phrase for “taking care of the basics.” President Eric Spell shared a few basic guidelines to communicate to your supervisors and managers:

1. Let go of any negative opinions you may have about your employees.
Approach each of them as a source of unique knowledge with something valuable to contribute to the company. Remember that you are co-creating the achievement of a vision with them.

2. Make sure employees have everything they need to do their jobs.
Remember when you started a new school year and you'd prepare by getting all new school supplies? Why not build such an opportunity into your operation simply by asking each staff member, or the team as a whole, "Do you have everything you need to be as competent as you can be?" Remember, just as marketplace and customer needs change daily, so do your employees’ needs.

3. Clearly communicate what's expected of employees.
Communicate what your organization’s values are and how the operation defines success. Employees can’t perform well or be productive if they don't clearly know what it is they're there to do and the part they play in the overall success of the operation. Be sure to communicate your expectations and to do it often.

4. Get to know your employees.
Get to know your employees - especially their goals, their stressors, what excites them and how they each define 'success.' I'm not suggesting you pry too deeply or start 'counseling' your team members. What I am suggesting is that you show an interest in their well-being and that, when appropriate, you do what it takes to enable them to feel more fulfilled and better balanced.

5. Make sure they are trained - and retrained - in problem solving and conflict resolution skills.
These critical skills will help them interact better with you, their teammates, customers and suppliers. It's common sense - better communication reduces stress and increases positive outcomes.

6. Constantly ask how you are doing in your employees’ eyes.
I know it can be difficult for managers to request employee feedback and it can be equally, if not more, challenging for an employee to give the person who evaluates them an honest response. Begin dialogs with employees using conversation starters such as, "It's one of my goals to constantly improve myself as a manager. What would you like to see me do differently? What could I be doing to make your job easier?" Be sure to accept feedback graciously and to express appreciation.

7. Pay attention to company stories and rituals.
Are people laughing at each other or with each other? Do they repeat stories of success or moments of shame? Stay away from participating in discussions that are destructive to people or the organization, and keep success stories alive.

8. Reward and recognize employees in ways that are meaningful to them.
Reward and recognize employees in ways that are meaningful to them (that's why getting to know your employees is so important). And remember to celebrate both accomplishments and efforts to give employees working on long-term goals a boost.

9. Be consistent for the long haul.
If you start an engagement initiative and then drop it, your efforts will backfire and create employee estrangement. People are exhausted and exasperated from “program du jour” initiatives that engage their passion and then fizzle out when the manager gets bored, fired or moved to another department. There is a connection between an employee's commitment to an initiative and a manager's commitment to supporting it. A manager's ongoing commitment to keeping people engaged, involved in and excited about the work they do and the challenges they face must be a daily priority.

For more information email at [email protected].

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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