How to Engage The Most Difficult Employee On the Planet

Stefan Wissenbach

The promise of engagement encompasses higher productivity, more profitability, better customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, fewer safety incidents, and a much more enjoyable work environment. Engagement has also been shown to significantly affect ROI, company culture, and growth potential. Of course, you want your employees to work harder, focus better, and be more productive, but the trick top companies are trying to learn is how to motivate the employees to want that themselves.

Well, let’s start with the most disinterested employee on the planet: The 16 year-old texting her day away behind the counter of the local ice cream shop. She couldn’t care less about slinging ice cream into waffle cones, but she still has a reason she’s there. If you, as the employer, can find that reason, you’re halfway to creating an exemplary employee with management potential. Don’t believe me? These strategies are powerful enough to engage almost anyone – it’s what we do at Magic Future for our corporate clients (on a much larger scale).

Most managers go wrong by demanding that their employees care about what they care about, whether that’s increasing their ROI, working longer hours, improving the quality of their work by going the extra mile, or simply keeping the floors clean of sticky ice cream drips. Instead, start with finding out your employee’s deepest goals and biggest dreams. For our hypothetical ice-cream purveyor, the goal might be saving enough money for an end-of-summer holiday to Ibiza. That is the goal with which she is emotionally connected, and even though it has nothing to do with your goal of mopping up spilled ice cream, you have the power to connect the two.

Ask yourself: How can you align this young woman’s dream to party in Ibiza with your goals? You might incentivize hard work by offering her more hours, or a monetary bonus for mopping above and beyond the call of duty. Most importantly, by showing a sincere interest in her personal goals, you’ve won her respect and loyalty. Statistics show that she will be likely to stay with your business for longer, make your customers happier, and sell more ice cream than ever – because she wants to.

Our corporate clients may not own ice cream shops – they’re more along the lines of Fortune 500 companies. But the guiding principle remains the same: If you want your employees to connect with your goals, you must help them connect with theirs first. When you do that, the results speak for themselves:

  • Accenture, the world’s largest consulting firm, found that organizations that invested just another 10 percent into engagement initiatives would increase profits by $2,400 per employee.
  • The Corporate Leadership Council reported that organizations with high levels of employee engagement grow profits as much as three times faster than their less-engaged competitors, and reduce staff turnover by 87 percent.
  • Gallup shows that engaged companies make 147 percent higher earnings per share, and that engagement has a higher impact on an employee’s wellbeing and job performance than any company benefit, policy or perk.
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