Employee Engagement: Giving a Sh*t About your Job and your Company

Haven’t Won the Jackpot Yet?

At this point, it’s pretty clear I’m not going to win Powerball or Mega Millions or even five bucks on a scratch ticket. I’m going to have to continue to work for a living. It seems unjust, I know, but that’s the way it is.

I’ve been trying to come up with ways that I can become more engaged with my job and company. I sell headsets for a living – like the ones you see the operators wearing on late-night commercials when they say “Operators are standing by.” I sell a LOT of headsets. My quota is over $2M annually. Believe me… that’s a lot of headsets.

Remarkably, I didn’t dream of being a headset salesperson when I was growing up. I dreamed of becoming a teacher, but I got my Master’s in Elementary and Special Ed, and then I couldn’t afford to teach and pay for three kids in daycare. As Grandma Hazel used to say, “It’s not right, but it’s so.”

I’m a good employee; I always make “President’s Club” for achieving 100% of quota annually. I’m not a great employee, though. For example, I’m writing this during business hours. I have plenty to do, but my motivation is at the bottom of the pit of despair.

Why wouldn’t making a good living, a decent wage, be enough to motivate me every day? I guess it should. I should also be extremely grateful that I have a job with health insurance, dental insurance, and a 401K matching program. Without my job, my family and I would be in big trouble. Someimes the threat of losing your job isn’t enough to make you really care. It would certainly make you show up, but it’s not going to make you put your best foot forward. I want to be motivated. I want to be productive. I want to truly care about my job.

I’ve been doing a little digging around to find out how employees become engaged with their jobs and companies and thought I’d share a few nuggets of inspiration. I’ve listed five ideas for employers and then five ideas for employees.

What is an Engaged Employee?

First, I should explain that “engaged” means more than “happy.” An engaged employee will go the extra mile – just because. An engaged employee is motivated and productive.

Walk around your office for a minute. Take a gander at your coworkers. How many of them look engaged? Here’s a scary statistic: about 17% of employees are engaged in their work. That means, if you look at a workstation containing 5 people, 4 of them will be watching YouTube or surfing social media or daydreaming about the lottery or… (sigh)… writing a blog. That’s so sad — for the company and for the employee. The one person who’s engaged is probably generating 90% of the revenue/productivity for the group.

How Do Companies Engage Their Employees?

So, you want 100% of your employees to be engaged and productive? Here are five ideas for employers.

  1. Physical Proximity. Remote work is the trend right now. Working from home or on the road is good for your work-life balance, eliminates commuting time, and increases productivity by decreasing interruptions from colleagues. It also makes for a solitary existence. Why should I really care about my colleague who works in California whom I’ve met twice? If you have a remote team, you are going to have to work hard to make sure that it’s really a “team.” That means spending more time together than on weekly staff-meeting calls. Find ways to physically bring your team together. If that’s impossible, find reasons for them to all be together on the phone or a video call for very informal sessions where they can just chat. Bringing teammates together forms a sense of compassion for one another that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
  2. Talk about something other than work. People crave caring. People who feel like they’re cared for at work will have an emotional investment and interest in seeing the company succeed. We spend more time with coworkers than we do with our own children. Rather than encouraging a sweat-shop mentality where people just punch in, do their job, and punch out, try to develop a family mentality — one in which colleagues will look out for each others’ wellbeing.
  3. Make sure your employees know exactly what you want them to do. What does your employees’ success look like? If your end-game is to increase sales, what are some measurable goals you can develop together to achieve that increase? Have the employee put some skin in the game, though. Allow them to work with you to develop the goals. Goals should include steps that the employee can check off their to-do list every day and which will lead to their success. ┬áDuring my review, my boss suggested that I work to clean up my pipeline. I would love to see an example of a clean pipeline. I would love to know the specific steps I can take on a daily basis to keep my pipeline clean. Would you like to see me set an activity so I touch base with each account on a bi-weekly basis? What makes a pipeline clean? How can I better estimate the size of the sales and the timeframe in which they’ll close? Give me specific examples so I can focus on tackling some piece of that goal every day.
  4. Find out what motivates each of your employees. It’s easy to say that money is a good incentive, but there’s something more that they want to earn. There’s something more that’s important to them. Ask them to really think about it and let you know. It sounds funny to suggest having everyone read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, but it might help them discover what fills their emotional tank. You can even just have them take the quiz here. Be prepared, though. They might all have different answers, and you need to be able to come up with rewards that suit each individual on your team.
  5. Say thank you. So simple, and yet, so rarely done. Write it in a note; it’ll mean more.

 

How can employees develop their own sense of engagement? Here are five ideas for the employees’ side of the coin.

 

  1. Get up and get grateful. Before you even get out of bed, lie there for just a second and be grateful for any part of your job. Are you grateful that you have a coworker who’s funny? Are you grateful that you’re getting paid today? Are you grateful that you get to go out for sushi at lunch time? There has to be something — at least one thing — that you’re grateful for at work.
  2. Look good. Putting on a nice outfit or spending a few minutes to polish your shoes is actually tied to higher self-esteem. If you don’t want to upgrade your clothes, just put a smile on your face when you walk into the office. People who smile are more attractive. When you look good, you feel better.
  3. Think about where you want to be in your company (or in another company.) What does that position look like? What skills will you need to get there? What type of person holds that job? What qualities make them successful there? Write those qualities on sticky notes and pop them up around your desk. “Creative.” “Analytical.” “Relationship-focused.” “Collaborative.” Make it your life’s mission that others perceive those qualities in you.
  4. Organize your day. Ever tried using a bullet journal? It’s a great way to keep track of anything and everything. It’s a task-list, a calendar, and a journal all in one. I combine both work and personal life in my bullet journal. Not sure if that’s how it’s supposed to be, but it works for me. Think about what your manager’s image is of the perfect employee. What specific steps can you take to get there? Write ’em down and mark them off as you accomplish them. Kendra from “The Lazy Genius” has a good guide to creating and using a basic bullet journal. Find a link to her site here.
  5. Get in the zone. Have you ever had a day where you sat down in the morning and the next thing you knew it was time for lunch? You were in the zone. It’s much easier to get in the zone when you’re busy. Open your bullet journal, put on a great noise-cancelling headset (see what I did there?), and do the first task. The longer it takes you to get settled and going in the morning, the harder it is to get into the zone. Go in, say hi to your friends, sit down, and get going. Tell yourself that you’ll get up at 11 to step away from it all. If you have a “Darrell” who wants you to go buy a lottery ticket with him, tell him that you’ll go at 11. Pretend that the president of the company is coming to your desk at 10:45 to inspect all that you’ve done during the morning. You want to impress her. Get in the zone and get ‘er done.

Employee engagement leads to lower turnover, higher productivity, higher customer loyalty, lower number of sick days, and a more positive office environment. Do a little more research and find a way to engage your employees and yourself. Do you have more ideas about how to engage? Please leave them in comments below. Thanks!

The Mouse Jiggler: Working From Home

This morning I woke up and part of my tooth had fallen off in the night. This is clearly not something that happens to a young person, so I’m pretty certain that I must either be old or have some fatal enamel-related disease.

I immediately called the dentist to try to schedule an appointment, but they were fully booked today and tomorrow, out of the office Monday and Tuesday, and would have to call me back when they have an opening. This is disturbing to me. I’m not a vain person — really — but this is not okay. It’s a work-from-home day.

I love that we live in a time where working from home is an option for so many people. I sell headsets for a living, so I know that more and more companies are going with a computer-based telephone system like Skype for Business. This allows people to log into their virtual office in virtually any location with WiFi.

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of benefits to working in our office. There’s a free fitness center downstairs (if you’re so inclined), a nice break room with free coffee and cold brew, and access to colleagues who have answers to any problems you encounter. It’s a 50-minute commute for me, though, and I’m loathe to do it on a daily basis. Additionally, there are numerous distractions in the office. My biggest distraction of late is Darrell. He’s like a little hyper puppy: really cute and sometimes really annoying.

So, working from home has a lot of advantages: no commute, no distractions, no Darrell. It does, however, come with its own set of challenges. First of all, the refrigerator is never more than 10 feet away. Secondly, I have a cat who loves to play fetch (for real), and he doesn’t like to be ignored when he drops his fake mouse at my feet. Finally, bed. Oh my… how nice it is to take an afternoon snooze. It just feels so decadent and delicious!

But how, you ask, could one get away with a little nigh-night mid workday? Mouse Jiggler. There are a bunch of apps that you can download that will continuously move your mouse, so it appears that you’re online and working furiously. (You can also buy a physical mouse jiggler on Amazon.)

My friend, Chad, told me about the mouse jiggler three years ago.

“Chad! What were you doing online at 6:00am?”

“I just threw my mouse jiggler on and hopped in the shower. Needed to get my full eight hours in before I leave the office at 2.”

I know. It’s not right. It’s like fraud or theft or espionage or something, but here’s how I see it. If I weren’t napping at home with my mouse jiggler on, I’d be walking to Dunkin’ Donuts with Darrell to buy scratch tickets. In the end, the nap is going to benefit me, my customers, my colleagues, my cat, and my world. I’m going to be a happier, healthier person because of it! The scratch ticket’s not getting me anywhere except maybe debtor’s prison.

I don’t often jeopardize my job…but when I do, I do it with Mouse Jiggler. (I think that’s an ad for something, but I can’t remember what.)

The dentist never returned my call, so it looks like tomorrow’s another work-from-home day!