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Work Smart

3 Reasons Why "Employee Engagement" Isn't Enough

Your employees aren’t afraid to jump ship if you can't give them a meaningful reason to stay on board.

[Photo: Flickr user Antoine Gady]

You're sick of hearing about "employee engagement." You already know why it's so important for your team members to be happy at their jobs, and you're fully aware that legions are not. To be sure, low engagement has real problems: productivity, work quality, and collaborative abilities are all on the line. When team morale sinks, work culture suffers, and a whole manner of consequences can follow.

But knowing all that isn't the same as solving it. And one reason so many companies manifestly fail to solve it is because the bar is set too low: Your employees shouldn’t just be content or "engaged." In order to really succeed as a company, they need to be passionate. You need to hire people who genuinely fall in love with everything about your company—your brand, your services, your products, your passion. Some businesses are already figuring out how to tap into the enthusiasm of their most loyal customers for recruiting purposes. This way, consumer and employer brands can become mutually reinforcing.

That's no easy thing to do, but it's the goal every company needs to aim for. More modest efforts are arguably even likelier to fail. But however you choose to do it, there are certain benefits that there's simply no other way to achieve without a deeply passionate staff. Here are a few of them.

1. If You Don’t Offer A Great Culture, Someone Else Will

That's something your business probably understands in principle but may not be sure how to respond to in practice. The job market is as competitive as ever. We're now a few years into a millennial-dominant workforce, and that means certain work practices and expectations are shifting. Companies can no longer compete strictly on the basis of salary and benefits. Armed with more information than ever before, job seekers are now prone to weigh prospective employers' cultures alongside other, less tangible aspects.

In order to stand out, your business needs a strong core belief that resonates with both customers and employees. If your employees don't set foot in your office on their very first day feeling some sort of personal stake in your company's ethos, that lack of commitment and inspiration will begin to show real costs.

If you don't have enough to offer them on that front, they’ll find somewhere else that appeals better to their passions and beliefs. "Today, the companies with the happiest, most engaged employees boast cultures that are fun and enjoyable but still encourage good work ethics," Ami Gal, CEO of SQream, tells me. "We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we definitely bring results and accomplish tasks nobody believed we’d be able to do."

That isn't possible with employees who are just there to collect a paycheck and clock out at 5 p.m. Employees aren’t afraid to jump ship. You need to give them a reason to stay on board.

2. Word-Of-Mouth Is The Best Marketing Tool There Is

Marketing has evolved quite a bit over the years, driven largely by changing consumer expectations. Thanks to tools like Yelp, word-of-mouth recommendations play a massive role in influencing potential customers. Nothing means more to a potential buyer, though, than an employee who genuinely believes in what they do. Always remember that employees talk about their company, for better or worse. If they love it, they'll share their positive outlook with others, cementing the trust between a company and its customers better than any multimillion-dollar ad campaign.

"When running a company, you have a great opportunity to turn employees into brand ambassadors," says Oren Ezra, CMO of
Pepperi. "From the beginning of our relationship with new employees, we develop open channels of communication so they can express their concerns. This way, employees feel as though their feedback is important for moving our business forward."

The people who work for you don't just need to feel like they can make a difference in how things work at their employer, they need to see that. As Ezra explains, that in turn "gives employees pride about their workplace and encourages them to speak positively about our brand to others." The credibility that accompanies an employee's recommendation comes free, and it all starts with making your employees love their jobs.

3. They’ll Help You Do What The Best Recruiters Can't

Like-minded people tend to flock together. The adage that "you reap what you sow" applies here: If you can build a culture that attracts job seekers who already love your company and then sustains and deepens their passion once they're on board, they'll bring in more people just like them. That's why a powerful work culture is such an important long-term investment. Finding the right employees is tricky. But patience and selectiveness can pay off.

That boon to recruitment can have other strategic upsides, too. Companies want to attract not just passionate employees but passionate consumers, too. More and more, broad targeting isn’t a viable long-term branding option. But when you can build and sustain a positive culture that's based around deeply committed team members, potential customers begin to take note. And the virtuous circle keeps turning.

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