How to Get Your Employees Fully Engaged

Keeping staff motivated and happy is more important than ever. Experts say that with the recruitment of talent becoming increasingly difficult, you want to hold 
on to the talent you have.

One of the things humans universally love is games, so it’s no surprise that a great way to motivate them is through the use of gamification – or gaming principles. It’s a trend Norma McCrea, branch manager of The 500 Staffing, says is likely to grow. According to a recent report from the B.C. Human Resources Management Association, there is real potential for games to foster employee collaboration, enhance productivity, and keep people focused on what can be mundane or repetitive tasks.
AbeBooks, named one of B.C’.s top employers for 2012, has used it with good results. “With so many of our employees logged into Facebook and YouTube, we’ve had to look at social media differently,” says Judy Hamza, director of human resources for AbeBooks.
In the fall of 2011, AbeBooks created a YouTube channel and held a contest inviting employees to produce videos promoting books or the company itself. Most of the videos were uploaded (one has received almost 14,000 views) and the grand prize was an iPad. Not only was it great fun, says public relations and publicity manager Richard Davies, but people were able to try things they hadn’t tried before and help the marketing department in the process.
An Art More Than a Science
Gamification aside, rewards like bonuses, raises, parties, and gifts remain popular employee incentives. In fact, according to a Conference Board of Canada survey, 97 per cent of organizations they surveyed had an employee rewards and recognition program. Fewer than half, however, felt their employees were satisfied with what was on the table.
That could be because motivating employees is more of an art than a science, Hamza says. “A mentor once told me, if you want to know what employees really want, just ask and they’ll tell you.”
But what they say may surprise you.
In the past, employers often took a “one size fits all” mentality to perks; however, that’s changing as employers recognize that different things matter to different people.
For instance, not everyone is solely motivated by money or the opportunity to travel. Some people want to boost their training and upgrade skills, while others are motivated by extra social events, McCrea says.
{advertisement} People Change; Companies do, Too
Another important component is recognizing that what matters to employees can and will change as a company grows and expands, and as employees age and move through different cycles of life.
“I’ve certainly seen changes in what we do for employees in the nine years I’ve been here,” Hamza says. Based on their annual employee survey and general feedback during weekly “town hall meetings,” AbeBooks found staff wanting to put more emphasis on environmental issues, as well as fitness and work/life balance.
“So we started a green committee and worked harder to improve our environmental footprint,” Hamza explains. “We also look for opportunities to sponsor 10K runs or participate in corporate rowing challenges.”
Hamza notes, however, that all the rewards in the world won’t help if the corporate culture is poor. That point is echoed by Ian Powell, managing director of Paul’s Restaurants Ltd. and general manager of the Inn at Laurel Point. He says perks are simply icing on the cake.
“It’s important to recognize when people get married or have a child — and we do a lot of individual things like volleyball tournaments, wine tours, and, later today, I’m hosting lunch for those with birthdays this month — but if you don’t have a fundamentally respectful, enjoyable workplace, people will see through the hypocrisy,” says Powell.
Be open, be honest, and stick to your core values, he says. And don’t forget that every single employee matters. “Acknowledge them as human beings.”