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Yes, creating an engaged workforce is important, but how do you do it? 

Here are three ways you can engage your employees and create a culture of appreciation in your business. 

Build trust. Trust is the foundation on which you build your culture. If there is no trust, nothing else matters. Your company culture took a long place to get to the point that it is right now, and it’s not going to change overnight. What often happens to leaders is that they suffer from a condition called BSO – Bright Shiny Object syndrome. After attending a seminar, conference, or industry event, they discover “the next big idea” to increase engagement. Managers then excitedly implement these new strategies, but when they don’t see immediate results, they discontinue the program. 

Because employees are used to managers chasing BSO’s, they know that it only takes a few weeks for things to go back to “normal.” Employees won’t trust you until they see consistency in your actions. 

Trust takes a long time to build, and it can be erased in a moment. The deadly eye roll, the lack of follow-through, and not setting the example that you want to see within the organization are all things that destroy trust. When you, as a leader, commit to making a change no matter how long it takes, you are well on your way to creating a culture of trust. 

Invest in training. Help your employees become better tomorrow than they are today. This means investing in their personal and professional development. Out of all the attributes that potential employees are looking for in their next job, one of the most important is the opportunity to grow and develop. Some managers feel that spending money on training is a waste of resources. Those managers may say, “Why should we spend money to train our employees, they’re just going to take what they learn and leave anyway.” And, while in a few cases that is true, here is a little food for thought. What if you don’t train them, and they stay? What you’ll find is that when you invest in your employees, they will work harder for you. 

Acknowledge positive action. Catch your employees in the act of doing things well. In other words, find ways to acknowledge, appreciate, and applaud the efforts of your team members. Mother Teresa once said, “We are more starved for appreciation than we are for bread.” Showing appreciation is just as valid at work as it is at home. 

Research by Marcial Losado finds that high performing teams work with a 6 to 1 positivity ratio. This statistic means that for every one negative comment that employees hear, they hear at least six positive reactions. These opinions are not necessarily, “Yea! Everything that you do is perfect,” but rather, “That’s a good start of an idea, let’s see how we can build it from here.” It’s respectful communication. In an average performing team, there is a 3 to 1 positivity ratio. At this point, the company is barely surviving. Employees are doing just enough work so that they do not get fired, and the company is probably paying them just enough so that they do not quit. It’s an even balance. Finally, on a low performing team, there is a .3 to 1 positivity ratio. People on a low performing team are hearing three times more negative remarks than they are positive comments. That doesn’t work. 

Stop trying to always fix what’s broken and instead, acknowledge what’s working. What gets recognized gets repeated, so if you want your employees to behave productively, let them know you notice their good work. The chances are good that they will like the positive feedback and will look for ways to get more of it. 

When you give positive feedback, don’t just say, “Great job!” Be specific so they know that you were paying attention to them. Look for ways to recognize your employees in the way that they like to be recognized. Some of your employees will love public applause, while others will hate it. Maybe for those more reserved employees, you’ll set up a one-to-one conversation with them. Written notes are also a terrific way to connect. When you tell someone you appreciate them you create a wonderful memory, when you write it down, you create a treasure. A well placed Post-It note can make all the difference in someone’s day. 

To get started, sit down with your leadership team and determine the type of culture that you want to create. Don’t focus on the things that you “should” do, but rather the unique things that make your workplace a great place to work. And then, choose one or two of the top ideas that you will commit to doing over the long term. Then do it.