Ice Cream on a Stick is not an Employee Engagement Strategy

I want to tell you a story about employee engagement. There is a Dairy Queen just down the street from the office. It’s one of the old fashioned Dairy Queens with no seating and no food. You walk up to the window and order your ice cream treat. I love that it’s in the neighborhood and it makes for a nice break on some afternoons to walk down there and grab a treat and sit in the shade to enjoy it.

This week I walked down for one of those treats. I ended up in line behind a gentleman who ordered 12 Dilly Bars. When the owner of the Dairy Queen asked him what flavors he wanted, his reply was, “I don’t care, I’m just taking them back to the office to give to employees.” I felt a tinge of excitement. It was like I was the management version of a bird watcher. I wanted to pull out my little field book and start scratching notes about my sighting. I had run across a Dilly Bar Manager. I wanted to snap a photo. I wanted to ask him questions. I opted to just observe.

I know I’ll probably get angry emails about this (mostly from Dilly Bar Managers). Don’t get me wrong. Everyone loves a good ice cream treat now and then and it’s a bonus when someone else buys it for you. The problem starts when managers think that IS their employee engagement strategy. I’ve worked with Dilly Bar Managers in every organization I’ve been a part of. They miss the genuine opportunities for employee engagement activities that make employees feel committed to the company and to the work, and instead, when the troops start to grumble they grab a box of donuts or pass out a few ten dollar bills. It makes the employee feel happy/thankful/less hungry (pick one), for a short period of time and then all parties go back to what they were doing before.

Employee Engagement is Easy

Here’s the thing. Employee engagement is not that difficult. In fact, there are three things you could begin doing Monday morning when you get back to the office.

1. Give feedback – positive and developmental. It takes no time at all and employees have a genuine desire to understand how they are performing on the job and how you as a manager sees and appreciates that performance.

2. Provide opportunities for challenging job assignments – employees want to learn and grow. They don’t want to just show up and do the same things over and over again. Help them find assignments that cause them to stretch and be challenged. Assignments that add value to the organization.

3. Encourage participation – People want to feel like their input is valued. They want someone to ask them what they think about a new process or procedure. They want to help fix something that’s broken and share their opinions. For many of them, the only thing holding them back is a manager that fails to ask for their input.

Implementing Employee Engagement Ideas

Those are the things that will help engage your employees. Practice them on a regular basis and you will have a work group that will follow you anywhere. Even down to the Dairy Queen for a Dilly Bar.

Tim Sieck

Tim Sieck is a principal partner with On Target Talent. On Target Talent uses a consultative, and perhaps slightly unconventional approach, in assisting and guiding companies to organizational success. Tim consults with company leaders and managers to develop and train key talent. In addition, Tim is an adjunct faculty member at Upper Iowa University. To connect with Tim, follow @tsieck on Twitter.

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