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Posted: December 27, 2013

Guess who’s engaged?

Some thoughts on helping workers care

David Sneed

After asking the Internet, I learned that ‘engaged employees’ are those staff members who feel good about the company they work for.

And ‘engaging’ them reminds ‘em to like their job without a bump in pay.

I think I get it. We renamed “happy workers” because fresh phrasing is fun. The real issue hasn’t changed with the new name though, has it?

What we’re really after is workers who care as much about the business as the owner does.

And why do we want that?

Because these engaged employees are more productive; they’re better with the customers; and they increase the bottom line.

Well, I’m not sure we’ll ever get someone as completely engaged as the owner is, but maybe we can get close.

Look first at some traits the owner has:

  • He goes the extra mile
  • He’s efficient.
  • He cares what customers think
  • He knows that time is money

Those are the traits we want our employees to have, too.

So here’s the question that all my HR heroes out there want answered: How do you engage employees?

By being human; and by teaching them what the owner knows.

Being human, that’s the leadership part. A leader makes our work-life bearable and interesting. If your company’s missing that part, look up for the answer, not down.

I really want to talk about the other bit, about teaching employees what the owner knows.

If you ask me, a lot of gurus and training programs just don’t get this part. Until Jim Bob the line worker knows WHY a good work ethic is important, and understands WHY it’s in his own best interest, there’s little point in a Monday morning all-staff morale meeting.

You see, people tend to do what makes their life easier, or somehow better.

If they think helping a customer only affords the boss a new Mercedes, they don’t see the point. But when they learn that—and you have to be prepared for this—helping the company succeed is rewarded (financially or otherwise) they’ll see the light.

But we also have to follow through on our end and reward the employees who DO help the company succeed. Maybe that’s the part that’s missing. That’s a different article for sure.

So why don’t we teach what we really want them to learn – a good work ethic?

Instead we teach specific skills: customer service, and teamwork. That’s like teaching the 7th grade girls’ basketball team how to post-up in the box. They don’t even understand the point of the game yet, so why bother teaching them a rebounding technique? It won’t matter.

Once they do understand the game, and realize that getting the ball is essential for winning, the rebounding will come naturally.

First, teach them why they should go get the ball.

If you show your employees that success at work comes from feeling ownership in their company, customer service / time management / hard work will naturally follow. They already know how to do these things, what they need is a reason to do it.

That reason – will create the employee engagement we seek.

That reason – is learning what their boss knows about success.

Teach those traits that the big boss has, and reward your staff for caring about the company. Not necessarily financially, but by caring about them back.

Now that’s employee engagement.

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at

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Readers Respond

Sounds like there's a good article in your comments. I'd like to read it, and no doubt COBiz would like to print it. By David Sneed on 2013 03 13
Thanks for noticing David. I've had some practice (aka good "worth ethic"). That, plus I'm "engaged" on the court. Mostly, I don't want to disappoint myself, or more importantly, my team. By Lisa Leslie on 2013 03 13
Well Lisa Leslie's sure good at it. By David Sneed on 2013 03 13
Everyone knows girls are superior at the "Pick and Roll". By Lisa Leslie on 2013 03 13
I think you're right, Catharyn. )-: I wrote from my perspective, not as a universal experience. Note taken. By David Sneed on 2013 03 13
Overall, nicely done. I was amused by noting how the names of the players change over time and how the issue remains the same -- how to have employees who care and are careful. However, I also noted that in the article the owner's are men (he...) and women are referred to only in terms of a 7th grade girls basketball team that doesn't know enough to be trusted with real, important information. Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive, but as a founder/CEO of a company that has 15 employees, I notice when women don't get included. When the message is good, having it diluted because of exclusivity is not useful. By Catharyn Baird on 2013 03 13
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