We keep telling ourselves that this is a relationship business, but how many of us make the time to create the same bonds with our employees as we do with our customers? As we move further into 2016, I think it’s time to focus on the team that focuses on the customers.
1. Plan and commit to connecting with your employees. Let’s say 20 minutes a day, three days a week to start.

2. Listen and learn from your interactions. Put the device down and be present when speaking with employees. Be self-aware and keep your body language open. Make eye contact, smile and use a warm tone. Ask about their families, pets, vacations, sports teams, dreams and goals. Remember the details and mention one the next time you chat. (For many of us, this means we should promptly write it down.) There is a more important part of this as well, as you really get to know your team: think about how their dreams and goals fit their current work. Is there alignment? Does your additional insight show you a better position or path for them?

3. Share, share, share. Be transparent. Veteran employees are of the notion that “no news is good news,” but most employees prefer to be “in the know.” Lack of communication and feedback creates a black hole in which speculation thrives and becomes your team’s perception of the state, purpose and progress of their career and your business.

4. Use the right communication style. You can be as transparent as possible, but if you do so via formal hard copy memo sitting in an internal mail bin to a Millennial team member, trust they won’t find it for a while. When reaching out, try to cater to the generational style. Traditionals and Baby Boomers may desire a formal memo while Millennials are good with a quick text. When it comes to feedback and recognition, older generations are appreciative of physical certificates and plaques while a Millennial employee may be thrilled with a LinkedIn endorsement from you.

5. Proper and productive technology. Few things are more frustrating than technology that hampers productivity. Like fair compensation, the lack of technology is more of a de-motivator than having the correct technology is a motivator … it is simply expected.

6. Freedom and flexibility. The modern workplace is a humane workplace. The flexibility for anyone to take time to deal with errands, sick family, etc. is such an easy accommodation to make. While most of our sales teams easily squeeze this in through their flexible work day, we need to make it just as simple for the office-based, team too. Freedom and flexibility extends to more than just work hours. Employees need the ability to collaborate with their immediate supervisors when setting goals and then have the freedom to determine the best way to reach the goals. Micromanaging is a pure enthusiasm killer.

7. Meaningful work and the ability to be successful. When empowered with the proper coaching, teams, tools and goals, everyone can feel like his or her work makes a difference. Try some of this out for six weeks, and see if you personally feel like you are making a difference in your company.

Tina Serio Saunders, I.C.E., MBA, is president of SonicTrain, LLC, creators of The Arena gamification platform, owner of xSell360 Consulting, and director of marketing and strategic accounts at Spruce Industries. She is an industry leader in marketing technologies and has led development on numerous sales tools. She provides training, strategic management consulting and marketing implementation around the country. Her insight comes from over 17 years industry management experience. You may contact her at 419-297-0822 or tina@sonictrain.com.