10 Employee Engagement Tips from Leading Entrepreneurs (Including Musk, Branson, and Chesky of Airbnb)

Company culture problems make your organisation less effective and drag down your team’s results. Employee engagement is the key to building a positive workplace culture.

Your organisation’s success does not rely only on its product or your vision – your employees are the most crucial piece of the puzzle. That’s why you must look for employee engagement tips to increase productivity.

Effective leaders create environments in which employees can flourish. Engagement is key. An employee who doesn’t engage with the organisation is never going to be entirely productive.

So how do you build a great company culture that encourages employee engagement? Here are some employee engagement tips from the world’s best entrepreneurs:

10 Employee Engagement Tips from Leading Entrepreneurs

#1 Elon Musk – Set an ExampleSet a high example to create employee engagement,employee engagement tips

One of the world’s most prominent billionaires, Elon Musk, is a technological innovator. He heads Tesla, the leading light in sustainable car design. Furthermore, Musk leads SpaceX, famous for its vision of colonising Mars.

Musk believes that employee engagement lies in the example you set for your team. “Leaders are also expected to work harder than those who report to them and always make sure that their needs are taken care of before yours, thus leading by example,” he says.

You can’t encourage positive workplace behaviours if you don’t demonstrate them yourself. By working harder than anybody else, Musk sets the bar for his employees. They see that he pushes himself constantly to achieve his organisations’ goals. As a result, they follow his example and get the results.

#2 Mark Parker – Avoid the Comfort Zone

The next of our employee engagement tips is from one of Fortune’s 2016 businesspeople of the year, Mark Parker, who has constantly ushered in change at the sports company, Nike. His team was responsible for the creation of the Green Shoe which shifted Nike’s focus to sustainability in product development.

Parker believes that comfort is the enemy of success. He says: “We have a culture where we are incredibly self-critical, we don’t get comfortable with our success.”

Constant criticism is one of the signs of a dysfunctional company. But that’s not what Parker espouses here. He wants Nike to push toward innovation all the time. By banning the comfort zone, he ensures that his teams don’t get complacent. They’re always pushing towards something new and exciting, which keeps them engaged in their work.

#3 Richard Branson – Praise Your Staff

Richard Branson ploughed his way through the business world, becoming a billionaire in the process. Initially delivering records door-to-door, Branson has ballooned his business interests to dozens of countries and over 400 companies around the globe. Branson has many employee engagement tips but emphasises taking a positive approach when dealing with his teams.

“When you lavish praise on people, they flourish,” he says. “Criticise, and they shrivel up.”

Here’s what positivity does for your people:

  • It shows that you appreciate their work and contributions to your organisation’s vision.
  • You keep employees engaged (nobody likes constant criticism).
  • It creates enthusiasm which is infectious!

Confront problems head on but keep your tone positive. This way, you show your people that you want them to develop.

#4 Napoleon Hill – Work to Strengths

Napoleon Hill is one of the leading names in success strategising. His classic book Think and Grow Rich compiled everything Hill learned from interviews with 500 millionaires, including many employee engagement tips.

Hill’s advice on employee engagement is to keep things simple: “Everyone enjoys doing the kind of work for which he/she is best suited.”

It’s a simple strategy but one that many leaders fail to implement. Every team member has specific talents that can make projects successful. While you should always push employees to develop professionally, don’t take them away from what they do best. Identify their skills and leverage them to the success of the project. In doing so, you’ll keep employees engaged.

#5 Jack Welch – Inspire a Shared Vision

Now retired, Jack Welch led General Electric (GE) for 20 years as its CEO and Chairman. During his time with the organisation, he demonstrated numerous effective leadership skills and therefore has a wealth of employee engagement tips. Notably, Welch believes that a shared vision drives employee engagement.

“No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energised employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it,” he says.

Welch makes two points in this quote. First, he notes the importance of communicating your vision to others. If employees don’t understand the organisation’s aims, they can’t dedicate their efforts to achieving them. Second, employees must believe in your vision. Understanding the vision means nothing if your people don’t want to achieve it. They must know how they can contribute, and why they should want to. Otherwise, they disengage from the vision that should inspire them.

#6 Brian Chesky and Betty Bender – Bring Passion to Your Work

The co-founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, has turned his organisation into a $31 billion travel monolith.

Airbnb is an underdog story like few others. Without passion, it could not have succeeded. As Chesky puts it: “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.”

Chesky recognises that having a vision is key to building a great company culture. However, that vision cannot succeed without passion. This passion comes from the top. If you love what you do, and truly believe in it, others will follow. Your people will see your passion. It will inspire them to engage with your vision and produce results.

Betty Bender reinforces the importance of passion in the workplace. Bender was the president of the Library Administration and Management Association. She said: “When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.”

The point is that a dispassionate workforce disengages. You can’t build high-performing teams if your organisation doesn’t inspire passion in its workforce.

Create the culture you want,employee engagement tips#7 Justin McLeod and Tony Hsieh – Hire for Cultural Fit

Justin McLeod founded the dating app Hinge. Once on the brink of disaster, Hinge set itself apart from other apps by only connecting people who shared common connections. After pulling his company back from the edge of ruin, McLeod expanded aggressively. Here’s what he has to say about hiring.

“I look for two things when I hire a new employee: ambition and humility,” he says. “Without a proven track record of initiative and ambition, it’s likely the person becomes a drain rather than a contributor to the company – even the really smart, talented ones.”

McLeod only hires those who fit into his organisation’s culture. Skills don’t matter as much as personality. McLeod notes that even the most talented people can damage high-performing teams. Poor hires drain employee motivation, and won’t latch onto your vision. Know what qualities your people must possess before hiring new employees.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shares this view. “We believe that it’s really important to come up with core values that you can commit to,” he says. “And by commit, we mean that you’re willing to hire and fire based on them.”

#8 Doug Conant – Employees Come First

Most organisations make their customers the top priority. Often, this means their employees come a distant second. Campbell’s Soup CEO Doug Conant believes this is the wrong way to structure your organisation.

He says: “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”

So, what can we learn from this one of our employee engagement tips? Quite simply, happy employees make happy customers.

#9 Barry Schwartz and Rick Federico – Offer More than a Paycheque

Did you know that most people don’t rate salary or pay as their top consideration in a new job? In his book, Why We Work psychologist Barry Schwartz asserts that people want to feel their work has a purpose. This is actually more important – and satisfying long term – than making money.

P.F. Changs’ CEO Rick Federico sums it up. He says, “You have to be a place that’s more than a paycheque for people.”

People don’t want to clock in, work, and clock out. They want to feel like their contribution matters to your organisation. Even those at the lowest level need a purpose. You must show employees why you need them. In doing so, your organisation offers more than a paycheque. You attract more people and retain the talented employees you already have.

Employee Engagement builds a happy, productive workforce,employee engagement tips#10 Sheryl Sandberg – Authenticity over Perfection

The last of our employee engagement tips is from the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg , who notes the importance of recognising your own flaws. She values authenticity over the relentless pursuit of perfection.

“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed,” she says. “Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.”

Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes. You can’t build a great company culture without recognising that fact. Furthermore, you can’t lead an organisation if you don’t accept your own shortcomings.

What to Do Next

The people in this article have applied their knowledge to building a positive workplace culture. They keep employees engaged, which paves the way for growth. Here’s what you can achieve if you follow these employee engagement tips:

  • Show your employees that you value them and their contributions.
  • Keep your people engaged in your organisation’s mission.
  • Build high-performing teams that get results.

Remember, great managers can DOUBLE the capacity of their people.

Register for our next webinar to learn more about engaging your employees.