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Create a clear message to motivate employee engagement

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

Have you ever heard the saying, "If you're not growing; you're dying"?

Business owners are naturally driven by sales, results and forecasts. Your priorities day to day and month to month may be your bottom line. It's easy to get distracted by the details and overlook the big picture. As your company grows however, your employee base will grow with you and you'll need to think about the other people in your business who are helping you drive things forward.

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Aside from earning a regular pay cheque, your employees will be driven by different reasons for coming to work than you are. While it's okay for their motivations to be different, it's important that their values are aligned with the business. From hiring and training to your company culture, how you live and breathe these values into your business will have a huge impact.

The hiring process: How to find people with similar values

Don't Just Interview: Observe. You can tell a lot about someone by how they behave when they think nobody is looking. Observe candidates while they are waiting at reception; don't just interview them. Are they smiling and engaging with other candidates? Are they sitting on their phone ignoring everyone? Are there any other behaviours that stand out? Observe and take notes to reference later.

Think outside the box: Hold a group interview for short-listed candidates and have them come up with questions for each other. You will be surprised by how creative candidates can be, how easily they can think on their feet and if they gave unique, quality answers. Don't you think it would be interesting if someone came up with a question like, "Why would you be excited to work here?" It's telling of the person asking the question aside from the candidate required to answer it.

Just ask already: If you're serious about a candidate, you need to get back to basics. Simply ask them to choose their top five values from a chart to look for synergies and alignment. Is adventure, fun and freedom at the top of their list? Taking a position with a 9-5 type of job may not be the best fit for them over someone who values stability, connectedness and balance.

All of these tactics will give you varying perspectives on their personalities, passions and driving purpose. You want to hire employees who will champion your values, not violate them.

Define your purpose and keep it simple

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Before you can expect your employees to understand your why, you need to understand it inside and out while backing it up with three simple strategies that everyone can remember.

A lot of people – and companies – struggle with the difference between vision and mission. To be clear, your mission, or purpose, is what you plan to do. Your vision is why you're going to do it. Your strategies reflect how you're going to do it.

If you wanted to run a marathon, you would train for months in advance. You need to plan and prepare, achieving progress bit by bit, day by day, until you're ready to run 25 kilometres. Your vision may be running a 25-kilometre marathon but to make this possible, you need to run an extra 500 metres, drink two litres of water and get eight hours of sleep every day.

These are simple strategies that make your vision possible. The same goes for business. Perhaps you'd like your company to "be the best". What needs to happen so you can achieve this? To get this across to employees, be clear and concise with your messaging and review them daily. If the purpose or strategies are too complicated, nobody will remember them.

As an event staffing agency, we need to ensure our talent show up for all of our events. We also need to provide staff with the necessary information for their events and ensure they understand everything completely. Once they are on-site at an event, they also need to meet the objectives of the event – whether it's results based or another target.

To measure this success, we have a chart to track the number of days we've gone with perfect attendance at our events. This isn't always easy. We run a service-based business that specializes in temporary staffing. We can only be as successful as the talent representing us – so we take these accomplishments seriously.

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Get clear about your why and build it into your culture

You need to connect with your people. Find out why they come to work every day other than to get a paycheque and connect your why with their why. Are they motivated by excellence? Do they value respect and a harmonious work environment? All of this comes down to the culture you create within your company.

Do you know how to take care of your employees and understand what keeps them engaged? This can be as simple as talking about their progress to encouraging their personal and professional development, praising their achievements often, and giving them an opportunity to grow.

If your mission is to "be the best", perhaps being the best means taking care of your customers and providing the highest level of service possible. To take care of the customers who take care of you, you need to take care of your employees who take care of your customers. Fulfill their "why" and you will find your "why" will be fulfilled.

Serena Holmes is president and CEO of Tigris, Toronto.

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