Engagement: One (free) Story at a Time

How much do engaged employees cost? My wife and I recently stayed at the Courtyard Mariott in Calgary. We chatted with the front desk person as we checked in. He was nice and very helpful and did his job checking us in. During our conversation, it came up that it was my wife’s birthday that day. We weren’t expecting anything, it just came up in our conversation. We checked in and about 20 minutes later, the front desk attendant knocked on the door and dropped off three cupcakes and a handwritten birthday card. It made us laugh and of course, we thoroughly enjoyed those cupcakes.

What struck me the most was the simple brilliance of the gesture. It cost the hotel next to nothing, yet it made my day. They didn’t come up with some elaborate way to recognize us or discount our room. The front desk employee just found a way to do something simple. In doing so, he engaged us as customers. I have stayed at dozens of hotels in my life, and most fall into the boring and forgettable good category. I have never had a hotel horror story, but neither have I ever had a service story worthy of sharing. Until now. I am now an engaged customer of this hotel. And a simple gesture tipped me that direction.

I think sometimes we overthink engagement as leaders. We strategize, ponder, form committees, hire consultants, do surveys and all kinds of other things—most of which cost money. But sometimes the best engagement strategies are the simplest ones. I used to work for an organization where the CEO read every performance evaluation of employees in the company (we had about 500 employees). He would put a handwritten note on the back of everyone one congratulating the employee and thanking them on their work. For many employees, that note was the best part of the review. I know I can’t remember most of my reviews, but I do remember his notes.

Spending money on engagement might help, but don’t be afraid to step back in time and use “old” strategies too. Cupcakes and a handwritten card made me an engaged customer of a hotel. Perhaps similar tactics—if they are truly genuine—will help engage your employees too. Write a note. Say thank-you. Pour coffee for them. Say thank you again. Congratulate employees on accomplishments. Brag about your employees’ great works, to your boss. Get your boss to say thank you to your direct reports. Send flowers. Send cupcakes. Create engaged employees one (free) story at a time (Note: Getting your EA to do the aforementioned for you is not the same as you doing it).

Note: I have no affiliation with this hotel, nor did I receive any remuneration for mentioning them in this post.

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About Tim Vanderpyl
I am a student of leadership and human resources, and I'm blogging to share some of my thoughts and ideas with readers. I'm a CHRP (Certified Human Resource Professional) at a large healthcare organization, a graduate of Regent University's Doctor of Strategic Leadership program, and lover of the life that God has gifted me with.

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