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How Employee Engagement Is Like Fertilizing a Garden

Equip Your Managers for Driving Employee Engagement


If you follow the connect to lead blog or if you've downloaded other content from people first productivity solutions, you already know that we pay a lot of attention to issues related to employee engagement. After all, employee engagement is the number one most important thing to derive the highest possible profits, the largest revenues, the greatest customer satisfaction, the peak levels of productivity, and, of course, employee satisfaction and retention. Employee engagement matters a lot.

And it all starts with you, the manager, your direct reports turn to you for an emotional connection to the rest of the organization. And when they have that emotional connection, they'll apply additional discretionary effort to the work they do.

One of the things that you can do to increase employee engagement and yield all these benefits is to treat people like individuals who matter to you, who are dignified by you, who you take an interest in. And it's not just about "what have you done for me lately." It's about :what can I do for you to help you grow and develop and reach your goals." I can't emphasize enough the importance of employee engagement, nor can I underscore enough how easy it really is to improve employee engagement.

It's not as hard as you think it is. It just takes a little effort, a little TLC and a little time and attention people, people attention, human to human kinds of interaction. You can do this. To get started, don't think of yourself as a functional manager. Yes, you do manage work, but it's also your job to lead people. And you can only do that if you take the time to care about them.

In my garden. I consider fertilizing to be a way I can give a little extra love to each one of my plants, just like I did with each one of my three kids. I wanted to give something extra, something special, something meaningful and valuable to each one of them. And it wasn't the same for any of the three kids. They all had very different interests, very different needs. 

When I fertilize in my garden, I do use compost for almost all the plants. I do use a general conditioning at the beginning so that the straw bales become a good medium for growing. And then I do the little extras. For the potatoes, whether it's the ones I'm growing in bags this year or the ones I'm growing again in straw bales this year, I give them a little potash at different times. I give them a little bit of potash right when they are first emerging again, right before they're about to flower and they'll get another dose or two as the season goes on.

It's not the same for any other plant. Only potatoes seem to favor that particular nutrient. Other plants like, oh, the broccoli and the cauliflower, they like to have nutrients that are well rounded. So I give them compost and then I put a little bit of topsoil on top of that so that their compost won't wash away. I want that to stay right there for them until they can absorb all the goodness out of the compost.

It's different yet for all of the pumpkins and the gourds and the squashes and the melons and cantaloupes that we grow. You see, they like a well rounded compost also, but they are really hungry, greedy plants. So whereas the broccoli and cauliflower might only get one dose of compost at the beginning of the season, these guys are getting compost almost every single week. They just get everything they can out of it. And I think it's why my output is so prolific.

I mentioned melons, but there is one exception and it's important that I know about these exceptions. I don't want to treat everyone the same when I'm fertilizing. So the watermelons, they get a special treatment. When they're flowering, and again, when the melon is about half the size, a third to half the size of where it needs to be, they get a spray of borax right on their leaves. That's boron. And I dilute that, I give it to them in their leaves. It's the only plant I have in my garden that needs that. But wow, does it make a difference? Every time I spray it - I can't do it too often, but when I do, I can see tremendous growth within a day or two. I had so many watermelons last year, I couldn't give them all away. I ended up making watermelon rind candy and canning watermelon jelly as well.

There are some plants that don't want to be fertilized in the same way that every other plant is. Mustard I found, doesn't really seem to respond well to any type of fertilizer. Most herbs like a fish emulsion or a kelp, but the mustard didn't seem to like that. So this year and last, I didn't give it anything at all and it did just fine. You see the mustard plant there on the right hand side, lots of flowers, which turned into lots of seed pods, and then all those teeny tiny seeds that had to be taken out of the pods little by little. So I got way more than I expected, which was fine.

I was able to use the mustard seeds when I made pickles. And then throughout the year I dried them and had them to use in all sorts of recipes. But you can't make assumptions when it comes time to to fertilize in the garden or when it comes time to engage the people that you're working with, when it comes time to give them what they need so that they can flourish and give back to you. You have to understand those individual needs.

It's really important to give that extra little bit of love on top of everything else, but hopefully you're already doing.