Employee Engagement is a hot topic as the shortage of high performing talent increases.  A May 2011 study from McKinsey & Co. found that by 2018, the U.S. will face a shortage of 1.5 million managers who can use data to shape business decisions. And the shortage gets even larger for non management employees, especially knowledge workers in the areas of  healthcare, technology, and accounting.

Another study in June 2011 from Mercer, the global HR consulting firm, found that nearly  one third (32 percent) of American workers are considering leaving their organization, which is 40 percent increase since 2005. So not only is there a shortage but there is also a higher risk of losing the talent you already have on your team.

So what should you be doing to nurture and increase employee engagement on your team? Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Before hiring ask yourself does the candidate fit culturally with the organization. In other words, does the potential employee have the same set of values the company lives every day?  More often than not employees fail in the short term because they don’t “fit”  the culture of the organization, not because they don’t have the skills.

Leadership Tip: Devise several interview questions that can illuminate a candidate’s values and/or use an assessment that measures values such as the Hogan Leadership assessment.

2. Once you have the right person on board, you need to keep them challenged which means providing them with opportunities for growth and development.  Development plans are an integral part of the talent management system and should be updated on a quarterly basis. The types of development can include special projects, rotation to a lateral position, matching a mentor with the employee, structured learning, and executive coaching.

Leadership Tip: It is critical that the employee be a part of their development planning process. Too often managers assume that an employee wants certain opportunities when they either may not want the opportunity at all, or the timing isn’t right for them due to a personal situation.

3. Demonstrate that you care about your employees by recognizing their good work and showing appreciation. The number one reason good employees leave a company  is because they don’t feel appreciated. Many managers feel that if they show too much appreciation and recognition that it will make performance correction more difficult.  Studies show that it takes upwards of 5 acts of appreciation to equal one act of criticism.  Keep track of your appreciation for others over a week, be purposeful by looking for the sparks of good work, potential, and recognize it.

Leadership Tip: Make sure that when you do provide recognition and appreciation that it be done in a timely manner and with sincerity.  There is nothing worse than receiving insincere appreciation. If you can’t be sincere, then don’t even bother.

4.  Trust is a critical component to employee engagement.  Employees who trust their co-workers, managers, and company generally have a higher level of engagement than those who don’t.  And the one area that will impact trust the most is transparent leadership.  Organizational transparency requires among other things, open access to information, and participation in decision making.

Leadership tip:  A higher degree of transparency will exist if communications are timely and frequent.  And remember to use different communication channels to satisfy the preferences of the multiple generations in the workforce-email, text, hard copy, meetings, video, etc.

These are all techniques that can be implemented in a short period of time that can provide you with some insurance in retaining your key employees. Which one do you plan to implement first? And how will you know it is working for you?