What single business initiative can make your employees want to work harder for you, while inspiring them to be happier than ever with their jobs? Hint: The answer is not more money. The answer is increasing employee engagement. This is possibly the single most important part of an owner or manager’s duties.

To tackle this job, we must start with creating unparalleled company culture. Wikipedia defines company culture as “the character of the organization; it embodies the vision of the company’s founders.” Notably, there is no mention of having the highest paid staff in the industry—that is often not necessary. Instead, company culture comes from the top of the organization. And good company culture is the result of having outstanding leadership that is willing to put their staff first and set each individual employee up for success. You can also fortify your company culture by providing positive feedback, mentorship, and opportunities for employees to make a difference within their communities. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but if you aren’t making an effort to enhance your company culture and build employee engagement, know that your competitors are.

So, how do you get started? There are couple relatively simple changes you can make to jump-start the process of bolstering employee engagement:

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Recognize employee efforts sincerely and often.

We rely so heavily on technology to corral the chaos of our daily lives that sometimes we forget the power of a simple, face-to-face “thank you.” Small gestures like writing thank-you notes, giving coffee gift cards, or letting employees leave a little early because they had a crazy week can pay off big time. Actions like these build respect across all levels of your organization, and that’s a very important factor to consider when looking at employee engagement. In fact, according to a study on job satisfaction by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the only thing employees ranked higher than compensation in terms of importance was “respectful treatment of employees at all levels.”

Empower your employees to grow outside of work.

It is so important to support your employees—not only within the office, but also as they pursue their personal and professional goals outside of work. Give your employees the resources they need for both work-related and personal goals; it shows them that you care about them as people, not just as employees. Here are a couple of examples:

  • If an employee is interested in starting a side hustle—hosting a running clinic, offering injury prevention services for golfers, or providing professional bike fittings—give him or her the opportunity to run a cash-based program within your practice. It may not be a huge moneymaker for you, but anytime you build your employees’ reputation, it boosts your practice’s reputation as well.
  • If an employee has a personal goal of completing a marathon or triathlon—but he or she has been too busy to train—encourage him or her to take the time to make it happen. After all, it’s important to stay physically fit: a healthy body is a happy one.

Build relationships by getting involved with the community.

Everyone feels great after volunteering. After all, it’s very fulfilling to help the less fortunate members of one’s community or make a difference in other ways. But, how do you get your busy staff out of the office for a day to do this? Here are some suggestions:

  • Consider setting up a team volunteering day on which staff members take a day off to work at the local soup kitchen or clean up the local park. Not only will they feel great afterwards, but they’ll also get to know each other on a more personal level—which helps improve staff camaraderie at the office.  
  • Start a community-focused initiative in honor of PT Month. For example, 15 years ago, my staff started the Fall Blast 5K—a walk/run aimed at bringing awareness to Physical Therapy Month. Every October, this event provides an awesome opportunity for my staff to work together on a worthwhile project that they take great pride and ownership in. Because of their efforts, we’ve even been able to donate thousands of dollars to local charities!
  • Allow your employees to choose their own give-back path. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them and where they want to make their impact. To encourage them to get started, consider allowing a few paid hours a quarter to be spent out in the community or attending board meetings. The reach of your business will increase exponentially as your employees continue to build their own personal networks within the community. The more variety, the better!

If you aren’t sure how to begin growing employee engagement, start small. Minor changes can sometimes make the biggest impact. Once you start seeing the change in your employees, you won’t be disappointed. On top of that, as mentioned in the examples above, building a top-notch culture with engaged employees can also help increase your company’s local exposure. Now that’s a win-win.


Want more actionable business insights from rehab therapy industry leaders? I hope you’ll join me and my fellow speakers for Ascend, the ultimate rehab therapy business summit. At this two-day event, you’ll get a year’s worth of insights and ideas to boost your business, improve your bottom line, and excel as a therapy professional. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to not only meet therapy professionals from around the country to discuss the ins and outs of succeeding in therapy business, but also learn from experts and thought leaders from top organizations. It’s all happening September 28-29 in Phoenix. Register now to grab the best pricing before time runs out.

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