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How to measure employee engagement: this task doesn’t have a simple solution, but it’s worth any company exploring. The long-term benefits speak for themselves.
Creating a culture of employee engagement starts with the proper foundation: one that listens to employees supports their growth and development, and places value on their contributions.
To build such an environment, leaders must create a space for dialogue that encourages honest feedback from everyone in the organisation.
Additionally, it is essential to acknowledge and reward employees for their efforts to boost morale and confidence.
Finally, regular communication between employees and management can help build trust and make staff members feel heard.
By taking these steps, businesses will be better positioned to foster an environment of strong employee engagement.Stay compliant, stay competitive
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Book a callThe meaning of employee engagement
Asking how to measure employee engagement is the first step on the road to long-term staff success. It helps to create a working environment in which employees are productive, enthusiastic, and invested in the company’s goals and work as a whole.
Employee engagement means employees feel valued and respected, have job satisfaction, express commitment to organisational values, and are motivated to contribute even more.
When appropriately managed, employee engagement can lead to increased loyalty, improved customer service levels, and more creativity within the workplace.
Companies should strive to provide their employees with support by fostering an atmosphere of open communication and collaboration to help their teams reach their full potential.The benefits of measuring employee engagement
Measuring employee engagement can help companies better understand their needs and motivations.
This data can then be used to improve the workplace environment and create more effective management strategies.How to develop an employee engagement plan
The first step in creating a successful engagement plan is to define what success looks like for an organisation.
Start by defining goals and objectives, such as increasing employee retention.
Once goals are established, develop a strategy encompassing both qualitative and quantitative engagement measurements.
For qualitative measures, consider conducting regular employee surveys to gauge their satisfaction with the company’s policies and initiatives.
For quantitative measures, track metrics such as absenteeism, turnover rate, and employee satisfaction.Using employee engagement data
Once data has been collected from an engagement plan, it is essential to understand how the data can be used to make improvements and drive success.
Analysing employee survey results can help an organisation identify areas of improvement.
Measuring employee engagement can also help an organisation identify which initiatives are working and which need improvement. This data can allow the organisation to focus on the areas that will significantly impact overall success.Implementing changes based on the data collected
Once a director has identified areas of improvement based on the data collected, it’s time to start implementing changes.
Start by setting up a plan that outlines the steps needed to implement these improvements. Be sure to involve stakeholders and set milestones for tracking progress.
It’s also important to communicate changes with employees and ensure they understand why and how they will benefit them.
Finally, ensure employees regularly receive feedback on their performance and recognise them for their efforts. This recognition can go a long way in motivating employees to continue striving for success.Best practices for employee engagement
With employee engagement tools in place, companies can ensure better performance overall and unlock maximum potential from their staff. Best practices for employee engagement include:Professional development
Feeling like their career is stagnant can cause employee dissatisfaction. Professional development should provide employees with the opportunity to continually improve their skills, as well as provide additional avenues for career progression.Flexibility
Offering flexible work schedules and ways to collaborate virtually can create a healthier work-life balance while fostering bonds between remote workers separated by physical distance. Many workplaces hold quick weekly trivia games or similar events to keep remote employees connected.Regular check-ins
Regular check-ins with each employee while allowing them the freedom and trust to work on challenges autonomously can help keep employees engaged with their job over the long run. Boards and management can check in with employees individually and run employee surveys to gauge opinions on issues.
How to measure employee engagement: the next steps.
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Measuring the ROI of your SEO campaign is a crucial part of analyzing your digital marketing strategy, and is undoubtedly the most significant indicator of campaign value. But how do you measure it?
This is because no other metric is truly able to assess whether the time and money invested in your marketing efforts have been worth the impact it’s had on your business. Essentially, we need to ensure nothing is going to waste.
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If ROI is positive, we know the campaign has been a success and thus can inform strategic decisions for future campaigns. If it’s negative, the campaign hasn’t been successful and obviously needs to be looked at before rolling out again.
There are several ways you can measure the ROI of an SEO campaign, but here’s the method we recommend using to yield the most accurate results.Always track your conversions
Before you start to measure anything, you need to ensure you are properly set up to monitor your activities. In order to do this, you’ll need to action the following:1. Set up conversion tracking
By setting up conversion tracking in Google Analytics, you are able to track the conversions that occur on your site at any given time. The type of conversion tracking you use will depend on the nature of your site, and whether or not it sells directly through E-commerce.
If you operate on E-commerce, tracking conversions this way will give you direct access to sales figures generated through online transactions; allowing you to calculate your total online revenue.
To set this up, simply follow the Google Analytics E-commerce tracking tutorial. When it’s fully set up, it’ll start pulling through data that will look something like this:
To set this up, go into your Google Analytics account, select ‘Admin’, then ‘Goals’, then ‘New goal’. When set up correctly, it should look like this:
In order to calculate the ROI, in this sense, you’ll need to:2. Filter your SEO conversions
After you’ve been tracking your conversions for the first month, you should be left with enough data to start calculating the ROI generated from your SEO campaign.
From here, you’ll be able to filter out the channels you don’t need (paid search, direct, email, referral, display), and identify the conversion stats that were generated solely through organic search. These will, of course, will be your SEO-driven conversions. It’ll look something like this:
By focussing on the organic search channel, you’ll be able to analyze your SEO performance and, in doing so, gain valuable insight into a critical part of your SEO and overall digital marketing strategy.How to calculate your ROI
Now you’ve got your revenue figures for a selected time period (usually a specific month or quarter), you’re able to calculate your ROI based on how much you have invested into your SEO campaign during that time period.
There are various ways to successfully calculate your SEO ROI, but we recommend the following formula, as suggested by Investopedia:
(Current Value of Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment = ROI
In this sense, the current value of investment would refer to the “proceeds obtained from the sale of the investment of interest” – in other words, the total organic search sales value.
(16,676.82 – 2,000) / 1,000 = 7.34Consider alternative metrics
Due to the nature of SEO, it’s not always easy pinpointing things such as sales revenue and growth. Fortunately for us marketers, there are things you can monitor to assess the performance of your SEO activity.
Consider looking at metrics such as:Organic traffic
A good indicator that your SEO is working is the amount of organic traffic your website receives over time. In particular, traffic that is generated through non-branded keywords is the most telling in terms of SEO performance.
It’s also a good idea to track the number of new users visiting your site that are generated through organic traffic. An increase in new users shows that the visibility of your website has improved and it is no longer just attracting existing customers.Search rankings
Increases in search engine rankings themselves are another good indicator that your SEO campaign is successful. Say, for example, you’re a London based web design agency and you’re aiming to boost your rankings for target keywords such as ‘website design London’ or ‘web design agency London’.
Before the campaign, you might only rank on the fourth or fifth page of Google, but if after three months, you’ve climbed up the rankings to page one, now that’s a sure sign that your activities are providing decent value for your business. You can monitor your search engine rankings through software such as SEMrush and Ahrefs.Backlinks
Backlinks are the cornerstone of good SEO and are absolutely vital to securing top ranking positions. By earning backlinks (or inbound links) from credible and authoritative websites, Google will reward you with higher rankings, enabling you to gain greater search engine visibility.
In short, the more quality links you have, the more traffic you are likely to generate. Earning backlinks suggests your SEO is working, and monitoring them can really help to paint an overall picture of your campaign success.Final thoughts
Whether you are paying an agency for SEO services or doing things all in-house, appraising the value of your SEO activity is an absolute must.
It’s important to firstly, understand what you need to measure and secondly, identify which metrics are the true indicators of success and failure. By setting your website up with the necessary tracking, you’ll be able to analyze your conversions and work out just how much value your SEO efforts are providing and most importantly, if it outweighs your investment.
Image Credit / Mamapop
As someone interested in SEO you’ve almost certainly, at one point or another, become victim to a drug that plagues the addictive nature of us all: Metricaine. A jump in rankings here, a sudden drop there, and a constant battle to grow your PageRank or Domain Authority to that elusive next level. You’re watching the numbers as traffic increases and then suddenly it hits you – the epiphany. You’re addicted to metrics. The numbers have lulled you into a sense of security and you feel like you’re doing your job. But what if you’re not?
Whether working as an in-house SEO, or helping clients grow their business, your focus shouldn’t just be on ramping up the raw figures – you’re looking to increase the quality of those visitors and how they interact with your content. Think about it – there’s no point attracting a few thousand people if they’re going to look at your page for a couple of seconds and then hit the ‘back’ button. It might mean that you can make yourself look good in reports but you’re not adding value, which should be your ultimate goal.Going Social
Let’s begin by stating the obvious: Engaging content will be shared and, with the right push, you’ll gain traction across your social networks of choice. Although getting to a stage where they’re common place in most niches, infographics are great for this. I know from personal experience that if you get yourself in front of the right audience, you’ll pick up a huge amount of traffic. There’s also still plenty of opportunity to stand out by adding interactivity with HTML5 or, if you’re a real pro, embedding video content inside an infographic. If anyone does this let me know and I’ll definitely give you a link!
It doesn’t need to be rich media though – just look at some of the amazing posts here on Search Engine Journal; most get hundreds of tweets. The traffic generated from this is huge and doesn’t happen by accident. The editorial team here is dedicated to giving you the best possible information and don’t let sub-standard content through the net – that in itself drives engagement. Need proof? Another SEO site famed for its content is SEOMoz – I did a random check on a Whiteboard Friday video and found the following:Engagement for SEO
Yes, it’s true that bounce rate in its rawest form most likely isn’t a direct ranking factor, but things like dwell time almost certainly are. If users are visiting your page, leaving, and then searching for exactly the same thing straight away then that simply has to be a hint to the search engines that your page probably isn’t as engaging as it should be, doesn’t it?
If you’ve created something that’s engaging then, by its very nature, your content has a good chance of grabbing the interest of another blogger or site owner who may, in turn, feature it on their site. Even the best content doesn’t give you any guarantee of picking up links but you need to give yourself the best possible chance – churning out the same old dross that everyone else is doing makes your link building life much tougher.5 Simple Steps to Engaging Content
Every industry and niche website has the potential to produce engaging content – it’s just working out what you’re audience needs. In the age of the social web this has become far easier and there are a few simple steps that will help you create something that people will see as being of real value.
1. Research The first thing you’ll want to do is spend some time researching what has worked for other people. Do a search for “your niche” +infographic, check chúng tôi or get yourself a Followerwonk account and see what kind of stuff the most prominent Twitter users in your industry are sharing. See what you can find on Vimeo and YouTube. Speak to people (shock, horror!). Get yourself in a room with a piece of paper and three or four other people to come up with ideas.
2. Test Once you’ve come up with a few ideas, test them out. Get in touch with some of those thought leaders that you found on Followerwonk and ask them what they think of your ideas. If they like any of them you’ve got a perfect opportunity to line them up to promote it once you’ve finished. Also, use services like Amazon Mechanical Turk to ask a couple of hundred people which of your ideas they think is the best. It’ll cost you a few dollars but there’s nothing like a bit of good old-fashioned market research to validate yourself.
3. Create The next step is to actually create something. Use the best people you possibly can within your budget – whether that includes internal resources or services like oDesk, elance and 99designs you need to get this bit right. There’s nothing wrong with going through a few design iterations to make sure you get things just as they need to be; at the end of the day what you’re creating here will be commodity and you can’t afford for it to be sub-standard.
4. Test it Again! At this point it’s very tempting to just release your product and hope that people like it. Don’t. Fire up Mechanical Turk again so that you can ask a few strangers what they think. A simple ‘Is this good enough to share on Facebook?’ would be a good question to ask if it’s a generic piece of content but whatever you do keep the question simple. Speak to friends, colleagues, family and give those industry leaders that we mentioned earlier a preview to get their input. Do any tweaks and changes, and then test again until you feel completely happy with the outcome.And Finally…
If you find something that works, stick with it… but don’t become blinkered. Being engaging isn’t about coming up with the same rehashed content time and time again; it’s about being different and standing out from the crowd. In doing this your competitors will start to take notice and, at some point, it’s very likely that they’ll copy you. Take it as a compliment and smile to yourself – after all, you’ll already have started on something even newer and more exciting before they’ve had a chance to catch up!
Creating a perfectly engaging blog can be a real challenge. You have to contend with billion bytes of information and the short attention spans of readers. Crafting something your audience will enjoy and want more of may seem like trying to be heard in the back row of a rock concert. But there are ways to stand out above the rest.
Use the proven guidelines below to increase content engagement on your blog and build a powerful reader base.1. Know Who You Are Writing for and How You Can Help Them
Knowing your target audience is critical for engagement. Your blog has to serve a purpose to your readers. So provide information that can help them solve their problems.
The best way to get to know your audience is by creating a marketing persona. This tool allows you to see your readers’:
Who they are
Where they work
Other demographic information.
Knowing these facts lets you write in response to their needs.
For example, TechCrunch posts on all things technology to attract the attention of those in the startup technology space.
Here’s how to create a great persona:
Learn from these examples beforehand.
Build several profiles of your average readers. Include what their needs are and how they access information (mobile or not).2. Create a User Experience Readers Will Want to Come Back to
Your audience will only engage with your content because it is helpful to them. Part of that is because they had a good experience on your blog. In turn UX, or User Experience, is a huge factor in making actionable content.
According to UX consultant Jozef Toth, 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. What makes for a bad experience?
Having to scroll incessantly
Showing content which has little relevance to the reader
But a great user experience means readers will stay on your blog longer and will keep coming back.
Try these tips for enhancing your page’s UX:
Make your blog more aesthetically pleasing (poor visuals can contribute to poor UX).
Make the purpose of your blog clear.3. Create Content So People Will Want to Share It
Of course, great content is the heart and soul of your blog, but what defines quality content?
Your blog should offer unique insight into the issue it addresses or the problem it solves. Your goal should be to become the authority on your topic.
Here are some key characteristics your writing should have, as explained by Kissmetrics:
Write something unique.
Make your content actionable (i.e. compel them to do something about what they’ve read).
Offer the best answers to questions.
Be accurate in your information and statistics.
Tell a good story and leave readers asking questions.
Always update your content.4. Craft Magnetic Headlines
It is not possible to understate the importance of headlines — they make or break your blog. Consider headlines that draw readers in to your content. With so much information available, competition for your audience’s attention is fierce. Mashable does a great job of creating great headlines.
Studies show two important headline factors:
80% of readers never make it past the headline to your content
Traffic can fluctuate as much as 500% based on the headlines you use
Make the most of your headlines with a few well-honed techniques. Techniques that allow you to create intrigue and draw in your readers. You also need to ensure your article delivers on what the headlines promise.
Marketing experts Neil Patel and Joseph Putnam have helped simplify the techniques. They have broken the techniques down into a few simple guidelines called the Four U’s:
Make your headline unique.
Make your headline ultra-specific.
Make your headline convey a sense of urgency.
Make your headline useful.5. Craft Intriguing Introductions
Few people make it past the headline (only 20%). So every word of your introduction must compel your audience to read further. Your introduction should have a great hook which draws in readers. Consider this article from the BBC, for example:
Begin with a fascinating fact that isn’t well-known or often-used in your niche.
Tell the end of the story in a way that compels readers to ask why.
Use a short anecdote. Neidlinger’s example is fantastic — “I once wrote a newspaper story that killed a man.”
Ask a question worth knowing the answer to.
Write a cliffhanger, like one of Robert Bruce’s unusually short stories.
Gently confront.6. Go Beyond Words
You know your content should inform readers by:
Answering their questions
Solving their problems
But, chances are that they’re most likely paying more attention to the visuals on your page.
This should be no surprise. Consider this:
90% of the information your brain processes is visual.
The fact that 40% of people will respond better to visuals than words.
So you see, the importance of visual media can’t be understated.
The Guardian is an example of a site that makes great use of visual media:
Visual content can take many different forms:
The aesthetic appeal and format of your blog.
An opening image that encapsulates the headline.
Pictures which support content headings.
Statistics supported with bar graphs and charts to help readers understand complicated information.
Videos that add knowledge or humor (and keep viewers on your page 100% longer).7. Mention Experts and Influencers in Your Content
Gaining credibility with your readers is important. Especially if you are trying to become an expert in your niche. According to one Traackr study, only 3% of people produce 90% of the impact online. Enter influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing taps into the power of that 3%.
By using their prowess and status as experts and contributors. This lends credibility and legitimacy to your marketing efforts. In other words, it will make your content more valuable. It functions like the blurb or foreword from a bestselling author for a fledgling book.
Forbes does a great job of mentioning experts and leveraging influencers. This post is an example.
Mention their Twitter handle. They may retweet you.
Include them in a list of experts. Appeal to their egos.
Ask them to contribute. They may do a guest post.
Quote them. This adds credibility.
Get them to attend an AMA (Ask Me Anything).
Show them a beta of your content and have them share a testimonial.8. Write About Newsworthy Topics and Emerging Trends
Staying on the cutting edge of emerging trends isn’t always easy. But it’s the best way to ensure your readers will keep coming back for more.
Sites like Upworthy and Gizmodo understand this and utilize this on their sites.
Knowing the best resources for newsworthy topics will be your key to staying on top. Here are a few great ones:
Buzzsumo: This site allows you to analyze what content performs best, for any topic.
Quora: Much like Yahoo Answers, Quora lets you see all trending questions out there in any category.
Google Trends: This Google tool lets you analyze all sorts of popular trends with data to back it up.9. Publish Content as Often as Your Audience Can Consume It
Lifehacker, for example, publishes a few posts a day while Backlinko publishes a post once a month.
Here are a few tips as suggested by blogger George Stenitzer:
Make and keep appointments with your readers.
Find a good rhythm and sustain it.
Use all the analytics you can.10. Offer a Lead Magnet or Content Upgrade for Free
It is difficult to get readers to share their email or contact information with you. To do so you need to entice them with an offer they can’t refuse. This offer is known as a lead magnet or free content upgrade.
If you’ve used the internet for longer than two days, then you’ve seen your fair share of lead magnets.
The lead magnet available on this this post on Easil is an example.
Build relationships with your audience
Growing your email list
The larger your email list becomes, the easier it will be for you to promote any new content that you publish.
The following are a few popular examples of lead magnets:
Use a lead capture tool.
Offer a free trial of your service or product.
Create a video series that will have readers coming back for more.11. Ask
Sonia Simone from Copyblogger does something similar in this post.
Tailor your reader engagement approach to suit your style and personality. But, by no means be afraid of sounding desperate by doing so.
The following are a few ways to ask questions or ask for engagement:
Have you published a recipe or instructions on how to make something? If so, ask your readers to share pictures of their completed meal or project with you.
Have you have published a blog on a controversial matter? If so, ask your readers to weigh in on the subject.12. Respond to Comments
Readers who see that the writer engages and responds are more likely to engage more. This helps build a loyal readership.
Because it lets your audience know that they are are being heard and valued.
Always maintain a professional and friendly voice.13. Comment on Other Blogs in Your Industry
It is also important to interact with other blogs in your industry. This way you get to remain relevant and to build up your reputation with those audiences. The only way you or your site will start to get noticed is if you engage with others on the internet like I did on this post:
Commenting on other blogs may help promote those websites. But it will also help you to build meaningful relationships and to network. The writers of the content you engage with may even return the favor.
Comment on blogs that bring you the most value.14. Build Your Online Presence
Promoting your name and brand is as important as promoting your content. The more weight your name carries, the more weight your content will have as well. Readers like to frequent content that is written by a name they recognize or know well.
Take this post for example. Sue Anne Dunlevi provides a list of bloggers using Twitter to engage their audience.
Every prominent writer has had to start with little or no audience. They built their audience by engaging their initial readers and other relevant communities.
Follow these tips to build your presence:
Join social media platforms relevant to your audience and become active on them.
Engage audiences similar to yours on social media.
Follow and interact with leaders in your industry.15. Contribute to Other Blogs Which Have a Similar Engaged Audience
A great way to build and promote your website’s readership is by contributing to other blogs. Especially blogs with a similar engaged audience as yours. It can be difficult to build a reputation for yourself when you only write for yourself. You can get around this by guest writing content that is like your own.
You may have noticed that many websites feature a variety of writers. Many of them are featured as guest contributors. These websites stand to gain from talented guest writers. How?
By adding their expertise
Adding depth to their content
Building authority and their audience
Start your way to guest writing by following these tips:
Become an expert in your field.
Build credibility for yourself.
Look for blogs relevant to your expertise.
Search for sites that feature guest writers or bloggers and offer them your talents.16. Promote Your Content
There is a lot of competition for content views on the internet. One of the best ways to compete with hordes of other content producers is to promote your content. There are various ways to do this, but the approach may vary based on the site and brand.
Great content without good content marketing is pointless. There are a plethora of resources that provide information on how to market your content.
Use the following ways to get started with promoting your content:
Follow industry leaders that are relevant to the content you publish.
Feature credible leaders in your content, and then share it with them.
Use the proven techniques we have covered in this post.17. Back Up Your Content With Data
There is a lot of information floating around on the internet, and unless it is linked to credible sources or backed up by data, it isn’t worth a dime. Having credible content is essential to building a large following of readers.
Buzzsumo did this in a post where they looked at what content gained traction on Medium.
To build credibility, publish content that is supported by reputable sources or data. Your audience should have confidence in the veracity of your website’s content. They are then likely to share it with others or take the information to heart.
Follow these steps to start building content credibility:
Always cite your sources. Publish content with at least a few hyperlinks that support your claims.
Acknowledge and correct any mistakes or misinformation in your published content.
Don’t write misleading titles. Credible content sums up what a viewer will read in the title.18. Include Something in Your Content That Others Haven’t
What will set you apart is having original content that readers can’t find elsewhere. This will need some thoughtful, research-intensive work on your part. But the payoff will make it worth your time.
According to Zach Bulygo, Google penalizes websites that offer duplicate content. They also reward high quality, original content.
So in your website’s best interest put in a little extra work to produce content that your audience will value. Content that will not only boost your site’s rankings, but attract more readers as well.
Here are some tips for writing original content:
Don’t outsource your content to be written. Do it yourself.
Don’t write about something that everyone else has unless you have a new angle.
Provide sources for all your content to build credibility and confidence.
The Onion is an example of a blog that always publishes completely original articles.How About You?
Creating content that will turn your blog into a success is easier said than done. It takes a lot of time and hard work to produce quality content. But this is the main ingredient to a successful website.
There is no one recipe for success. No website that engages their audience uses a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead use the data-driven tips in this post. They’ll get on the right path to creating a successful blog with great content.
1. Review your welcome greetings
2. Deliver a productive confirmation email
Once your buyer makes a purchase from your store, they are expecting that you provide them a confirmation email about their order. Research shows that this kind of email has the highest rate of being opened thus you should ensure that you send not only a plain and simple confirmation email. It should be one with a production value that could also provide you additional sale such as suggesting to your customer some complementary products that may be related to their purchase. This is an opportunity for you to identify the specific products that your customers need and you can align your proposal for similar products that they may like to purchase too. Online marketers often get an additional order when they try to re-sell or cross sell another product when sending a confirmation email to their customers.
3. Test if your email comes through and evaluate its elements
No matter what kind of effort you give in your email marketing, it would still be useless when your email does not come through to your prospect customers. You might be throwing away the value of your marketing pitch and other schemes for your email marketing campaign when your intended recipient does not receive it at all. It is always best to test your system all the time to ensure that you are making a productive effort in sending people on your listing a good business email that will sit directly on their Inbox to start engaging them in your business. Likewise, evaluate your email elements such as the fonts, font size, color schemes, images, link placement, headings, text message and the like.
4. Embark in email list segmentation
You are sending an email to various types of people. Segmenting your email list will improve your target customer engagement when you are able to create an email that best suit their circumstances. While creating a custom email to your customers, you can make a more engaging message accordingly based on their industry, behavior, title and position. Using this kind of email marketing approach will deliver you better results in terms of engaging your potential customers or clients to your business by providing them a personalized email to market your business.
5. Reward your customer loyalty
Your customers will likely become more engaged to your business if you can provide them the feeling of importance and the opportunity to appreciate the value of your business. By offering your customers with a loyalty reward, you are improving your brand value and allows you to build your consumer-brand relationship. By establishing a reward program to your loyal customers, you are encouraging your customers to further patronize your products and services and will make them more engaged in every email that you send them with always something valuable to look forward to. Incentive programs also give a boost on your business reputation and helps in ultimately building an engaging relationship of your customers to your brand.
image credit: Shutterstock
Five years ago, I was trained by the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project , based in Sacramento, California, whose model is used by educators across the country. Home visits are voluntary and prearranged. School staff are trained; they go out in pairs and are compensated for their time. Students are not targeted for visits because of grades or disciplinary issues. Among family engagement strategies, home visits are recognized for their high impact on student success.
During the half-hour visit, we always ask parents about their dreams for their children. Answers vary: “I want my son to have the opportunities my parents couldn’t give me.” “I want my daughter to make something of herself, to be somebody.”
On one occasion, we weren’t prepared for the answer: “I hope she can stay in this country long enough to get an education.” Lindy had an upcoming immigration hearing, and her dad didn’t know whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would deport her or not.
All of my students are immigrant teens. I don’t ask about their documents, thanks to a 1982 Supreme Court decision which guarantees equal access to education regardless of immigration status. But I do read my students’ academic histories. If I see three weeks in Arizona or Texas, I know they spent some time in a detention facility after an arduous journey through Mexico. I know they face a future full of court dates and unknowns.
Lindy had just arrived from Guatemala. She and her dad sat us down in their austere apartment on a rainy afternoon when he didn’t have to work at a distant construction site. He was the first father to tell us that his hope was avoiding deportation. I wondered how this fear affected Lindy’s schoolwork. How could she focus on reviewing vocabulary or organizing her notebook if she worried that ICE would knock on the door at dawn?
Days before her court date, Lindy told me that her dad couldn’t go with her. “Do I need a lawyer?” she asked. I struggled with this: a 17-year-old confronting ICE alone in a language she didn’t speak well. Fortunately, I have a Central American co-worker who had crossed the border herself years ago. Ms. Perez picked up the phone, and soon Lindy was talking with someone at a local nonprofit who agreed to accompany her to the hearing.
Suppose I hadn’t gone to Lindy’s home, met her dad, and learned of their fears. Without the home visit, would Lindy have trusted me enough to mention the hearing? Would she have gone alone? Home visits are designed to build a relationship between families and educators that impacts classroom learning. As we sit in their living rooms, families begin to believe we will treat them respectfully, and educators begin to shed our preconceptions. A relationship develops that can help students confront some very real obstacles to their academic progress.Be Flexible About Where and Even Who You’ll Meet
Home visits don’t have to happen at home or even with parents. A library may be a good alternative to a crowded apartment, and a sibling may have custody of a student whose parents remain in El Salvador. Mauricio hesitated when we called to set up a visit for his younger brother Vicente, so we met at a nearby McDonald’s. We soon realized that this visit was about Mauricio, not Vicente. Mauricio had just broken up with his girlfriend, so the two brothers were sleeping on couches in a friend’s living room — Vicente had left the insecurity of El Salvador for the instability of his brother’s life.
Like many other students with limited prior education, Vicente’s initial interest in high school waned. His buddies passed my pre-algebra class, but Vicente couldn’t remember how to solve two-step equations. A year later he was passing many of his math objectives but was often absent.
Every visit reveals another assumption from my own middle-class experience that accompanies me to school. I wondered how Lindy’s dad could leave her alone in front of an immigration judge, while I admired her bravery in going. I shook my head at Mauricio’s chaos but grudgingly respected him for devising a plan B for his brother. The last time I tried to call Mauricio, none of the phone numbers worked. And then Vicente handed me a 3×5 card with a new number: “In case you ever want to call….”
Home visits transform the way we look at ourselves and our students. Building trust with families is a first crucial step in tackling some of the obstacles in our students’ paths toward graduation.
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