Valentine's Day is coming up, and love is on everyone's mind. If you're smart, your significant other's gift is already out for delivery. But there are a few specific hearts and minds you should try to win over before the month is finished: Your employees' and your customers'. I recently came across an article in The Atlantic, "Being a Go-Getter is No Fun: New research suggests that competent employees are assigned more work--but they don't always like it." The article described a study done by a team of researchers from Duke University, University of Georgia, and University of Colorado, that looked at how reliable and bright people are treated by their colleagues, and how these people feel when everyone turns to them at critical moments. For me, the crux of the article fell in two lines: "Why should you do more work for the same reward, while your less capable coworker coasts along with lower expectations and work?"

Simply put--you shouldn't. Why would anyone want to give 110 percent when their peer, who is giving 75 percent, is getting compensated equally? It's time for theories that have been put to work in sales for years to make their way into organizations as a whole. If every employee is on a well-designed incentive compensation plan, then they are paid based on their performance, not just a base salary that remains the same no matter the quality or quantity of the work. Top performers should never be paid in the same way as middle or low performers. When the amount of effort or skill doesn't match the payout, your most talented employees can become discouraged--and they might just start looking for employment that offers stronger incentives.

You know that it's important to keep your top performers; especially so in the current business climate, as more and more leaders struggle to crack the employee engagement code. According to Gallup, only 32 percent of employees are engaged at work. This is a clear message that the way we lead our businesses is due for a change--and fast. Engagement is not just another buzzword, and I'd urge you to delve deeper into the importance of having employees who are motivated and care about their work. If your staff doesn't feel appreciated and fairly paid, their motivation will fly out the door faster than Godiva chocolate on February 13th.

If you haven't already done so, this is the month to nail down your employee engagement program. You might be thinking, "Okay, I get it; my employees need to be compensated thoughtfully to get more work done. How does this get my customers to love me more?" Your customers already love you, because you built a great product. However, just like any other healthy relationship, you need to put in work to ensure that your customers fall in love with your company over and over again. This is done daily, through every interaction your employees have with current and potential customers. And guess what? The more satisfied your employees are, the more willing they are to go the extra mile for your clients, and we all know that happy customers who are feeling the love are at the heart of any successful company's long term success.