Despite all the hard work that many smart leaders have done to try to get their employees more engaged at work, the results to date have not been so good. The Gallup Organization reports that a staggering 87 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged at work. This is a huge problem that creates massive losses for businesses large and small, in every industry.

According to workplace expert Rodd Wagner, author of the book Widgets: 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They're Real People, the secret for retaining and motivating employees is to treat them like human beings, not like company assets. Says Wagner, "Too many corporations have become people-chewing machines, places where you are more likely to get an access code by which a computer gets to know you and spits out your top 'themes' than you are to get a manager to take you to coffee every month and work with you individually, person to person."

Here are Wagner's 12 new rules for managing your employees like real people:

1. Get inside their heads

Take time to regularly speak with each of your employees individually, one on one, to better understand who they are, what they are looking for, and how you can help them achieve their personal goals.

2. Make them fearless

Reward your people for taking chances instead of punishing them for it. It is essential that your people not be so distracted or paralyzed by fear that they fail to take action when necessary.

3. Make money a nonissue

Be sure that the salary you pay your people is fair, that is, that it is comparable to others in the same position in your company, and in other similar companies in your geographic area.

4. Help them thrive

About 25% of American workers report they are burned out in their jobs. Instead of burning out your people, contribute to their well-being.

5. Be cool

If you make your company a cool place to work (think companies like Apple and Southwest Airlines), then you'll attract higher-quality job candidates who are more motivated to stay and work harder for the company.

6. Be boldly transparent

Almost nothing is secret at work anymore, so don't be the manager who tries to keep a lid on the information your people need to do their jobs well.

7. Don't kill the meaning

Most people need to have meaning in their work--they want to make a difference in the world around them. Be sure that your company's mission is worthwhile, and then live it in the same way you hope your employees will.

8. See their future

Give your people a great future by ensuring they have a great past and present, and by painting an inspiring vision of what's to come.

9. Magnify their success

Our brains release a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine deep inside our "reward center" whenever we succeed at most anything. By making a big deal about your employees' accomplishments, you will magnify their success by creating a surge of feel-good dopamine in their brains.

10. Unite them

Work hard to create the conditions under which collaboration naturally develops and increases. Reward employees for collaborating together to leverage opportunities and find solutions to problems.

11. Let them lead

Research shows that employees are more motivated in jobs where their opinions matter. Give your employees the opportunity to have a say in how their work is done--show them how to lead, and then encourage them to do it.

12. Take it to extremes

When you consistently deliver on the above 11 rules--pushing them to their limits--your people will respond in kind, giving their very best effort every day of the week.

Published on: May 5, 2015