Like the common cold, motivational ways can spread across the workplace. Unfortunately so can un-motivational actions. Sincere recognition and appreciation reap big rewards. I understand some just don’t have a clue when it comes to implementing such practices; so I’ve culled lots of ideas from my resources to help add to your arsenal of positive actions. Please spread the word and infect others with these recognition resources.
- We never seem to get or give enough recognition where it is needed most. Non-cash awards are a sound business investment in the future of your company. A recent study by the Aberdeen Group cited in Incentive Magazine indicates that companies with superior employee recognition grew four times faster, earned $40 billion more and created 140,000 more job opportunities than the average company.
- The American Productivity Center suggests that non-cash programs cost three times less than cash programs and produce similar results.
- “Atta-persons” are not a panacea for improved performance and productivity. These sincere acknowledgements must be accompanied by mutually agreed-upon goals for the individual or team, communication, a respectful relationship and workplace, education, tracking, and measurement to maximize results and lead to long-term behavior changes.
- Balancing between cash, material stuff, and non-cash incentives and recognition is an individualized art and it changes with each team member. Ask them what they desire out of the relationship with their job and then find ways for them to make it happen. Intrinsic motivation and a passion for a cause is the most powerful incentive of all.
- In the midst of economic turmoil and organizational uncertainty, incentives and promotional programs can provide stability and a way to help pull people and entice them out of stressful times. They can be an emotional jump start to show appreciation for employee’s time, loyalty, service, and commitment, and make it easier for them to deal with emotional issues. These acknowledgement programs can bring fun and good spirits back to the workplace and show how much you care about the team pulling together and sticking together through tough times.
- Making a show that the top dogs are cutting back on expenses during financial squeeze times demonstrates to the team that everybody, including the top dogs are tightening their belt. Make a game of who can trim the fat off the financial statement and expenses line item could offer incentives and get suggestions for improving operations. Offering a percentage of the cost savings to the person who suggested it will go a long way to empower and energize staff.
- Start a walking club at work, or a brown bag “lunch and learn” session to make positive use of the lunch hour and encourage healthy habits, networking, and self-improvement. Include topics such as planning for retirement, scrap-booking, refinancing your home, training your dog, communicating with family members, or vegetarian cooking.
- If your organization offers flextime, how about offering a change of schedules with the change of seasons for a change of pace.
- Offer a company-sponsored luncheon or special recognition for the graduates of family members, or offer a small gift from the company to the graduate such as a gift card to a bookstore or computer store to help them in their next phase of life. Endearing your organization to the family members has been proven an effective retention strategy.
- Involve family members in the recognition process or incentive chain. Perhaps offering a catalog of awards or prizes that the worker can receive in exchange for their earned points in a company-sponsored contest or sick-leave, or safety record program. Sending the catalog to their home address where family members may page through the options may be just the incentive a worker needs to spur them on to earn more points for the mountain bike their daughter spotted in the catalog. Sometimes we do more for family members than we do for ourselves.
Remember that motivation is contagious and so is de-motivation. Even self-motivated employees wither within a demoralizing environment. You can’t fake appreciation – it will backfire every time. Ultimately, companies that treat their employees with respect and show concern for their personal and professional well-being are most likely to emerge successful, even in the face of a downturn, or a bad economy. Organizations can foster loyalty by tuning in to their workers and offering them what they want such as flexibility, education, tele-commuting options, and ways to enhance work/life balance. Asking people what they want is the first step to tuning in and getting it right.
Try engaging employees by aligning their passions and values with your organization and supporting their need to be a part of the community and have a heart at work. Two of my past clients, Fannie Mae and Washington Mutual offer several hours per month for each employee to provide community service and volunteer activities of their choice to help provide goodwill in the community. Having each employee choose their project provides them with more choice over their time instead of the organization selecting a neighborhood cleanup or other project where the hearts and heads of the staff may not be so concerned. Give your team choices and they will give you their best effort.
- Ensure that recognition is timely and immediately follows their accomplishment
- Praise individuals versus entire groups – it carries more meaning when each person is singled out for exactly what they did instead of telling the whole group ‘they done good’
- Be specific in your praise and highlight details of the accomplishment to show you noticed and understand what they did
- Write a note home to the team member’s family telling the family of the staff member’s accomplishments
- Give recognition that was actually earned to make it more meaningful and avoid giving acknowledgement before it was actually earned in order to motivate an employee
- Give a welcome party for a new team member instead of throwing them a party only when they leave
- Sincerity is a key ingredient to the success of any recognition gesture. Actions lose their effectiveness when done in a tone of insincerity and if you spell names incorrectly or get dates wrong.
- Employees feel most productive when they feel their contributions are valued and their feedback is welcomed by management.
- An unsupportive atmosphere can lead to reduced performance levels and higher turnover for business.
- Another poll by Maritz Research found dissatisfaction with the way employers offer recognition. The survey of 1001 adults nationwide found 34% of them do not feel they are recognized for their work performance in ways that are important to them. Only 40% felt they were adequately recognized.
- Other findings indicated 26% of employees are unhappy with the way they are managed and 32% intend to change jobs.
- Accountemps, an international staffing services firm conducted a recent worker satisfaction survey and found that 43% of executives from large firms believe that an employee’s relationship with their manager has the greatest impact on job satisfaction – far more than any other factor.
- 5 tips to combat the uninspired, unchallenged worker who is wasting away:
- Spot It – perform stress audits and appraisals regularly
- Prevent It – match the right people to the right job for a better fit with skills and challenges – screen new hires for a better fit
- Lead It – don’t allow this type of culture in your organization – be aware of prevention
- Confess It – take a look at your own behavior and role modeling and if your attitude is slipping
- Risk It – revisit your purpose at work and your definition of success and take some calculated risks to put you on the edge of vitality again
What are you doing to inspire and empower your employees? What is keeping them from walking? A Deloitte Millennial survey found that 70% of Millennials see themselves as working independently one day? What are you doing to encourage them to stay?
Winning and keeping the bright stars of today requires and understanding of the shift in values and changing expectations to today’s workforce. Some of the key elements in attracting and retaining your top talent are:
* Offering a flexible way to work that allows for personal and professional work/life balance. Time spent on the job in a year has increased by 163 hours in the last 20 years, which equates to about one month per year, while our leisure time has declined by about 30%. More and more entry-level professionals are willing to give up salary in exchange for less work hours to help balance their lives. Some research indicates that it is possible to cut turnover by 50% by introducing such programs as: eldercare programs, flextime, alternate work schedules, dependent care leave, counseling, childcare subsidies, commuter subsidies.
* Tie your organizational mission to a deeper meaning so workers can gain a deeper sense of cause and meaningful work. Many employees want to make a difference more than anything – it comes up near the top of many motivational surveys. Create a sense of community among workers by giving them time to be a part of something other than their job position.
* Allow for socializing, learning, volunteering, chairing teams, and setting up your environment to compel integration of all workers and allow for interaction and brainstorming. One high-tech engineering firm in Virginia hosts Technology Tuesdays with free lunch and learn sessions on the latest gadgets or techno stuff. They also offer cookies and milk on Wednesday afternoons so employees can take a break and gather around for a quick break. One financial services company allows workers a certain number of hours off per quarter to volunteer for their favorite community cause.
* Offer personal and professional development at all levels. Allow employees to choose the training they think would benefit them and the company most. Give access to training catalogs and let them choose or work it out with their budgets so they get to decide what to cut if something else is important enough to attend. When people feel valued, they stick around. That goes with customers, employees, and personal relationships. When we don’t feel valued, understood, and listened to – we walk.
Sometimes our personal or professional lives spiral out of kilter, or the demands on us at work or at home are overwhelming, or there just isn’t a good fit for us anymore. At those times when the heat is turned up and we are moving at the speed of light just to keep up, or just get by without going crazy, here are some tips to understand burnout and how to deal with it.
We move through four basic stages of burnout:
- Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion (emotional takes up most of the space on the exhaustion scale)
- Shame and doubt about yourself, your decisions, or that you aren’t enough or a good fit
- Cynicism and callousness about your situation, sometimes anger or similar energy
- Failure, helplessness, and crises mode when we feel our situation is getting the best of us and we can’t concentrate, nor move forward like we used to
Once we recognize we are either rusting out or burning out, we need to take steps to rectify the situation before it cripples us. It starts by recognizing the stress you’re under, why it’s happening, and listening to your body if it starts to break down such as more accidents, more sickness or allergic reactions, more joint and muscle pain, and general lethargy or depression. Taking action while we still feel strong and capable of dealing with the situation will stop the burnout faster than if we wait until we are incapacitated by our mental, emotional, or physical state. Moving forward while we are still in a position of power to do so is much more likely to start the inertia than if we wait until we are in a weaker state where we may not have the courage, stamina, or resourceful thinking to gain momentum out of the burnout phase.
If you find yourself burning out, here are some steps to ward off the fire:
* Enlist the support of family, friends, and colleagues, especially if they have been in that situation before
* Practice the art of self-care – be adamant about creating time for yourself to clear your mind, be good to yourself, take care of your body, and replenish it with good food, exercise, rest, and things you love.
* Get very clear about what it is you’re about, what is your purpose, your ideal day, your vision for your ideal life. If you were brave, what would you do or change or create in your life that isn’t there now? What type of work or living situation would you want if you were being truly authentic to yourself?
* Take some time off to refocus your energies and remove yourself from the stressful situation to get a better perspective.
* Research similar fields or other jobs in your organization or industry if you like the work, but need something to best fit your skills, style, and personality.
* Become more self-aware of your work style, communication style, and personality style and seek a career that best uses your strengths. (I offer the Strength Deployment Inventory ® for those who want to learn more about their motivations behind their behaviors, and their communication and conflict management style.)
* Entertain the thought of retraining, going back to school, or starting your own business doing what you love. Test drive a new venture part time to see where your energy goes.
* Recognize that burnout carries a sense of loss of control or an abandonment of a goal you once had. Sometimes it turns into a sense of hopelessness if it goes on for too long. Avoid burnout by recognize the first signs of restlessness, stress, overwhelm, and agitation. Look at your situation and assess if it is a short-term project or a long-term situation before taking action and keeping cool instead of fuming and fanning the flames of burnout.
Time to take a hard look at the hard questions and maybe experience some of the hard facts that workers are not all that happy. Better to know now and do something about it than to wait until they jump ship to find out in their exit interview how you screwed up. You are doing exit interviews, aren’t you?
Answer these questions provided by the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement to see how your organization measures up.
- Are employees empowered to service customers at the highest possible level?
- Does the company recognize the role of employees in retaining customers?
- Is the performance of employees regularly measured?
- Are internal communications truly aligned with external marketing initiatives?
- Does the company’s overall corporate objective include human resource and motivation issues?
- Is the company committed to employee development and training?
- Are employees encouraged to provide feedback and given the tools to do so?
- Is employee feedback incorporated into planning and operations?
- Can the company demonstrate a link between people performance management and sales and profit?
In an annual survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management, here are the results concerning work-life programs in corporate America today:
- 57% of companies now offer flextime to their employees
- 56% have wellness programs
- 36% allow telecommuting
- 20% have on-site fitness centers
- 19% offer stress-reduction tips to workers
- 13% offer massage therapy
When employees feel included when they feel a sense of belonging to an organization, when their personal values and goals are in alignment with the organizational values. In order to gain a maximum sense of involvement and engagement in an organization, here are some elements that need to be present to foster dedication, retention, and productivity:
- Intrinsic personal interest and worthwhile work
- Challenge and stimulation
- Personal involvement
- Positive environment
24% of 1000 workers surveyed said they were chronically angry at work. The most common reason cited was a sense that their employers “violated basic promises” and didn’t fulfill “the expected psychological contract with their workers”. The anger problem remains mostly underground and workers simply lose interest in work and become lethargic and uncooperative. What is going on in your office to undermine expectations?
Ask burned-out employees (or less than enthusiastic family members) “What do you really want from your job/school/your life/this family?”. Write down 25 quick answers to help jostle them into thinking about their interests and desires so they can look for a way to pursue them through work/school/family life.
So how does your organization measure up? Are you incorporating these types of things into your environment? If you have other ideas that are working for you, let me know at Gaia@GaiaHart.com.
I’m intrigued about the topic of corporate kindness and how being nice can actually be a competitive advantage. In The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, they explain how friendliness and common courtesy along with how you look affects people’s moods and attitudes towards you. Cheerfulness and being polite and respectful spreads more easily than irritability and facial expressions and body language convey more relevant information than a sales pitch.
It’s all about the notion of consequences and karma – people may forget what you say, but they never forget how you made them feel. They remember acts of kindness as well as rudeness. After all, isn’t business and all of the world about relationships and how we connect with others be it inside or outside our organization?
Another book, The Kindness Revolution: The Company-Wide Culture Shift That Inspires Phenomenal Customer Service by Ed Horrell identifies how companies with stellar street reps for service excellence practice extreme kindness, respect, fairness and genuine niceties. He notes that the opposite of kindness isn’t being mean, it’s indifference. When indifference sets in, then it gives people a bad experience and in a world of choices, the customer (internal or external) chooses to walk. In fact, you can say that about any relationship – when indifference and disrespect and unkindness sets in, most people walk.
With a little more corporate kindness and consideration, I would argue that we would have many more gruntled workers than disgruntled workers. And we could actually save lives…one statistic form the Department of Labor cites that the #2 killer of workers on the job is homicide by a disgruntled colleague or customer. What are you doing to impart kindness in your daily activities? What are you doing to add light to the world? What are you doing to save a life today?
- Some tips from Love ‘Em, Don’t Lose ‘Em on keeping good people:
- Support personal and professional growth – are you building their future or are you a barrier
- Enrich the job function – do they have to leave to find growth, excitement, and challenge
- Is your worksite family friendly – do they have to choose between family life and work life or can they balance both
- Expand options for advancement – there are five career paths other than up
- Create opportunities for challenge, learning, growth, fun, enthusiasm, ownership, and a chance to feel valued – if they don’t find it inside, they will seek it outside
- Become a better listener – they want to tell their story and they want to know they matter and that somebody cares – when you tune out, you lose out and they move out
- Share the power, share the wealth, share the knowledge, share the praise, share the celebrations, and tell the truth
- Keep in mind the worth ethic when creating a work ethic in your organization. From the book Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life, Joe Robinson discusses how the operative ethic in our lives should be our worth ethic. “Measure the madness around you by whether it has worth for you, instead of whether you are worthy enough to take the ceaseless beating. Does it bring you significance, satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, contribution, challenge? Or does it cut you off from sources of internal worth, isolate you, and sabotage your health? That’s not worth it, no matter the dough.”
Over the years I’ve interviewed many hundreds of clients in what they do to keep their customers, care for their clients, and show their colleagues they really matter in more ways than the obvious. I’ve compiled some of my favorites for you to glean from them on what they’re doing right to reach out and show their workplace love.
- Surprise your team and take them to lunch, to a mall with $50 each and tell them they must spend it all on themselves and whoever has money left over will give it back to you.
- If you are game – or in good financial standing – take them on a trip or a cruise such as Phillips International’s Chairman, Tom Phillips who took 1350 employees and their families on a Disney Cruise to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary. Meeting planners who are interested in cruises as incentive programs can visit www.corporatecruises.com for deck plans and virtual tours of 360 ships and an online RFP service as well as destination info and tax-deductibility guidelines. Another site for unbiased info on cruises and destinations is www.cruisecritic.com. Bon Voyage!
- Forget the Euro – time is the currency of the new millennium and giving the gift of time is a powerful incentive. Almost 40% of Americans now work more than 50 hours per week (National Sleep Foundation) and Americans work up to 12 weeks more in total hours per year than Europeans with 26% of all US employees not taking a vacation according to a study by Boston College. Many companies are now offering perks and incentives to help employees gain back some time such as giving them the services of a lawn care company, pest control, monthly house cleaning, or having a car detailer visit the workplace. ServiceMaster offers these types of home services on a large scale across the country.
- One of my early clients, Northwestern Mutual has a dry cleaner pick up and deliver clothes to the workplace. Their dry cleaner also offered to accept Fed Ex packages for workers during the holidays and then deliver them to the workplace to avoid having holiday packages sit on doorsteps or having to drive to the Fed Ex shop to pick them up. They also offer several clubs and affinity groups in their organization such as a choral group, a band, and professional associations for staff to meet others with similar interests and promote loyalty and a sense of community. People are less likely to leave a community of friends than a company of cubicles.
- Below are ideas from various clients on what they’re doing to show they care about their teammates:
- Help keep employees healthy and informed about their health and well-being to reduce your costs for sick-leave, mental-health day absences, retention, and insurance claims. Here are some tips for planning a wellness program excerpted from Human Capital Magazine:
- Provide people with the facts, and raise awareness regarding the risks of being overweight.
- Help them identify risk factors including Body Mass Index and blood pressure.
- Empower employees to change and provide them with the knowledge and tools to improve their situation – books, trainers, coaches, nurses, health club memberships, time off each week to work out, seminars, seated massages, healthy choices in the cafeteria, and smoking cessation or Weight Watchers classes.
- Implement a total wellness program into your menu of options for employees – more than an exercise program, it includes a combination of activities that focus on health promotion and disease prevention and healthy, active lifestyles.
- The Society for Human Resource Management’s annual survey of several hundred employee benefit managers found that 31% subsidize or reimburse gym membership fees, 22% provide on-site fitness centers, 24% offer weight-loss programs, and 11% offer nutrition counseling.
- One high-tech company in Washington DC gave employees a stipend for monthly house cleaning and yard work to allow them extra time to work out – no excuses for not having enough time.
- A survey by Career Builder.com found that the majority of workers are dissatisfied with their career progress with 63% reporting that finding a better job would improve their quality of life.
What are you doing for your team to energize them and help increase their quality of life at work? How are you showing your team that you care about them in more ways than giving them a paycheck?
Seems we can’t get away without having meetings. Communication is a key element to empowered workplaces and effective employee morale. But it seems that so many get it wrong when it comes to hosting meetings. What is up with that? To help pump up the effectiveness of meetings; I share the following tips.
If your meetings are becoming stale, try www.effectivemeetings.com with lots of tidbits for running terrific meetings.
Improve your all-employee meetings
- Draw on the experience of top performers and celebrate the successes of others – have them share their stories.
- Work actively with professional speakers to familiarize them with your organization.
- Encourage informal interaction with round tables and allow for socializing activities.
- If you are presenting awards: staff should participate in the selection of rewards.
- Employers should reward measurable activities or a point system.
- Offer reward that have some brag value – offering cash may be fleeting.
- Recognize employees who talk up the company and spread good words.
Improve morale with the five R’s
- Rewards: check competitor’s salaries, perks, and benefits packages and exceed it or get more creative to retain top talent.
- Room to grow: offer a chance to grow professionally and personally and advance skills through a mentoring program, promotions, and training.
- Recognition: Practice regular formal and informal praise and appreciation. Generation X and the incoming Millennials are used to getting feedback every 60 seconds with computer games and expect to know where they stand and get noticed for it. We tend to get antsy just waiting for our computers to download and that’s only 22 seconds. An annual appraisal won’t cut it.
- Respect: Make a determined effort to listen with an open mind and show genuine respect to avoid the “Because I’m the boss” attitude.
- Reasonable Workloads: Productivity will decline if workers are expected to produce 110% all the time. People need time to renew and refresh to avoid burnout and especially since September 11th, we need to understand that there will be a general defocus in work and productivity. Offer flexible work schedules, job sharing, telecommuting, and compressed workweeks.