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?
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.”
Organizational and individual energy have hit some low points. Workers are stressed out, rusted out, burned out and ready to walk out according to some pollsters with their finger on the pulse of productivity. Read below on some of their findings on what’s going down and what you can do to help energize yourself in the midst of it all.
- Boring jobs kill. The researchers at the University Of Texas School Of Public Health found that workers who spend their lives in undemanding jobs with little control over their work are 35% more likely to die during a 10-year period than workers in challenging jobs with lots of options and decision-making. Learning how to deal with the stress and cope with the job demands help you to become stronger and more resilient to stress as published in Psychosomatic Medicine.
- Attitudes roll downhill from supervisors to front-line staff to customers, and keep them coming back. Try delighting your employees. When employees are treated well, they will treat your customers well, and people like doing business with people who like doing business.
- Enhance your energy and image over the phone by answering with your vocal tone ending on a higher note than at the beginning of the greeting. When your tone goes up, it conveys enthusiasm about the call. When your tone goes down, it conveys a more abrupt and annoyed feeling. Standing or at least sitting up straight improves breathing and vocal tone.
- Make a point to take a mid-day break and get away from your desk or other workplace to take a mental health break in order to come back refreshed and more productive. Average American workers only spend 15 minutes per day for lunch and most eat on the run, at their desk, or in their car.
- Absenteeism hit a 7-year record high according to a survey of 401 companies. 25% of absences were taken by people who weren’t really sick. Citing the main reasons for playing hooky- stress, and belief that workers had earned the time off. One of the winning excuses was, “If it is all the same to you, I won’t be coming to work. The voices told me to clean all the guns today.”
- A USA Today survey showed 75% of CEO’s and 88% of middle managers listed balancing work and family as a major concern. What are you doing in your life to actively balance personal and professional stuff?
- A Gallup Poll found 4 out of 10 workers report that they are frequently angry while at work. Maybe they should call in sick and stay home to work on balancing their life? If you notice your fuse getting shorter; take a look at your balance between personal and professional lives and actively work on simplifying and putting more fun into your day.
- A 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. These restless employees say they’re looking for better compensation and career opportunities. Now comes word that, at least in the advertising, marketing and creative industries, only half of recently polled firms are concerned with employee retention. The Creative Group, a staffing services company in Menlo Park, Calif., reports ad agency executives and senior marketing executives with the nation’s 1,000 largest companies may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Many companies don’t focus on retention until it’s too late to staunch the flow of experienced, productive people, says Tracey Fuller, executive director of The Creative Group. Now is the time to ensure top performers feel valued and respected, and have positive interactions with their managers.
Be your own captain and navigate your own way instead of being tossed around by the wind and waves. Charting your own course is empowering and figuring out your direction and speed is half the fun. By using some of the other keys mentioned in this book; living your life on purpose sets you up to recognize and handle fate appropriately.
If you are not making plans for your life, then you are part of someone else’s plan. Take the wheel and take charge of your life. It’s your life, manage it well. A decision of inaction is a vote for fate to take over and run your life. Waiting around for the perfect time or the perfect circumstances or for 100% of all the information to come to you before making a decision will only paint you into a corner and narrow your selections of choice. Taking charge of your timely decisions and taking advantage of opportunities that come your way will help you steer your life in a more positive direction and give you more choices for positive outcomes. It will also help you avoid the stress of making a forced decision or having a decision or outcome forced upon you, which is a big energy drain.
Research from the neuroscience field has demonstrated that we’re actually hard-wired to empathize with those around us, thanks to a neural network called mirror neurons. We see it when we hear of natural disasters, which causes a deep emotional response. Our empathy makes it so that we can’t help but feel concern and care for those we don’t even know. Not to be confused with sympathy. I watched a stirring, animated short video on Youtube regarding empathy with a little fox. Check it out. One of the points to the video was that when you make an empathetic statement, it should not start with “At least….). Oh how that resonated with me. How often do we mention something to a colleague that did not go well and they being their response with “At least it didn’t….” Responses like this don’t help and don’t solve the issue, they just annoy you.
Though we are hardwired for empathy, we don’t see evidence of this behavior in the workplace. It seems too mushy. Why are so many workplaces suffering from a lack of human compassion, connection, and shared belonging? We care about the realities our colleagues face in our organization – of the challenges and opportunities they see going unaddressed and thus, our compassion arises from our curiosity to listen and learn, paired with our innate drive to relate to the realities of those around us.
This type of compassion is vital in today’s leadership because it’s the key to the internal driving force found within each us to understand what motivates our employees, what matters to them, and how we can connect the work they do to the shared purpose that defines why we do what we do. Many studies have shown that compassion in the workplace leads to higher levels of employee engagement and job satisfaction and reduces employee absenteeism and burnout. The Gallup organization’s major study asks employees if they have somebody they can call a best friend at work and if they have been asked about how they contribute to the organization and shown by their leadership that what they do matters. If they don’t feel they matter, they walk.
Here are some steps to help you to reconnect with your sense of curiosity and empathy to bring more compassion into the workplace:
- See your team mates beyond the roles they play in your organization and remain curious about what challenges them along with the willingness to listen to what opportunities they see for our organization to succeed.
- Make efforts to discover their true strengths by seeking to better understand and know those we lead – of what serves as the fuel for their internal motivation.
- Be open about not having all the answers because it’s impossible for anyone to truly know or understand the complexities of the work we do today and its impact.
Most of the daily decisions we make are not driven from a rational mindset, but from a response to our emotionally-driven, network of mirror neurons where we seek commonality and connection both to the work we do and to those around us. And that means that compassion in leadership involves an honest and more outward-focused approach to leadership that allows us to tap into the native talents, creativity, and insights of those we lead. Leaders must show their team members that they are present to hear, understand, and provide them with what they require to succeed and thrive. How will you show compassion and empathy to your colleagues, clients or customer today?
Mentors affect teams positively and tormentors infect teams. We can look at traits employees adore and abhor in their mentors and tormentors and what they can relate to themselves as they look into their leadership mirror to see how they come across to others. How do you rate on the Mentor/Tormentor scale? Are you adored or abhorred? What changes can you make today to move towards adored mentor status?
Leadership traits that people adore
- Has a clear vision of how people’s work meets the leader’s expectations.
- Provides timely, clear, constructive feedback.
- Expresses appreciation and gives credit where credit is due.
- Actively listens and answers questions.
- Treats others with respect and kindness.
- Consistently fair in their treatment of others.
- Trains, develops, and grows their people.
- Willing to jump in and help out when things become difficult.
- Has an open door policy and is available.
- Supportive and protective of their people when things go wrong.
Leadership traits that people abhor:
- Plays favorites
- Doesn’t take time to learn about employees personally, treats them as cogs in the production wheel
- My way or highway thinking
- Takes credit for your work
- Doesn’t take action when needed, particularly for discipline problems
- Has clunky communication skills and low emotional intelligence
- Does not respect younger workers and their contribution
- Kisses up and kicks down
Obviously, this list is not comprehensive. There are many great and not-so-great leadership traits we could add. One of the primary skills of strong leaders is excellent communication. Every item on the list above is affected by communication style and emotional intelligence.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to improve your leadership skills and help you get the results you want:
How do you treat your people? To help answer this question, you might ask yourself, “How do my people treat me?” For example, if you are warm and friendly, your people will probably be warm and friendly in return. On the other hand, if you are cold and blunt or if your demeanor is unpredictable, your team will likely go to great lengths to avoid you. Be approachable and consistent in dealing with others and they will reciprocate. We are mirrors for how people treat us. If you notice that others are not treating you well, not saying hello and good-bye, then look inward to see if they are mirroring your demeanor.
Does your team understand how what they do contributes to the success of the organization? Don’t assume they know, even if the answer may be obvious to you. Recent research indicates that somewhere between 70% and 95% of people do not know how what they do contributes to their organization’s success. If most individuals lack this understanding and you haven’t conveyed it to them, then you are missing the opportunity to increase their motivation, and the likelihood that they will be as productive as they could be. Ask them if they know their impact on the organization’s success, listen to their response, and be prepared to fill in the gaps. According to Dan Pink in his book Drive; he states that motivation today relies on purpose, autonomy and mastery. If they don’t know their purpose, are not given the space to do it and to learn it, then you can be sure you’re a tormentor they abhor and they won’t be there for long. Do you express appreciation for a job well done to each person on your team at least once a week? Particularly with the new workforce, they expend on-demand feedback and may not wait around for it. The younger generations in and entering the workforce today are serial freelancers with the skills to get jobs at other places and won’t hesitate to jump ship and go out on their own. Make sure you are doing what you can to retain them and be their mentor they adore.