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.
Attitude Equals Profits: Take Your Vacation Days to Improve Your Attitude and Improve Company Income
Attitude equals profits: satisfied workers drive company results according to the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement who found a direct link between employee satisfaction and a company’s fiscal performance. I say, “Duh! – what have we been saying from anecdotal evidence and other research all these years!” It’s time to take your vacation days to improve your attitude. If you won’t take time off for yourself, then do it for your colleagues or for the bottom line of your organization.
At any rate, key findings of the study included:
1. High employee satisfaction is often the result of strong internal communications efforts throughout the organization.
2. Another satisfaction driver: internal competition among work teams to implement organizational goals.
3. Satisfaction leads to a status called “employee engagement.” Organizations with engaged employees have customers who use their products more.
4. Employee attitudes affect those of customers.
5. It is less expensive to foster employee satisfaction than it is to acquire new customers.
6. Organizational culture is the single greatest driver of employee satisfaction levels.
Here are some additional reasons to take your hard-earned and well-deserved vacation days:
- According to a recent survey of 1400 US workers, by www.Careerbuilder.com, more than one-third of workers will be taking work with them on vacation by either carting along their laptop, checking emails, or being in voice mail contact. 16% said their supervisors expected them to check in during their holiday and 19% said they would check in voluntarily. Of these workers, 61% said they would check their voice mail and email daily.
- In the same survey, 40% said a vacation of 3-5 days is enough to feel refreshed, 17% said they would take a shorter vacation or no time off this year, while 44% plan to take more than 5 days.
- Not surprisingly, half of the workers said they feel stressed at the office and 22% of these workers indicate some stress while taking time off because they have to check in. They also indicated that vacations were the #1 event they have postponed in order to progress in their careers.
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.
The contented cow syndrome – how to keep a happy herd and keep them from wandering off:
- We know that contented cows give more milk and it’s the same with workers – contented workers produce more.
- Identify realistic expectations about the job, responsibilities, and the organization.
- Ensure there is a fundamental match between the job and the person hired to do it – personality styles, work styles, communication and conflict management styles as well as team vs. individual focus. When there is an alignment between personal and organizational values and goals, there is a better fit and longer retention and less stress for the worker.
- Offer frequent feedback and open communication about the person and their work – let them know how they’re doing and acknowledge their efforts. Generation X and Y, in particular have been used to getting feedback every 60 seconds on how they were doing with computer games. A once per year evaluation isn’t going to cut it.
- Focus on flexibility for family and work and ensure there is a good work-life balance program so workers don’t feel overwhelmed, stressed out, burnt-out and rusted out trying to juggle personal and professional responsibilities.
- Cultivate trust, confidence, and honest, open communication between all levels – show you genuinely care for people and combine the heart and the head level in people to bring out the best in them.
Blah –buster tips for beating depression in the workforce:
- Recent labor studies found that depression costs companies nearly $12 billion in lost work each year and more than $11 billion in other costs accrued from decreased productivity. Here are some tips to improve on those statistics.
- Exercise and a healthy diet combined with vitamins.
- Expressing emotions verbally with a therapist or a friend or through journaling.
- Fresh air and sunshine, or at least full-spectrum lighting that mimics the sun’s rays. Studies have found that people are 25% more productive when using full-spectrum lighting and natural light as compared to fluorescent lighting.
Satisfaction with your work, feeling successful and that you are doing something that matters. Find out what you’re good at, what ignites your passion, and what can combine your preferences with a good income.
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.
When employees do not feel empowered, nor energized by an organization (or their boss), they fly the coop. These are some signs that may point to the exit door for you or your colleagues. If you notice anything familiar, you may want to take a look at your morale-boosting programs:
- You are no longer learning – when there is little personal or professional growth left, it’s time for a new challenge.
- You feel sick and tired or a sense of dread and fatigue along with possible headaches, colds can be a physical sign of unhappiness at work.
- You just don’t care – when we get to “I don’t care”, our soul dies and we need to find soul food elsewhere.
- You’ve strayed from your path and find yourself in a place that was meant to be temporary, but just got convenient. Just because you have the skills and aptitude for a job doesn’t mean you should necessarily be doing it.
- Your quality of life is suffering or your work is infringing on too much of your personal life.
- Take a look at your options – would a flex-schedule solve some of your problems, a new job in a different department, or a new industry?
- Take the tingle test – if you talk about your current job out loud – do you get the chills of excitement talking about it? What gives you the tingles when you think about making a living at it?
4 tips to retain your external customers:
- Ensure your customers can get what they want without leaving your facility or website – build an unbeatable bundle of products and services for one-stop shopping and be willing to customize to their needs.
- Don’t forget incentives for customers as well as employees. Baby boomers especially like the loyalty cards where they earn special treatment. Frequent flier miles are like Pokeman for adults. Offer a gift, discounts, insider info, or special offers.
- Create a community of customers and give them additional ways to connect to you and to each other through your website or other events or programs to offer service after the sale.
- Be available when your customers need you, give a 100% satisfaction guarantee (Fun*cilitators does this and has not had any requests for refunds.), stand behind your product and services and generate sincere trust amongst your community.
It’s Spring Cleaning time and you get the benefit of culling through the stacks of articles and information I’ve accumulated over the years.
- American Express Incentive Services commissioned a survey of employees to see what they wanted in a reward. They found that 62 percent wanted the freedom to choose their own reward. They wanted a say in what they received in the manner of gift cards where they could use them for a dinner out, new CD’s, DVD rentals, a BBQ set, new shoes, movie tickets, or whatever else that suited them at the time. So say goodbye to plaques and hello to pre-paid gift cards that have multiple uses.
- If you are tired of meetings where nobody is contributing their share of solutions to the day’s challenges, then tell them that their admission ticket to the next meeting will be an index card with an original idea or their take on a solution to a pre-stated challenge written on it. Collect the tickets at the door and start the meeting by reading each card to the group to generate more active participation and engage them.
- Did you know that compared to the 1970’s, people today work 20% longer hours and have 32% less leisure time? In the past 30 years, psychologists estimate that workplace stress has doubled – along with the increase in stress levels of mixing business with family matters.
- A survey by careerbuilder.com revealed that 60% of the nation’s workforce finds it difficult to be professionally successful and sufficiently involved in family/social life. Over 74% said tele-work is the most desired perk, and 49% said they deliberately sought out flexible work environments during their last job hunt. What are you doing to help your workers balance their personal and professional lives?
- In the spirit of getting along in the workplace and increasing understanding between Generation X, Boomers, and Traditionalists, here are some sites that give some insight into “What the heck do they mean and why on Earth are they acting that way?”.
General Generation info and links to other sites addressing the issues:
www.millenials.com, and www.generationsatwork.com
Nexters: www.growingupdigital.com, www.northwesternmutual.com/2001/summary-main.html, and www.millenials.com/ltm/ltm.html
- Research from ComPsych – the world’s largest employee assistance program provider shares their recent findings on employee stress at work. 48% of workers report high levels of stress mixed with extreme fatigue and a sense of feeling out of control. Among that 48%, there were 41% who cited their workload as the culprit, 31% said it was people issues, and 28% of those with high levels of stress said it was juggling work and personal life that stressed them out so much. The next group of workers, 38% cited they experienced constant, but manageable stress levels, and 14% said they had low stress levels. What are you doing to manage your stress levels or those of your team so they will be more gruntled and less disgruntled and grumpy?