Blog: Leading & Living Courageously

Appreciation and Employee Engagement

Managers often think that the source of employee engagement is providing staff with material rewards and privileges such as more money, bonuses, stock incentives, promotions, titles, etc… While these things are important, their impact tends to be overestimated.

A huge dimension in employee engagement is the quality of relationship that exists between management and staff. Employees feeling they are known, accepted, appreciated, valued and trusted goes a long way toward getting employees on board with a company’s vision and strategy.

Many of the leaders we encounter seem either blind to this point — or worse —simply don’t care. By not listening to and recognizing employees which is a critical part of their job, managers are missing out on the opportunity to create a highly motivated, loyal and engaged team.

According to the Employee Engagement Report 2011 from BlessingWhite, engaged employees plan to stay where they are currently working for what they give; the disengaged stay for what they get.

The same report found that employees worldwide view opportunities to apply their talents, career development and training as top drivers of job satisfaction.

An even more telling find of the study was that when engagement surveys were conducted in companies, without visible follow-up action, engagement could actually be decreased. As the report states, “Organizations should think twice before flipping the switch on measurement without 100% commitment for action planning based on the results.”

All of this points to what we see every day in our consulting work. When managers are willing to go the extra mile with staff, loyalty goes sky high. Managers who acknowledge team members and show they care end up with employees who not only work smarter but harder and happier.

What have you done lately to show appreciation for your staff? We would love to hear your comments.

25 Responses to Appreciation and Employee Engagement

  1. Janice B. says:

    As a leader in a fortune 500 organization, I have found this simple rule to be the most effective; say “thank you.” Show your appreciation for their hard work and contributions. And, don’t forget to say “please” often as well. Social niceties do belong at work.

    • Josh Leibner says:

      Janice -

      Very simple, but very powerful. Unfortunately too many leaders overlook some of the simple things in favor of complex programs that often leave people feeling disconnected and disenfranchised.

  2. EddieC76 says:

    Alternatively you could investigate whether a recognition program is right for your company. Rewards Nation and Kudos Now are good examples of systems that are quick and easy to implement.

    • Josh Leibner says:

      Eddie -

      Our experience shows that companies need to do a combination of things – recognition programs are useful so long as they feel personal.

  3. Laurence Lang says:

    Interesting findings from blessingwhite, they really have worked hard in order to define their own set of organizational values for us all to share.

  4. Kevin Pellatiro says:

    You know, another way to keep employees is to become close to them, not just on a professional level. Ask your coworkers about their family, their hobby, their weekend or a special event they attended. Your genuine interest, as opposed to being nosey can cause people to feel valued and cared about. Nothing wrong with that, you’re not stepping over the line with this…

    • Josh Leibner says:

      Kevin -

      Fully agree – unfortunately we’ve seen executives who believe they have to distance themselves from their people in order to maintain respect. It’s an old-fashioned mindset; I don’t see any disconnect between being close to your people while maintaining high standards of performance. Norman Schwartzkopf – when asked what he wanted on his gravestone – said, “He loved his family, he loved his troops, and they loved him.”

  5. Marita Harmony says:

    I was searching around for ideas on how to increase employee motivation, employee recognition and in building a positive, productive workplace, etc. and I came across this post through some social media site. I felt I had to let you know that it has helped in my efforts. Thank you gentlemen.

    • Josh Leibner says:

      Marita -

      Our pleasure – please give us feedback on how useful these ideas are in helping to build a positive, productive workplace.

      • Marita Harmony says:

        I can tell you Josh, things have already started changing in the office. I’ll keep you updated!

  6. Bernard1961 says:

    This is so true. You can tell your colleagues, coworkers and employees how much you value them and their contribution any day of the year. Trust me. No occasion is necessary. In fact, small surprises and tokens of your appreciation spread throughout the year help the people in your work life feel valued all year long.

  7. Pitts4 says:

    In my company, we send flowers when an employee or family member is in the hospital. This lets the employee know that we are thinking of them and care about them. It’s employee recognition with a caring message.

  8. Jeanne Lin says:

    Very good points made here. Fairness, clarity, and consistency are important in employee recognition. People need to see that each person who makes the same or a similar contribution has an equal likelihood of receiving recognition for her efforts. For regularly provided employee recognition, organizations need to establish criteria for what makes a person eligible for the employee recognition. Anyone who meets the criteria is then recognized.

  9. Danger Ross says:

    Hi all, I’m surprised that middle management wasn’t mentioned here. Often overlooked by senior managers (and obviously here as well), and largely loathed by junior staff, middle management has long been the punch line of many office-related jokes. But the reality is that these mid-level professionals serve at a critical point where a business’s vision and strategies are converted into tactics and results, and their engagement is a vital ingredient in ensuring the work is getting done.

    • Josh Leibner says:

      Danger -

      Wholeheartedly agree – we have worked very closely with middle management groups over the years and have seen firsthand how they can be in a “no-man’s” land. The principles of appreciation and acknowledgement to ensure engagement are especially applicable within this group – in our book we focus an entire chapter on what it takes to deal effectively at this level. Cannot be over-emphasized. Thank you!

  10. Amanda Grimes says:

    I once worked for a company that put together a performance-based incentive package. They announced it and made a big deal – it was exciting. We nailed the first milestone and were rewarded accordingly. We nailed the next three milestones and never heard anything about it again. They simply removed the program and didn’t even tell us. Terrible communication.

    • Josh Leibner says:

      Amanda -
      Unfortunately you’re not alone – we’ve seen “Openness” initiatives, and “Innovation” initiatives, and on and on. Which all got off to strong starts, and then got sidelined for lack of follow through, or changes or priorities, or simply a lack of attention. No wonder people are cynical about these efforts. If leaders want these efforts to succeed, they need to own up to the lack of resolve that has been exhibited previously, and ensure these initiatives are pursued with the same diligence, sponsorship and commitment as new products, revenue generation or cost cutting – otherwise people will merely go through the motions.

  11. Claire Townsend says:

    Employee recognition does take time and most people don’t know how to provide employee recognition effectively. They assume that one size fits all when they provide employee recognition. To help, decide what you want to achieve through your employee recognition efforts, not what the reward will be.

    • Josh Leibner says:

      Claire -

      Great input – we’ve seen too many programs reward people only for effort and not for outcomes. At the same time, increased effort in an apathetic environment should be applauded as eventually it will help to shift the culture.

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