American workers are disengaged. But you already know that. You’ve probably seen Gallup’s perennially popular stat that only about one-third of workers are engaged. And so you’d think that with the billions companies have spent on engagement efforts, the needle would have moved more.
And yet …
We’re experiencing an engagement crisis in which a great majority of employees are not as motivated or committed as they could be. As they should be.
That’s why 10 years ago, I made it my professional mission to make the world a better place to work. I also delved into problems — and opportunities — related to engagement in my new book, CRAVE! You Can Enhance Employee Motivation in 10 Minutes by Friday™. While examining why we’ve hit a wall in what we need to do build a bridge toward better engagement, here’s what I’ve uncovered: Employees are starving!
People are not getting nearly enough of what they crave at work: respect, purpose, and relationships. Not coincidentally, over 80 years of research by social scientists and scholars proves these are the same three psychological needs people require to become happier, more motivated contributors to their organization’s success. And while leaders are in a prime position to be able to deliver what employees CRAVE, they struggle to do so.
Why? Most don’t know how. From my experience, there is one management skill that when done well by leaders helps them to become more effective and trusted leaders all while significantly fueling the work environment with what people CRAVE.
What is it? Strategic recognition.
Being strategic with recognition requires discipline, investing 10 minutes per week, and three easy steps:
- Recognize a specific ACTION. Be specific with the behaviors that you are recognizing someone for.
- Link it to a FOCUS AREA. Make sure to connect the action to a core value or something else that is important to the organization’s success.
- Share the IMPACT. Ensure the employee knows how their action positively helps the organization.
When you include all three strategic steps, you will also ensure that all three cravings are satisfied: respect, purpose, and relationship.
Make the Habit a Management Discipline
All too often, I encounter leaders who have a blind spot in the area of recognition. Many genuinely think they’re good at it, when in reality, they’re not.
Thankfully, strategic recognition can be learned, practiced, and reinforced. I firmly believe that it’s a management discipline that goes beyond simply being the right thing to do.
It’s especially important for leaders to excel at strategic recognition because deficiency in the skill can lead to devastating impacts, from high turnover to lower profit margins. A Reward Gateway study found that a lack of recognition is one of the main reasons employees leave their organizations. And according to Deloitte, “high-recognition companies have 31 percent lower voluntary turnover than companies with poor recognition cultures.”
So let’s take recognition outside of the “soft skills” box and enshrine it as the management discipline it should be.
Make Doubters Believers Within Your Organization
I have met several recognition results doubters over the years. In CRAVE!, I give the example of Matt, a leader at a healthcare organization. During one of our meetings, he started off the conversation by saying:
“I understand recognizing employees is important. It makes employees feel
good, and if they feel good, they might perform better. I see our recognition
efforts as a necessary expense today. However, sometimes I think our employees
expect too much and I’m worried we spend too much.”
This doubt is common throughout many organizations, and like Matt, you may think about recognition as just another expense. I implore you to move past your doubt and look at it this way: Strategically recognizing employees is a primary accelerator for the business results you want to achieve. It’s not complicated: If you want to see more of something, recognize the actions that lead to it.
In Matt’s case, they wanted to lower nursing turnover. So what did they do? Managers scheduled 10 minutes per week for strategic recognition and increased the amount of nursing recognition by over 100 percent in 12 months. The result? A 29 percent drop in nursing turnover within one year. Why? Because nurses were no longer starved for respect, purpose, and relationship, but getting more of what they CRAVE!
As you can imagine, Matt turned from a recognition results doubter to a recognition results believer. Dedicate 10 minutes per week to strategically recognize employees and you will, too.