‘Recognize’ For Better Employee Engagement

Statistics show that 88% of employees don’t feel passionate about their work, and that this level of employee disengagement is costing the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Employee disengagement is a huge problem for businesses looking to get the most out of their employees and to retain them in the long term. This makes engagement the number one priority for many managers.

It’s easy to leap in and try to make changes in search of better engagement. But the best starting place is to acknowledge what’s already there.

Recognize Differences

Productivity often comes from finding and using the different personalities within a team, turning each of them to their best use. The old-fashioned way of doing business was to blot out an individual’s personality and creativity, to try to get him or her to match what the business expected. But though that approach has thankfully been left behind by many, the way that we move on and work with individual personalities matters.

There is much talk of toleration in our society. Tolerating differences. Tolerating others. Tolerating the things that affect us. And so it is with the personalities of employees — we often tolerate their quirks.

But just tolerating isn’t enough. None of us wants to just be tolerated. To really engage staff we need to recognize and encourage their individual personalities, to connect with them and make use of their strengths, to embrace rather than just accept them.

Recognize The Need To Belong

The need to belong is fundamental to human happiness, and so, like so many of our psychological rather than physical needs, it can be very powerful in creating employee engagement.

There are all sorts of ways in which we can foster a sense of belonging, most of them revolving around building connections between people and dealing with behavior that leaves some excluded. But the most fundamental part of all of this is recognizing and acknowledging that need to belong, seeing it not just as a nice extra but as something that is fundamental to a well-run team.

If someone feels excluded that will soon become apparent. Look at what is causing the feeling, and face the painful truth that it may come from your own behavior. Then look for ways to make that person feel more welcome. Because when employees aren’t struggling against situations in which they don’t feel they belong, then their energy will be freed up for positive engagement.

Recognize The Fear Of Freedom

Freedom is a fantastic thing, for businesses as well as for people. Freeing staff up to make decisions for themselves, to take responsibility for their work, to decide their own working patterns, this can unleash their creativity in ways that nothing else can.

But freedom, and the need to make endless decisions, can also be scary. This doesn’t mean that you should let staff retreat from that freedom, or that you should do so yourself. But it does mean that, if you want them to engage with that freedom and with making big decisions, then you need to be there to support them. Recognize the fear, however small it might be, however absurd the cause might seem to you. Accept it rather than judging it, and acknowledge that it affects you too. Then help the person to make his or her decisions and move on past. The more employees do that, the more they will engage with the work and the less fear will dominate.

Better engagement takes action. But getting that action right means recognizing the circumstances in which it is built, and embracing even the most awkward of them.

About the Author: Mark Lukens is a Founding Partner of Method3, a global management consulting firm and Tack3, a mid-market and not-for-profit focused consultancy. Most of Mark’s writing involves theoretical considerations and practical application, academics, change leadership, and other topics at the intersection of business, society, and humanity.

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Be Fearless About Feedback

Over 70% of employees think their performance would improve with more feedback and the vast majority say that recognition is more rewarding than cash. This presents a tremendous opportunity for both managers and team members. While feedback on what we do well is gratifying, feedback on what we can do better helps us improve — it’s an essential ingredient in career growth. As Ken Blanchard so aptly said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions!”

Unfortunately most employees say they don’t get enough feedback. This is in part because giving and getting feedback can be emotionally charged, which inhibits giving it and may reduce our ability to put feedback we receive into practice. By viewing feedback as learning and leading opportunities and being fearless about it, we maximize career and team velocity.

Try these three practices for fearless feedback:

1. Managers: Get Over It

If you lead a team, regular feedback is a part of the job; giving no feedback is far worse than critical feedback. Unfortunately, 50% of managers fail to drive accountability and don’t give constructive feedback for fear of being the “bad guy.” Instead, put your team members’ success in front of the need to be liked — 57% of employees prefer corrective feedback. They want to know how they can improve and where they’re not meeting your expectations or their potential. It’s a disservice to withhold that information, particularly when it informs your view of their performance.

2. Team Members: Make the Most of It

Getting good feedback is easy, but getting constructive feedback is golden! It’s a growth opportunity, not an indictment, so focus on applying it rather than dissecting history. At a minimum, you’ve just learned what your manager (or customer) thinks — that’s invaluable! Distinguish the real message from the messenger or the messenger’s style; getting bogged down on how the message was delivered robs us of its benefit. And rather than refute the feedback, listen and look at it clinically for what can be learned. While it may not be completely accurate, harvest the wheat from the chaff to advance your skills and effectiveness.

3. Make Feedback Effective

We don’t all need or want the same feedback — career stage, personality, skill levels, circumstances and age all affect the types of feedback we want and need. To make feedback most effective for the whole team, take these steps:

  • Have a conversation on how to make feedback most effective for each person on the team. While 70% of young employees’ learning happens on the job, they benefit most from strengths-based feedback; tell them what they’re doing right as they experiment without experience. Older employees tend to want 50% more feedback than their younger counterparts and prefer more candid, constructive feedback on their growth opportunities.
  • Forget the “feedback sandwich.” Wrapping negative feedback in positive feedback undermines trust and the value of the positive feedback. Focus on the business outcomes and changes needed and tailor delivery to the individual.
  • Do make time for positive feedback. We’re all human; we operate at our best when we feel valued and our talents welcomed on the team. A five-to-one mix of positive feedback to negative is most effective.
  • During feedback conversations, create space for both manager and team member to listen. The manager may not have all the facts and the team member may have insight on where the manager can help.
  • Gather feedback on how you give or get feedback. Feedback on feedback provides great data on how you can maximize your learning and leading opportunities, and the practice strips away emotions that inhibit performance candor.

When feedback is an ongoing conversation rather than a rare or dramatic episode, team performance and culture improve. We like “Feedback Fridays” as a way of institutionalizing peer feedback, putting a positive wrap on the week and making feedback our norm.

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Could Employee Appreciation Transform Your Hiring Strategies?

Employee retention is an important business consideration because high turnover rates are costly and often detrimental to overall team performance. However, even with the best retention rates, companies usually need to hire new workers once in a while. Whether they’re expanding or filling the holes left by retirees, leaders seek talented candidates who are excellent fits for the open roles. Anyone who’s been involved in the hiring process can attest to the fact that the whole ordeal can be quite a hassle, often with less than optimal results.

So are you stuck with the traditional routine, even if you’ve had lackluster candidate pools in the past? Perhaps not. The old strategies of posting a job description, sifting through piles of usually unpromising resumes, interviewing select candidates and choosing the best of the bunch might not be the only option. That’s what Zappos is banking on: Rather than relying on people to take interest in a job description and come to them, the company is taking advantage of an engaged, passionate workforce to be recruiting partners.

Hiring: The Zappos way 

According to the Boston Globe, Amazon-owned, Las Vegas-based online shoe retailer Zappos has decided to do away with the traditional job postings in favor of a more personal, relationship-based approach. The company created a new career site and is utilizing social media to showcase its culture and opportunities. Interested candidates can chat with current employees to gain an inside perspective on life within the organization.

The company’s HR manager, Michael Bailen, explained in a blog post on that this change reflects the business’s commitment to focus more on people. To do so, he added, Zappos needed to depart from what he considers a “fundamentally broken process” that constitutes most recruiting approaches.

“Recruiting has become a walking contradiction. We care about the candidate experience, but we spend five to seven seconds looking at a resume. We are dedicated to get back to all candidates in an effort to provide great service, but the vast majority of candidates get a rejection email,” he wrote. “I want our recruiters to build long-term, sustainable relationships with people.”

Building on a foundation of company loyalty

In order for such a people-centric approach to work, Zappos had to create a corporate culture that would be attractive to candidates as well as foster company loyalty among employees to be able to have confidence that they’d participate effectively in the recruiting platform. Zappos created such a culture by focusing on employee appreciation and engagement. By offering rewards — most of which were non-monetary — to recognize and inspire employees, Zappos put its people at the forefront of the company.

By motivating workers based on intrinsic, value-driven incentives, rather than superficial cash or prizes, companies can foster the type of organization that draws top talent because it’s known as an excellent place to work. Additionally, employees become ambassadors for the firm, which is often a more effective form of recruitment since current workers are likely to identify friends and acquaintances who will be well-suited to the realities of the job.

About the Author: As Vice President of Client Strategy for TemboStatus, David Bator works with growing companies every day and helps them bridge the gap between assessing employee engagement and addressing it with action.

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10 Biggest Team Motivation Killers

Sustainable organization growth depends on teams that get the work done. Team members are able to get things done when they are collaborating efficiently.

This relationship might be simplified, but I think it’s fair to say that organizations depend on positive team performance. What is more, a happy team is also a productive team, aspiring to achieve uncommon results.

Although its not the easiest job to keep people satisfied and engaged, it’s the most rewarding challenge to take on. But before trying yet another lavishing collaboration boosting program or inviting motivational keynote speakers, its time to reflect on your own behavior. Especially the common mistakes you might be doing unintentionally, that drive away top talent as we speak.

Combining research like the Dale Carnegie Training survey and Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report, I’ve put together an infographic demonstrating 10 common behavioral mistakes leaders make that have long-lasting effects on team performance and motivation:

Team Motivation Killers Infographic


Read further: How to Boost Team Performance and Motivation

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Making Teams Work: Is There a Better Way?

For many of us today, teaming is an integral aspect of professional life. Yet, although we may see value in collaboration, many of us also struggle with various aspects of the team process.

Sometimes, issues arise from our self perceptions. For example, we may have reservations about sharing our opinions publicly, or insecurities about our ability to contribute effectively.

However, concerns also stem from inherent weaknesses in the teaming process, itself. Issues surrounding coordination and motivation tend to reduce a team’s effectiveness. For example, even when participants freely generate many valid ideas, those suggestions may be overlooked or underutilized. It’s no surprise that many of us become cynical about teams when our attempts to add value fail.

Cracking The Collaboration Code

How can we turn this around, so more of us are comfortable bringing ideas to the table, and confident that our efforts will make a difference? One possibility is to rethink the role of brainstorming, so teams focus on identifying and combining worthy ideas to formulate stronger solutions.

I have been involved with a variety of teams over the years. The “personality” of each group was truly unique — influenced by the dynamic of the selected members, the teaming process and the team leader’s experience. Some teams hesitated to cross or effectively challenge the opinions of those with seniority — a common problem. But in many situations, the real challenge wasn’t that individual voices were unheard. Instead, the root issue was that contributors’ ideas weren’t used wisely. In every scenario, as soon as this became apparent, that’s the moment when things went awry.

Often, multiple proposed ideas were worthy of exploration, but we were focused on choosing only one “winning” idea. This “either/or” decision filter is a potentially fatal flaw in the collaboration process. Instead, we should have focused on a different goal.

Insights From Collaborative Leaders

At some point, every team must move from generating ideas to assessing their value. The process used to evaluate those ideas is critical to the team’s overall success. So, how do we effectively address this challenge — the “we-have-numerous-great-ideas-but-what-do-we-do-with-them” issue? Here are several sources of insight:

•  Dr. Ed Catmull, President, Walt Disney Pixar Animation Studios:  In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Dr. Catmull describes how Pixar development teams routinely combine ideas to excel. It’s not necessary for one idea to “win” or “lose.” Instead, numerous viable concepts can be incorporated into a plan, a product or a process. This approach may lead to healthier outcomes. After all, game-changing products and processes often integrate multiple features.

•  Mike Krieger, Co-Founder, Instagram: At Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner, Mike Krieger discusses his perspectives on the value of combining ideas when developing innovative solutions. In Krieger’s opinion, this integrative approach is the driving principle behind the best startup companies. Instagram is compelling evidence.

Three Ways To Achieve Better Results, Together

Of course, this approach may not be appropriate for all teams, or in every circumstance. However, it deserves consideration — especially when teams are struggling. To move the collaboration process forward, consider these three “ideation” guidelines from brainstorming best practices:

•  Share ideas sooner. Move beyond the requirement that an idea must be perfected before you share it. Allow colleagues an opportunity to develop your concept more fully.
•  Cut the cord. Strive to give up emotional ownership of your idea. Stay invested and serve as a guide, but allow the team to invest in it, too, so you can maximize its potential, together.
•  Nurture a different perspective. Stay open to pairing ideas that can produce a novel product or process. Expect the unexpected. Explore diverse combinations. And try not to jump to conclusions too soon.

What are your thoughts about combining ideas to collaborate more effectively? Have you tried this approach? What were the outcomes?

(Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from a LinkedIn Influencer post, with permission.)

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