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Mind your manners for employee motivation

IowaBiz.com delivers cutting-edge content written by business and thought-leaders.  I am honored to begin sharing my 25-plus years of leadership experience and future-forward thinking to inform and inspire Business Record readers in the area of Employee Engagement.

The 2014 “State of the American Workplace” report by Gallup Research exposes some dismal statistics about employee engagement:

  • 61 percent of Americans received no praise in the workplace last year
  • 70 percent of workers are “emotionally disconnected” from their jobs and not productive
  • The cost of employee disengagement is more than $450 to $550 BILLION per year

This is bad news. American employers are spending billions (that’s with a “B”) on employees who are becoming sick, taking time off, not performing their primary functions when they are on the job or spending time with their friends on social media instead of working. Or worse yet, they are embroiled in lawsuits due to toxic, disengaged employees who created hostile work environments. 

 Gallup defined three key types of employees: 

  • Engaged - Works with passion; Feels a profound connection to the organization. 
  • Not Engaged - Putting in hours instead of energy; Emotionally disconnected;  Unproductive; Checked out. 
  • Actively Disengaged: Miserable at their jobs; Actively undermining coworkers and sabotaging projects.

As business leaders, it is important to ask ourselves which category would the majority of our employees fall into? Engaged? Not Engaged? Actively Disengaged? With so much time, energy and profit at stake, it is important to take an honest look at the people you manage and lead.   

Now for the good news... Employers want engaged employees. And most employees want to be engaged. Business leaders can use common sense and be strategic to move the needle and foster employee engagement in their organizations.  

How do we create a culture of engagement? Create a culture of gratitude. 

One of the simplest ways to motivate and engage employees in any organization is to show appreciation for a job well done. Yes, a good, old-fashioned look-them-in-the-eyes-and-say “Thank you” goes a long way in motivating people to “keep up the good work”.  

In addition to the face-to-face thank you, there are variations to convey gratitude to someone. Which of these strategies might work for you and your employees or co-workers?

A hand-written thank you note or note of recognition - One of my executive coaching clients was proud to share a note that a prominent business leader took the time to write to him. To the client, this was a tangible expression of appreciation that he could look at over and over again. He marveled that the business leader would take the time out of his busy day to write a note. This gesture was very meaningful and motivational. Think about the culture of gratitude you could be creating if you set aside five or ten minutes each day to write thank you notes to those who deserve your appreciation.

Use positive, non-verbal recognition gestures like “thumbs up”- Simple actions such as giving “high fives” recognize others and help spread contagious enthusiasm throughout the workplace. We want all of our employees to want to be at work and to enjoy it.  Contagious enthusiasm makes a workplace a fun and engaging place to spend time in.

The verbal gold star - Many of us grew up receiving gold stars for a job well done.  Psychological researchers state that those behaviors which get rewarded get repeated.  Give out a verbal gold star by telling someone in a sincere way how PROUD you are to work with them, to be their supervisor, for their creative idea, etc. The verbal gold star is an easy way to reinforce those wanted behaviors on your team. 

Let’s take the first step to show our appreciation to others and turn these dismal statistics around. Who will you say “thank you” to today?


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