Having worked in for-profit and non-profit organizations provided me with an appreciation for both environments. In the for-profit sector, the pay was typically better and I generally found a greater sense of urgency for getting things done. In the non-profit sector, I felt a sense of altruism for what I was contributing to society and I received a great deal more praise. This last item always made me curious as to why giving praise to employees was not more widespread in the for-profit sector.
It turns out that giving an employee genuine praise often goes a lot further than even monetary rewards, and that makes good business sense.
According to a 2003 Gallup survey outlined in the book, “How Full is Your Bucket?” by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, 61% of American workers received no praise at work. And the biggest reason people leave their jobs is because they feel unappreciated.
Through their research of some four million employees in 10,000 business units and 30 industries worldwide, they found that workers who do receive regular recognition and praise: 1) increase their engagement among colleagues, 2) increase their individual productivity, 3) receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers, 4) have better safety records and fewer job-related accidents, and 5) are more likely to stay with their organization.
All of us need recognition and reassurance in our work lives just as we do in our personal lives. Praise increases the pride we take in our work and that improves job satisfaction as well as the quality of our products and services. Praise reinforces our relationships with co-workers and supervisors. Praise also keeps us from feeling that we are taken for granted and it builds company loyalty, which is all too rare these days.
So if praise is so vital to productivity, customer satisfaction, workplace safety, employee engagement, and employee retention why aren’t more organizations dishing it out more liberally? There could be many reasons. For instance, some managers, directors and executives simply are not comfortable with giving praise. This could be due to their family or educational backgrounds, or because the corporate culture doesn’t encourage it. Some may believe that a paycheck and standard benefits package is sufficient and if you want a pat on the back, you should get it in your personal life.
Whatever the reason for-profit organizations skimp on this simple strategy, it is time to reverse the impulse to hold back praise and instead let it flow.
Here are some suggestions for delivering praise in your organization:
Praise with purpose. Your purpose in praising someone at work is not to get him or her to like you. The purpose is to increase employee productivity, engagement and retention. Praise should not be confused with a compliment. You compliment someone on their sweater, but you praise them on their skill at finding a solution to a business problem.
Praise with honesty. Employees can easily see through an empty statement that lacks genuine appreciation. This can damage your credibility and possibly make things worse. Instead, genuinely deliver praise on something you see them do that is beneficial to the organization.
Praise with specificity. Target the praise you offer someone and don’t just say “great job.” Instead, say something specific such as, “That presentation you gave this morning was informative and has generated a lot of buzz around here.” Or ask an employee for his or her input on a specific project or problem. Soliciting someone’s advice or opinion is praising their intelligence and it makes them feel valued.
Praise in public and reprimand in private. This can be tricky if the employee is easily embarrassed, but publicly praising an individual employee can often improve morale of all employees. Simple kudos during a meeting or in a company newsletter can be good forms of public recognition. Just as important, leave all reprimands or critical feedback for private meetings.
Praise also does not have to come only from those on the top as praise should emanate in all directions throughout the organization. And it is likely to be contagious. Give it a try in your organization. Catch someone doing something especially well and tell them why you personally think that is so great. You may find in this little act that you end up appreciating your own job a little more.
Mark Craemer www.craemerconsulting.com