Employee Appreciation & Gratitude

March 3, 2016

Happy Employee Appreciation Day! It’s now the third month of the new year and if you have not yet recognized the impact and value of your employees, do something about it today.

This annual holiday—celebrated the first Friday in March—is meant to remind companies to thank employees for their hard work and effort throughout the year. It is also meant to strengthen the bond between employer and employee.

Perhaps we need Employee Appreciation Day now more than ever because a recent survey found that 40 percent of employees say they had not been recognized at all in the past year. Recognizing employees is probably the most important step in raising employee engagement because it makes them feel more proud and happy with their jobs.

This is according to a new survey conducted by Globoforce last November. The survey, composed of 828 randomly-selected fully employed persons in the United States (aged 18 or older), had a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence.

They also found that two-thirds of workers who were recognized in the last month felt more than twice as engaged at work than those employees who had not been recognized.

This strong correlation between high engagement and recognition means employees who are well-recognized have more drive and determination, better working relationships, improved personal standing and stronger connections to their company.

As I wrote about previously, organizations should give thanks to their employees through a well designed, fully implemented and on-going social recognition program. It’s good for engagement, retention and the bottom-line.

And while cash or gift cards are easy and generally appreciated at least in the short term, they don’t deliver the more important long term results. You can show appreciation to employees in many ways, but be sure it is sincerely presented and meaningful to the individual.

Here are some suggestions:

Be Specific
Rather than simply “great job on that report,” you might say, for example, “I really appreciate that you included the metrics on XYZ in order to emphasize the impact our products will have on the client’s account.”  The more you can tie your praise directly to the individual’s specific contribution, the more impact your appreciation will have.

Consider Giving Time
Perhaps our most precious commodity today is time. When possible, give your employee the gift of taking off the afternoon, a day, or several days to pursue a hobby, spend time with loved ones, or simply to rest and recharge.

Encourage Employees to Appreciate Each Other
Don’t relegate showing appreciation only to the boss. With apps like YouEarnedIt, Bonusly or TINYpulse, you can enable all employees to regularly provide kudos to each other in real time. This will create a more positive and healthy workplace where everyone participates in providing and receiving appreciation.

Express Gratitude
Sometimes it is not the tangible reward that makes us feel appreciated, but the simple verbal or written expression of thanks. And if you tell someone how much you appreciate them, you will likely find that you feel better having done so. That’s because showing gratitude acts like a hug: in the same way you can’t hug someone without receiving a hug in return, expressing gratitude works similarly.

Feelings associated with gratitude impact the dopamine in your brain, which functions as a reward neurotransmitter. Like a drug, experiencing gratitude results in a dopamine hit that makes you feel better.

This gratitude creates positive feelings, good memories, higher self-esteem, and a more relaxed and optimistic mindset. When taken together, these emotions can then create a “pay it forward” and “we’re all in this together” mentality throughout the workplace.

Gratitude makes people feel appreciated, it doesn’t cost anything, and it doesn’t require any special training to implement. All it takes is sincerity and a willingness to show appreciation to others.

Showing appreciation and gratitude for employees creates a better working environment, promotes more engagement and delivers better bottom-line results.


Increased Productivity Requires Focused Attention & Changing Bad Habits

November 2, 2011

In today’s workplace people are working harder than ever, yet the results may not reflect this in a way that shows increased productivity. Part of it may be due to a lack of focus on getting results. And part may be because bad habits keep us from succeeding.

Getting results requires focusing on only that which matters. Self help author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy describes what he calls the “law of three” in business management. According to this law, aside from the three most important tasks or results you want to achieve, everything else contributes just 10 percent of actual results.

Unfortunately, most people spend 90 perecent of their time on activities that contribute very little and then wonder why they are making so little progress.

Tracy suggests you first determine the three most important results you must achieve in order to be successful. Typically, it’s one primary result with two supporting results that are essential in order to succeed in achieving the first. For example, the first could be sales volume, while the second and third would be effective marketing to attract qualified prospects and effective selling to convert prospects into customers.

Next you need to eliminate all the “busy work” you end up doing each day that gets in the way of focusing all your time and energy on these three results 90 percent of the time.

Take a critical look at your job description. Does it acurately reflect what the company needs you to do in order to succeed in your three most important results? If not, see if you can refine it and then present this to your manager. You are not looking to be confrontational, but you want to ensure your time and energy is used to produce results the company wants and needs from you.

The other side of the equation has to do with your own bad habits that may get in the way of reaching results. This is where you have to take an honest appraisal of yourself and identify what you do habitually that keeps you from staying focused on your three results.

“Success and failure are more a result of your habits than anything else,” says Tracy

If you can increase your good habits and reduce your bad habits, you will dramatically contribute to your success in life. This is easier said than done, of course. There is a saying that bad habits are like comfortable chairs—easy to get into, but hard to get out of.

Here are 12 steps for changing a bad habit:

1.      Make a Plan – Write this down; make the bad habit specific and describe what it looks and feels like to be gone.
One at a Time – As tempting as it may be to take on more than one, stay focused so you can be successful with just one habit at a time.
Take a Full 30 Days – There is no research to say exactly how long it takes to break a bad habit, but if this is something you do all the time then    30 days should be sufficient.
Acknowledge Your Triggers – You know better than anyone what triggers your bad habit, so you must determine a strategy to avoid or counter them. And for each trigger, determine a good habit you can use in place of your bad habit.
Avoid Environments/People That Trigger You – If there is a place or person that makes this habit more likely to show up, see if you can avoid it or them for awhile.
Acknowledge Your Obstacles – You also know what gets in the way of changing your behavior better than anyone. So think of a creative strategy to overcome them.
Ask for Help and Support – Don’t go about this without others to cheer you on and help you when you are weak.
Become Aware of What You Tell Yourself – All too often what we say to ourselves can counter what we try to achieve. Be mindful of this inner dialogue and correct it if necessary.
Stay Healthy – Take care of your physical health by eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep.
Determine Disincentives for Failure – Make failing to change this habit detrimental in some way that will help you succeed.
Give Yourself a Reward – Acknowledge and celebrate your success with a reward that will continually remind you of why you earned it.
If you Fail, Start Again – Like learning anything new, it may take more than one attempt to succeed. Don’t get discouraged, find out what went wrong, correct it, and start over again.

Bad habits can often sabotage your attempt to focus on the most important work at hand. It takes courage and commitment to remove these bad habits, but once you do, you will be rewarded for a lifetime.

This combination of focused attention on your three most important results and removing habits that get in the way of succeeding are the keys to making your hard work lead to increased productivity.

Is ROWE the Best Form of Employee Engagement?

March 27, 2010

Employee engagement initiatives should not be considered fuzzy, feel good opportunities merely to improve job satisfaction and employee retention. Instead, they should be seen as a business strategy for achieving increased productivity.

Fully engaged employees can indeed deliver higher productivity, but what engages one employee does not necessarily do much for another. That’s why things like flextime, telecommuting, concierge services and other benefits help, but don’t necessarily contribute directly to the bottom line.

Unlike other work/life balance programs, ROWE is a business strategy that can positively impact the bottom line while at the same time stimulate employee engagement.

ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) is a human resource management strategy created by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler and first implemented at Best Buy in 2003. Using ROWE, 80% of Best Buy’s corporate staff now come and go as they please as long as the work gets done on time.

The premise of ROWE is that employees are paid for results rather than hours worked. This provides both freedom for employees and results for employers. ROWE is based on the assumption that employees will do more and better work when given the latitude to decide how and when it is done.

Unlike flextime, ROWE is employee controled not management controled. ROWE requires accountability and clear goals, while flextime requires policies and guidelines. ROWE has unlimited options and is fluid, while flextime has limited options and ultimately is inflexible. Most importantly, ROWE is based on the work and not the hours.

The concept of ROWE is a bit like college where you decide when and where to study and write papers. In most workplaces today, employees are treated more like grade schoolers with strict policies on when to show up, where to sit, how to do the work and when to leave. No wonder recent graduates become disillusioned when entering the “real world.”

Now that aging Baby Boomers are mixing with Generations X and Y, it seems a perfect time to initiate a different approach to how work is performed. We certainly have the technology (teleconferencing, emailing, text messaging, and cell phone calling) to extend the workplace location and flexibility on when to do the tasks. Now it’s just a matter of will.

ROWE is not an entirely new concept. Piece work, where workers are paid a fixed rate for each unit produced or action performed, has been around for more than a century. And then there is performance-rated pay, where money is paid directly on how well a worker performs in the workplace. Commission-based sales is a form of this type of compensation.

High technology companies have been tinkering with alternative concepts for some time. At IBM, 40% of employees have no official office. Sun Microsystems allow nearly half of their employees to work anywhere they want. Google offers their engineers the ability to spend a full day each week working on side projects to pursue their own interests. In a typical year, more than half of Google’s offerings, including Gmail and Google News have come during this 20 percent time opportunity.

ROWE builds upon these and other models to provide employees with more opportunities to do the job their own way and this can lead to greater employee engagement and higher productivity.

But ROWE is not without it’s challenges. Measuring output for some jobs (overhead, administration) can be very difficult. Some people have a hard time working with others if they are not face-to-face. And overall management can be challenging.

Nevertheless, ROWE is proving to be effective returning an average of 35% increase in productivity while reducing voluntary turnover by as much as 90%. In addition, research by the Flexible-Work and Well Being Center at the University of Minnesota found that more ROWE employees than comparable employees:

  • Have greater organizational commitment
  • Report higher job satisfaction
  • View the culture as family friendly
  • Report increased job security

And fewer ROWE employees than comparable employees:

  • Do low-value work
  • Experience interruptions at work
  • Feel pressure to work overtime

Some successful examples of ROWE implementations can be found in retail corporate offices (Gap Outlet, Best Buy), financial services (JA Counter & Associates), and non-profit (Girl Scouts of America in San Gorgonio County of California).

Implementing ROWE as a sound business strategy can provide many benefits. Employees gain the freedom to do the job their own way, which leads to greater job satisfaction, better work/life balance, and higher productivity. Employers are better able to separate performers from non-performers, attract more talented people, and increase their bottom line.

What is your opinion of ROWE? Is this something you and your organization could benefit from?

Mark Craemer        www.craemerconsulting.com

Leadership and Trust

January 14, 2010

As we begin a new year this might be a good time to take stock of your leadership skills, and the most important for me is trust. Like no other attribute, your capacity to convey trustworthiness has a huge impact on your ability to effectively lead others. That’s because nothing impacts an organization’s overall productivity more than the level of trust found within it.

Is your organization one where trust is especially low or high? If trust is low, I suspect employee engagement, job satisfaction, and overall productivity are also low. On the other hand, if trust is high, more than likely there is better employee engagement, higher job satisfaction, and greater overall productivity.

According to author Stephen M. R. Covey in his book The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything when trust goes down productivity also goes down and costs go up. Conversely, as trust goes up productivity increases and costs decrease. This is the economics of trust in the organization.

And nothing impacts your ability to motivate employees more than the level of trust they have in you as a leader. Trusted leaders, first and foremost, are those whose actions match their words. In the same way children emulate what parents do more than what they say, employees look to see if the actions of their leaders align with their words. Keeping words and actions in lock step builds trust and credibility like nothing else.

In addition, a trustworthy leader:

  • Tells the truth even when it is easier to tell people what they want to hear;
  • Acknowledges when he or she does not have all the answers;
  • Is approachable and friendly to people without using his or her position of power to win them over;
  • Really listens to others by using paraphrase to check for understanding;
  • Shows support for employees, especially when mistakes are made;
  • Balances the need for results while being considerate of people’s feelings.

All of these attributes enable you to build lasting trust, and when people trust you, your ability to persuade them increases ten-fold.

According to Covey, trust is ultimately a function of character and competence. Character in this sense means integrity, motives, and intent with other people. Competence is your capabilities, skills, results, and track record. Both greatly impact the level of trust in any relationship.

But what if trust in your organization is already low? Is there anything that can be done to restore the lack of trust employees have in you? This is hard because trust is based on a feeling and you can’t force someone to trust you. Still, you can attempt to rebuild trust if you are: (1) sincere in your apology for any part you may have had in creating the distrust, (2) transparent with your intentions moving forward, (3) consistently able to walk your talk, and (4) able to demonstrate credibility in all your actions.

Effective business has always been the result of trustworthy relationships. If your trust as a leader is in doubt, then your organization will suffer. Strengthening this trust will serve you as well as your employees, suppliers, partners and customers like nothing else.

“The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders—customers, business partners, investors, and co-workers—is the key leadership competency for this new global economy,” says Covey.

Mark Craemer                              www.craemerconsulting.com

Working Smarter to Increase Productivity

May 26, 2009

Is there a connection between working smarter and greater productivity? How do we actually work smarter anyway, and why don’t we do it all the time instead of when we’re forced to do it?

In spite of the current economy with rampant corporate downsizing, there are signs that most companies will actually improve their productivity in the near term. According to a recent survey, a clear majority say their firms will work smarter and that this will come about through improvements in work processes. These were the conclusions of a study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and HR.com who surveyed top executives as well as lower-level managers and supervisors in January 2009.

According to the survey, 86% of respondents said “there will be an increased emphasis on productivity” over the next six months. This greater focus on productivity has already panned out according to numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor, which stated that in the fourth quarter of 2008, productivity in the nonfarm business sector rose 3.2%. It also rose 2.8% for the entire year, which was the highest growth rate since 2004.

So just how do we work smarter? Should all workflow processes and procedures be subject to a rigorous test to find and fix inefficiencies? Are these inefficiencies all that universal and easy to detect? I suspect not and therefore external efficiency experts and consultants should be in high demand. After all, if inefficiencies were easy to detect and correct, these would be taken care of by the people inside the companies.

Half of those surveyed also cited that there will be greater effort and engagement by employees as well as more effective workforce management. Organizations are trying to further engage employees at the same time as they make these work processes more efficient. And one could argue that you can’t have one without the other. If employees feel they are working as efficiently as possible, they very likely will feel more highly engaged in their work. On the other hand, if employees are highly engaged in their work, they may very well find ways to improve—given the opportunity—work process efficiency. It is this symbiotic relationship between engaged employees and the efficient work process that all companies should be seeking.

Working smarter should be more than just choosing to correct an existing inefficient process, but as a new philosophy for approaching each and every workday. For example, working smarter could mean choosing to look at your email inbox only two or three times a day instead of constantly reacting to whatever message zaps your attention from completing the task at hand. You may be in a position to do this with your phone as well. One could also choose to hold or attend meetings only when they are conducted in a manner that is highly productive. For those who bring their laptops to meeting to get other things done at the same time, they might question the widely held belief that multi-tasking really is more efficient than fully focusing your attention on one thing at a time.

For a sustained rise in productivity, working smarter must become more than just a convenient phrase for leaders to tell shareholders. Working smarter means organizations must embrace the notion of helping to fully engage their employees and provide them with the opportunity to influence their work processes. The resistance to change is very powerful, however, so it will take strong leadership and commitment to see that these improvements are driven throughout the organization and remain in place.

Mark Craemer                               www.craemerconsulting.com