Whenever someone feels appreciated, it usually leads to several positive effects, the primary one being a stronger bond between two or more people. It can be pretty obvious that we tend to like people that show us how much they appreciate us. According to a study from 2015, where 95% of respondents said that feeling appreciated at work is important, a whopping 73% also said that they never or seldom feel appreciated or got encouragement.
A global study, by Towers Watson, that had over 10 000 respondents, showed that organizations that suffer from low engagement levels can achieve a 60% increase in the level of engagement by improving the relationships between employees and their managers. In organizations where the engagement level was high to begin with, the improvement stemming from better relationships at work was 20%.
Is it enough to just sprinkle compliments into an everyday conversation from time to time? Well, no, human beings are more complicated than that and everyone reacts to different types of encouragement. That’s why we have gathered 9 solid tips that you can use to increase engagement and improve relationships in your organization.
1: Figure out what your employees appreciate and use it as a reward
A classic form of encouragement, that most of us encountered as children, is knowing that a reward is waiting for a job well done. Getting a tasty snack when you cleaned your room, getting a gold star at school for a perfect test result or picking out a toy at the dentist’s office for being brave.
The challenge, when applying this method to adults, is that everyone is encouraged by different forms of rewards; a gold star or a public display of a job well done doesn’t suit everybody. A lot of organizations seem to favour a collective rewards system, even though their employees can be very different people. While some appreciate a company trip to a beach resort as a reward for a year of hard work, others might prefer a cash bonus at the end of the year.
The key to figuring out an effective rewards system is to 1) ask your employees outright what they would like as a reward, 2) define the goals to reach to get the reward, 3) take notes of your agreement and 4) always keep your promises if and when employees achieve the set goals.
When you set the expectations and rewards at an individual level, you will get a much higher result from your rewards system. Anna might prefer some extra money while Anders wants more days off and Michelle gets excited by the thought of getting to develop her skills more by getting to participate in a workshop. Talk to your employees to find out what they want.
2: Acknowledge and compliment employees for their achievements – on a weekly basis
Whenever we feel like things are going well at work, our brains naturally produce more dopamine. Whenever others take notice of our results, the dopamine levels get even higher, since this makes us feel like our social standing in the group is getting stronger. This form of appreciation doesn’t cost anything, but it will make your employees enjoy being at work more and help them stay motivated to perform at a high level, to keep the regular compliments coming. An ideal way to use this method is to show appreciation often and consistently, preferably every week.
Pro tip: Ask your employees what type of compliments they appreciate. Everyone reacts differently to compliments and doing this incorrectly could have the opposite effect of what you’re looking for. Some people like getting compliments in front of their employees while others prefer a private meeting behind closed doors or an email.
3: Give praise for any achievement – big or small
Success is relative, but a lot of organizations only focus on the bigger achievements. The fact that a lot of smaller steps led to this great success is often forgotten. By acknowledging your employees for their smaller accomplishments during a project, you will create a team-friendly atmosphere that in turn makes everyone feel like they’re an important part of the success.
Source: Dale Carnegie
4: Challenge your employee and encourage their improvement
Most of the time, when someone leaves a job for another, it is to “enhance their career” or to “further their skills”. A survey by Gallup shows that two-thirds of those who get a job also leave their company for a new one because they don’t see a way for them to develop further within the company. An easy solution to this is to have a manager be curious about their employees, ask them questions about their career goals and be aware of their strengths. If the employee then gets consistent encouragement to develop their skills to reach their goals, it will make it more likely that they stay with their current employer. This is especially true if the company or their industry at large is going through tough times.
On a global scale, only 3 of 10 people feel like someone at their work encourages their career development. This survey also shows that doubling the amount of encouragement would lead to a 28% decrease in absence, an 11% increase in profitability and a 6& raise in customer satisfaction.
5: Remember to reward everyone when things are going well
A large survey by Dale Carnegie showed that people with a yearly salary of at least $50,000, who were a part of a management team and had a university degree were almost twice as engaged as other employees in their organization.
The problem with this is that the “others” in the organization are the people that are the face of the company, the ones that meet the customers and/or create the products that the company sells. By having generous bonus programs and luxurious benefits for the management team while forgetting all about the core employees tends to lead to not being able to meet quarterly goals. Always make sure to reward everyone within the organization when things are going well, regardless of their position or role.
Source: Dale Carnegie
6: Promote higher self-esteem among the employees
Employees with a high level of self-esteem often have a positive effect on their colleagues and the working environment in general. These individuals are also more likely to take calculated risks because of their higher faith in their own ideas and competence. They are also usually more effective in group tasks since they are well aware of the fact that they are going to contribute and have the skills to tackle difficult tasks.
Three tips to raise self-esteem among your employees:
- Get to know your employees and their strengths
- Be realistic when evaluating their strengths and weaknesses
- Gradually give the employee more difficult tasks followed by constructive feedback
You’ll find more tips on self-esteem here.
7: Celebrate holidays and create your own traditions
There’s a reason why traditions are important for the cohesion of nations, families and companies – they help create a culture. A lot of organizations have yearly Christmas dinners or have cake together when someone leaves the company or on important birthdays. But you can do so much more to create a feeling of unity and it doesn’t have to be very expensive or time-consuming. Things like having an “Ugly sweater day”, a yearly crayfish party or an organized sporting event where the employees compete for fun, are all usually very cost-effective methods that can be very positive for the working environment. There are literally no limits to what you can organize to raise morale and create traditions at your workplace.
You’ll find more tips on creative activities here.
8: Celebrate failures
To encourage a higher level of engagement, it’s equally important to celebrate failures as it is to celebrate success. This will help make the feeling of failure fade faster and create a culture in the organization that encourages innovation and taking initiative.
9: Measure your efforts
Once you’ve decided on a couple of methods to show your employees some appreciation, it is highly recommended to not just take it as a given that everything works. If you’re investing valuable time, money, and resources into something, it’s important to know which methods worked well and which ones that can be scrapped. Methods that change your employees’ behaviour for the positive will result in long-term improvements on their performance – and these are the methods you want to keep using and develop further.
To be sure of what methods actually work, and to avoid wasting your resources on those that don’t, you should ask your employees about these methods and continuously measure their engagement levels (ENPS) to have access to solid data as a reference. If you want to be aware of the engagement levels in your organization you can always create an ENPS-survey with a free trial here. If you then have monthly follow-ups and ask your employees specific questions, you will have an effective strategy for evaluating your efforts.
Summary: encouragement as a way to engagement
Encouragement is one of the most important tools for raising your employees’ engagement levels. Encouragement makes us feel seen and appreciated which in turn leads to our brains producing more “happy chemicals” leading to a higher level of engagement.
You should now be aware that just saying “good job” a couple of times a month or giving your employees a small cash bonus isn’t always enough. Each one of your employees is different and they have different preferences when it comes to encouragement and how they want to be shown appreciation. This is why it’s important to have a way of measuring how effective each of your methods are.
We hope that this blog post will inspire you to think a little longer about how you can use encouragement as a strategic tool to raise your employee engagement.
- By Elias Axelsson Björklund