The number one thing YOU can do to improve employee engagement this week

Gallup’s latest report on The State of the Global Workplace 2011 identifies the levels of engagement and subsequent wellbeing of workers from over 120 countries.  It’s another great report from a pioneer in the field of employee engagement.  Overall the report shows that only 11% of workers are engaged, with 62% identified as disengaged, and 27% identified as actively disengaged. 

One item buried deep in the report was something that I hadn’t seen Gallup talk much about in the past.  In a section looking at implications for leaders, the report identified the two factors among the twelve that Gallup measures that are consistently among the lowest rated worldwide. Can you guess what they are?

I’ll give you a hint.  It’s something you can do personally and it won’t cost you a thing.

The two lowest rated items are, “In the past seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work” and “In the past six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.”

In looking at why this might be occurring, Gallup researchers identified three possible causes

  • Larger spans of control might be making it more difficult to give the kind of individualized attention required to ensure these needs are met.
  • When it comes to jobs with a high degree of routine, feedback and recognition may be overlooked because managers do not differentiate individual contributions.
  • It might just be that we are “…better wired to receive praise than to give it. We feel our own hunger more than we empathize with others around us.”

How are you doing with the praise and recognition of your people?  If you are a little rusty, here are three tips for getting started.

  1. Make it timely.  Praisings are most effective when they are delivered as close to real time as powerful.  Don’t “save up” your praisings for a specified time.  Praise in the moment!
  2. Give specific examples.  A general comment like, “You’re really doing good work,” is nice, but a praising that identifies a specific action is better.
  3. Repeat often.  You really can’t overdo it—as long as you are specific and sincere in your praising.

For over 30 years, Ken Blanchard has asked audiences worldwide, “How many of you get too much praise at work?”  No one ever raises their hand.  We all have a deep-seated need to be recognized and appreciated.  Everyone enjoys a pat on the back.  Don’t be stingy with your praise.  Catch someone doing things right this week.  Guess what?  You’ll feel better too!

8 thoughts on “The number one thing YOU can do to improve employee engagement this week

  1. Pingback: In praise of praise « ideas and scribbles

  2. While agreeing with the above article and approach, there is a factor that we tend to overpass usually in todays business… It’s culture (organizational or social)… For example, the impact of the cultural characteristics in east ( as in china) on the recognition part at work is strong. The individual is a part of a group, and his achievemnts are a part of the overall achevements. In such collectivist culture, and mind framing environment, what kind of individual praise can impact employees engagement?

    • Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your question. You’re right that leaders need to take into account the individual make-up of each employee for best results. Culture is a part of this as you have mentioned, and there are other aspects of personality, introversion versus extraversion, differing needs for achievement, status, power, that also come into play. The overriding concept is to tailor your praise to the individual. Praise them in the way that they most want to receive it and that makes the most sense given the prevailing culture.

  3. It is a sad fact that employees receive far too little feedback and certainly not enough praise. However, when an attempt is made at giving feedback it is often poorly done and so the message is unclear and the benefits missed. I believe that is why so many employees say they receive no feedback, and yet their managers claim to give it regularly. So, it is about taking opportunities and also giving high quality feedback.

    • Hi Richard–good point and that probably explains the disconnection between what managers think they are doing in terms of recognition and how employees are actually perceiving it. Some of it might also be explained by the emotional response employees have to negative versus positive feedback. Relationship expert John Gottman shared that most people need a 4-to-1 ratio of positive versus negative feedback or else they tend to think that the person’s overall opinion is negative. Thanks for your comment.

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