This post originally appeared on Forbes
It’s no secret that the volatile and unstable climate we face in business today takes its toll on our employees. According to a recent study, a full 42% of employees feel disengaged at work, costing U.S. businesses nearly $350 billion dollars a year. What’s perhaps even more surprising is what’s at the root of this: Feeling undervalued is actually the leading cause of stress in the workplace, and one of the top causes of turnover and low engagement.
The good news: Recognizing your people’s work and input is a simple antidote to feeling undervalued, and what’s more, it is easy and inexpensive to implement. It will leave your employees feeling strong, resilient, and engaged — helping to buck the trends of skyrocketing turnover rates, productivity impairment and morale issues.
Ninety percent of leaders say that employee engagement is essential to their business. As people managers and executives, we can all use these three simple ways to shore up recognition in the workplace, and achieve that sweet spot of engagement your employees are craving — and your business needs.
1. They’ll value work when you value them.
We often think that recognition has to have a dollar sign attached to it, but our research at meQuilibrium has proven that monetary compensation alone doesn’t cut it. In fact, in a recent study, 70% of surveyed employees reported their most meaningful recognition to have been non-monetary. So, what’s more motivating than a cash bonus? Knowing that you make a difference.
Invest time in your people. The more invested you are in them, the more they will be connected and committed to the company. Help people understand that they aren’t a cog in the wheel. In fact, the wheel wouldn’t turn without them. Make non-monetary investments in your employees by acknowledging their worth. Set aside time to check in with them regularly — not just for annual reviews — and be receptive to their input as well, establishing an ongoing two-way dialogue that welcomes open communication and growth. Investing in your employees shows them that they are important — and so is the work they do.
2. There’s not a one-size-fits-all model.
One mistake leaders commonly make: Expecting everyone to feel appreciated in the same ways we do. It’s crucial to understand what motivates your employees so that your recognition efforts don’t go to waste. For example, an HR director from a mining and basic-materials company reported “one-on-one meetings” to be highly effective amongst her staff, while large-scale communications events to be highly less motivational.
Once you’ve established a rapport with your team members, you’ll better understand how to personalize your recognition methods. For instance, if you know that one of your employees is seeking career growth in particular, make an effort to provide him or her with networking opportunities. Or if your employees strongly value time spent with their families, plan company outings to family-friendly places where they can invite them to join. When you reward your teams, pay attention to how it’s received, and use trial and error to adjust your methods. Working to achieve the sweet spot of recognition motivates and makes people feel truly appreciated for their efforts.
3. Don’t just validate — empower.
Research shows that the harder a project is, the prouder we feel of it. That’s because we feel most engaged and focused when we are challenged. But in order for challenge to have a positive impact on the employee, we need to show them that stressful situations are manageable. A Harvard study showed that when participants felt threatened, they became easily overwhelmed and less competent. But when they felt encouraged, they actually felt more motivated and performed better on the given task because of the confidence they had in their abilities. (See the Yerkes-Dodson Law in psychology.)
Show you believe in your team members’ abilities by praising their progress and lauding their process — not just results. Showing them that their efforts are what matter will give them the confidence to take on new challenges.
Bottom line: Recognition is foundational to success and easy to implement. Whether you consider yourself a recognition pro, or you could brush up on those appreciation skills, develop a culture of praise. Spread it freely and sow its seeds. You’ll be amazed by how your employees’ engagement will grow.