Want employee engagement? Start recognizing small things.


by Brad Palmer

Employee engagement is an urgent matter. Recognition offers a quick fix.
Before inflicting major change initiatives, why not simply recognize and reinforce examples of where you want to head? Recognition provides an easy to implement and low-cost way to engage employees and shift your culture towards new values.

Recognition provides a low-cost way to engage employees and shift your culture towards new values

As Rachel O’Connor of the global management consultancy Hay Group observes, “When done well, recognition is a form of feedback that tells us we are doing something that is contributing to the organization’s success. Recognition communicates messages about the contributions that are expected and valued by the organization. From this perspective, recognition is a key tool for aligning employees with team and organizational goals.”

Recognition is a form of feedback that tells us we are doing something that is contributing to the organization’s success

The trick is to turn recognition from a program initiative into a leadership initiative. According to Rachel, “Recognition should not be considered just a warm-and-fuzzy HR initiative. For recognition to be truly effective, it must be ingrained in an organization’s culture.” Coach your leadership team to deliver specific recognition in real time. Often.

Spontaneous recognition of small but specific things is very powerful. Rather than vaguely patting someone on the back for working hard this month, observe something specific they are doing right now that examples your value and culture. Being specific is what makes it genuine and meaningful. Bonus points if you can tie in how it aligns with where your company is heading.

Spontaneous recognition of small but specific things is very powerful

According to a Hay Group survey, only 57% of employees report that their contributions are recognized when they perform well. Leaders often get hung up with concerns over recognizing individuals over teams, forcing them into less frequent and less specific pattern of recognition. Recognizing smaller things more frequently solves this, as you spot various team members making specific contributions in their own way. Bonus points if you can tie these specific recognitions into the overall quest of the team.

Leaders often get hung up with concerns over recognizing individuals over teams

Interestingly, it is often leaders that are the most hesitant to invest in recognition. As we have rolled the Jostle Shout-Out (a simple mechanism to recognize people and teams) into organizations almost always peer-to-peer recognition breaks out well in advance of leadership participation. Coaching your leadership team through this can be a quick win.

Recognition fills a basic human need, making it easy to stimulate. It is contagious and can quickly become an important part of your organization’s culture. Leading by example is key to making it happen. Leadership teams that take the time to recognize small contributions daily, and tie them to the values and direction of the company, can quickly create a culture of recognition deep in their organization, providing a powerful way to shift your culture and reinforce important values.

Brad Palmer
As the CEO and co-founder of Jostle, Brad has more than 30 years of experience leading multidisciplinary teams and driving the commercialization of technology businesses. Prior to starting Jostle, Brad provided overall leadership to OMNEX Controls where he improved strategy, process, and leadership to quickly transform the company. Brad also worked at Kodak, where he successfully consolidated 15 teams from three companies into a unified worldwide operation. Earlier, he founded ThermicEdge Corporation and built it into a public company that custom manufactured high-performance components for the electronics industry. Brad’s rich operational experience with private, public and governmental organizations, which spans a wide range of cultures, industries and business models, played a key role in defining the underlying need for, and the unique design of Jostle. Brad holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Physics from SFU.


For Happier Employees, Learn To Give More Gratitude Than “Thx”


by Drake Baer

Do you suffer from Gratitude Deficit Disorder? If you’re like the executives that Mark Goulston’s been running into, you might.

At Harvard Business Review, the business psychiatrist admonishes executives for viewing their teams–especially their assistants–as “appliances.” But unlike the Kenmore in the kitchen, your direct reports have interior lives, and the pay and benefits of the gig may not be enough for them to feel fulfilled. As with other mammals, humans need to feel social connections to do their best work.

Call it the “contented cows give better milk” school of leadership: As has been detailed, the happiest companies are often the most profitable and firms with highly sustainable engagement have three times the operating margin of their less-engaged peers. And expressing gratitude is a reciprocal behavior, meaning that the thanked person is more likely to help the thanker–and less likely to join another company, key for building employee engagement.

How to really say thank you

Goulston lays out three steps for getting good at giving gratitude:

1. Be precise: Thank the person specifically for their exceptional actions: Tell them what they’re doing awesome.
2. Acknowledge the effort: Note the personal cost of their getting it done. If they work through the weekend, appreciate the social and family costs.
3. Share your stakeholdership: Make a point of how their great work helps your work, show how you’re in this together.

Developing a sense of how to show gratitude is a leadership key–one that can help you (and your employees) reach their potential.

Drake Baer covers leadership for Fast Company. You can follow him on Twitter.