For Greater Employee Engagement, Do These Two Simple Things

I just had an experience that reminded me of simple opportunities managers have to impact employee engagement.

These are opportunities to let employees know, “I noticed that good thing you did and I appreciate it.”

It also reminded me of how easy it is — with how busy managers are — to not notice or capitalize on those opportunities. When managers fail to notice and capitalize on these opportunities, we unwittingly diminish employee enthusiasm, interest, and effort — a/k/a employee engagement.

Here’s what happened…

My contact person for an organization, Nickie, had been a dream to work with. Along with being a great communicator, great at keeping her word and following up, she demonstrated an unfortunately rare quality: a sincere interest in upholding her organization’s commitment to paying when they said they would. I’ve been struck over the years by how often people will have a blasé “Oh well…” response to their organization’s not honoring their commitments, and make little to no effort to rectify it.

Thus, when someone demonstrates in this way that they are someone with integrity, I always let them know I appreciate that rare quality.

After the event, Nickie checked in a couple of time to find out if my check had arrived and I let her know it hadn’t. When it DID arrive, I could have sworn I sent her an email to let her know. I wanted to show her respect for the respect and concern she demonstrated with me, rather than showing a lack of appreciation by requiring her to reach out again.

Unfortunately, I must have gotten sidetracked because this morning I received an email from Nickie asking if I had gotten the check.

Now I could have just hit reply and said, “Yes, I got it.”

That kind of impersonal, transactional response would have closed the  loop, but it would have failed miserably in letting Nickie know that her concern, professionalism, and integrity were noticed and appreciated.

Also the fact that I had not let her know (unbeknownst to me) could easily have sent the message that I didn’t value her thoughtfulness and consideration.

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So what did I write?

I am SO sorry to have dropped the ball re: letting you know. I remember planning on doing so, given how thoughtful you’ve been about wanting to make sure that happened in a timely way. I think it was one of those situations where I was about to, got sidetracked and then “remembered” having done it.

So sorry you had to go through another step and…I really appreciate the fact that you took it seriously. Very few people do!

Thanks and best regards,

David

Now, I know what I’m recommending is not rocket science. However, from both personal experience and conversations with friends and colleagues about their workplaces, these simple courtesies are rare.

The result?

Employees don’t feel like their effort, responsibility, diligence, and thoughtfulness are appreciated and valued. Because of this, employers get less and less of those qualities from their employees.

Managers find themselves puzzled and frustrated by what they see as unmotivated employees; employees who just don’t seem to care. Because it’s a rare person who will say “You know, I feel really unappreciated when you do X,” managers never get the direct feedback that could allow them to be more thoughtful and appreciative.

That’s why I’ve written this article and others that tell stories about important managerial moments of truth that can boost or damage morale and engagement, depending on how they are handled.

I hope this helps you become even more aware of opportunities to show employees you see and appreciate them engaging in the behaviors that make them a pleasure to work with, and help make your organization successful.

So what to do with this?

  1. Practice being more mindful of opportunities to respond with acknowledgment and appreciation. Use language that communicates “I noticed and appreciate that good thing you just did.”
  2. Ask your employees for input on what actions by managers they’ve had in their careers made them feel unappreciated and what ones made them feel appreciated.
  3. Ask them if there were one thing you could do more of to make them feel like you noticed the great things they do and feel more appreciated, what would that be.
  4. Share below, if you would, what YOU do to communicate that and what moments of truth you pay especially close attention to related to letting employees know you noticed their good work and appreciate that.

David Lee is the founder and principal of HumanNature@work and the creator of Stories That Change. He's an internationally recognized authority on organizational and managerial practices that optimize employee performance, morale, and engagement. He is also the author of "Managing Employee Stress and Safety," as well over 100 articles and book chapters. You can download more of his articles at HumanNature@work, contact him at david@humannatureatwork.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/humannaturework.

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