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Lisa's Fresh Thoughts
Employee Engagement – Appreciation: A Little Can Go a Long Way
By Lisa Hays, Fresh Perspective
“Employee engagement” itself is a rather ‘stilted’ term. Meaningful, yes. But to be inclusive of many elements that create positively engaged employees – and resulting benefits – not quite a term that slips easily off the tongue.
How about “Thanks”? “Thanks for .″ When genuine, direct and as immediate as possible, this simple statement can make a huge impact. Cost? Learning who is deserving, and a few minutes of your time.
I haven’t worked in corporate America for 17 years. I retain some visibility to today’s corporations since 1) my clients often represent corporations, 2) I’m often in meetings held within corporate offices, 3) I have – and hear plenty from – friends who work in corporations, and 4) read a number of business studies and publications.
However, I spent my first 14 years post-college working primarily in large national/global corporations. Certain memories stick with you, and specific people you clearly recall.
One situation I recall vividly was with a boss I'd known three years and worked for about one year. He and I communicated well. I had – and have – considerable respect for him. A large corporate initiative had just launched. This initiative would require involvement from all product-related departments within the company over a period of four to six weeks. As I recall, no one I knew in the product arena believed it likely this initiative would be successful. Rather, it was sort of an inside joke – the topic where those who designed, developed and/or managed products would roll their eyes whenever it was mentioned. I suspect you've encountered such a situation.
I wasn't thrilled when my boss called me in to ask me to represent our department and provide whatever was requested from initiative leadership. I looked at him. He looked at me. We both knew someone had to do it. And I knew that he knew that if he asked me to, I would do it, do my best, represent the department well and not complain. So, I agreed to take care of it.
As is typical, everything relating to this initiative was in addition to my "real" job. And, not surprisingly, I learned during initial meetings regarding expectations from the product departments the initiative was behind schedule, the due date was solid, and we would all need to put in extra time and effort to ensure it was completed on time. Great.
There was no need for discussion with, or approval from my boss during completion of the initiative. As things got down to the wire, several of us worked very long hours. The final week included staying late on Friday night and coming in Saturday morning. But, when I left Saturday I knew it was DONE.
I poked my head in my boss' office Monday morning to let him know our part of the initiative was complete. I started backing out when he asked me to come over to his desk.
As I did, he reached into a drawer and pulled out a gift certificate redeemable at several nice restaurants. He handed it to me, and said something like, "Thank you. I know it was a real pain." I was speechless. I thanked him and left his office. It was never mentioned again.
I can still picture me standing at his desk, and him handing me a gift certificate with a special "Thanks." The year was 1991.
I don’t know how the company would quantify the ROI on that $100 expenditure, but I know the investment provided an incredible return.
There should ALWAYS be room in the budget for those who supervise people to have funds to recognize and demonstrate appreciation for a job well done.
How about making disbursement of these funds a part of managers' performance evaluations? A simple accounting of what was given to whom, when and for what reason should suffice. In the process, you learn a great deal about your direct reports and those they supervise. This knowledge enables you to personally recognize, perhaps with a simple "Thanks" to those responsible for driving the company's success. It may mean far more than you think.