Drive Engagement by Valuing Employees—Instead of Only Recognizing Their Achievements

Any discussion about employee engagement usually includes employee recognition. Noticing when someone reaches a goal … taking the time to acknowledge, celebrate and reward that achievement makes almost anyone feel good about their work. But what about celebrating the individual employee?

Is it really recognition for great work that employees crave? Or rather, is it feeling valued as a person?

In their book WE: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement, Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse make this distinction and suggest that it’s the latter. “As a whole, organizations are especially weak in creating an environment where employees truly feel valued.”

Letting an employee know that you’re glad he or she is part of your team makes him or her feel valued. Certainly you should celebrate the accomplishments. But don’t ignore the person.

How can you help employees feel valued? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Be intentional with everyday conversations. This from themuse.com suggests “that a big part of feeling valued occurs when employees are aware that they add something to the company that no one else can.” As you assign projects, reiterate why you’re choosing them and/or why you’re giving them more challenging work.
  2. Create opportunities for new experiences. This from forbes.com suggests that you pay attention when employees show interest in aspects of the business outside their jobs. Give them opportunities to step outside their usual roles. Let them explore budding interests. Challenge them. Invest in them. Help them grow.
  3. Let employees make important decisions. This from businessnewsdaily.com suggests that showing employees that you trust their opinions and expertise goes a long way toward showing employees you value them.
  4. Give genuine compliments. Whether for the whole team or for the individual, compliments show that you’re paying attention. These can be verbal, emails or notes and should be specific.
  5. Be a champion for your employees’ good work. Tell others about the work the individuals on your team are doing. Compliment your employees (using their names) to your boss or the CEO. If someone in a higher position or even another department takes notice of someone on your team, it tells employees that they are being noticed and discussed at a higher level.
  6. Build relationships with individuals. Most employees enjoy speaking with their boss on a personal level. Take the time to get to know each individual—their interests, challenges and lives. In addition to giving your employees the relationship with their boss they want, it also opens the door if there’s a problem or concern on either side.
  7. Show respect. Take time to listen to (and understand) an employee’s concerns or ideas. If at first you don’t agree, ask questions until you completely understand his or her view.

We work in an everyone-is-replaceable world. Don’t like your boss or your job? Send out a résumé and find a new one. Don’t like the price you’re getting from a vendor? Buy from someone else. Employee’s skills stagnating? Replace them rather than educate them.

Certainly, as Kruse and Karsan outline in their book, employees and employers are equal partners in the drive to full engagement. But organizations, and managers, can take a big step in doing our part by truly valuing employees—building loyalty. This means recognizing them for who they are and the unique perspectives they bring to your business.

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