Ubieranie butw“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

― William James

How many of you get enough praise on the job? I ask this question at nearly every keynote I deliver. The results are astounding. Less than 10 percent of audience members raise their hands!

My informal social research mirrors that of Tiny HR’s 2014 Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report which found that only 21 percent of employees feel strongly valued at work.

A 2010 study by Psychometrics Canada found that 69 percent of HR professionals believe that engagement is a problem in their organizations. When asked what leaders can do to improve engagement, 52 percent replied, “Give recognition.”

It is clear that there is too little praise and encouragement that happens in our organizations today.

As William James said, humans crave appreciation. My 25 years of research and experience leads me to the conclusion that humans also crave validation, trust, and respect.

If leaders want better results and higher profits, they’d be remiss if they ignore the positive impact of employee recognition and engagement.

When team members feel appreciated, validated, trusted, and respected, significant benefits occur. Engagement goes up, by 40 percent or more. Customer service ratings go up, by 40 percent or more. Results and profits improve by 35 percent or more.

How do great leaders – servant leaders – recognize their employees? They do three things consistently.

First, recognition is personal. Servant leaders know that relationships drive everything in our hectic world. They spend time daily networking with team leaders and team members, casually and informally. When they praise someone, their preferred means is to do so face-to-face. If face-to-face won’t work, they don’t delay – they call the person to recognize them voice-to-voice. If a live call won’t work, they don’t delay – they write a personal note, thanking them for their efforts and contribution.

Second, recognition is authentic. Servant leaders gather key information before they deliver praise. They learn what the opportunity was, what the person did, and what the impact was on their customer, team, and the company. They include that information in their recognition, which makes the conversation authentic and meaningful. A simple “Atta boy” or “Atta girl,” without the context of what the player did to deserve recognition, is meaningless.

Third, recognition is frequent. Servant leaders take time daily to learn about good things that are happening and then promptly praise those good things. Servant leaders resist the temptation to sit at their desks engaged in solitary activities. Leadership is a verb! Servant leaders have “scouts” that report back the good things that are happening in the business. Servant leaders praise quickly – they don’t want the sun to set without praising that day’s aligned actions. They spend time daily “wandering around” their operation, looking for and recognizing things going well.

Employee recognition is not a complex process. Leaders, boost engagement, service, and results by recognizing your employees – personally, authentically, and frequently.

What do you think? How did your best bosses recognize leaders and team members? How do you praise and recognize your peers at work today? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © bzyxx – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.

S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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