3 secrets to increasing employee engagement by 571%

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It’s a humbling feeling. It’s a moment we’ve all experienced. And yet, it’s something that happens all too seldom in most of our work lives.

We’re talking about the moments in your life when someone appreciates you. They call you out for your unique talent. They see your passion, drive, and commitment to making something great. You relish these instances. They’re powerful. They’re transformational. When they happen, you not only feel an overwhelming sense of pride, but you also feel an unprecedented desire to even become better at what you do.

But we’re not just talking about mere compliments. We’re talking about four or five moments in your life that are etched into your soul—moments when you realized other people loved your unique abilities. It could have been a coach, a teacher, or a member of your community who showed respect for you, admired you, and applauded you. We’re talking about moments and words that changed you. However, these transformational moments happen even less often at work, because they typically follow only your highest achievements. Still, that doesn’t mean recognition shouldn’t happen every day — because it is the recognition of smaller achievements that lead to the big wins.

The hard-nosed readers of this post might already be checking out — assuming that they already know the impact recognition and appreciation can have on a daily basis. However, they shouldn’t check out yet, because these are actually the people who could benefit from this information the most — and witness the greatest increases in results.

Appreciation is more complex than just nice words and compliments. It’s more than a simple pat on the back. Once considered a soft skill in management practice, research is proving the powerful bottom-line-impact appreciation has on employee engagement, commitment, effort, and results. Here’s why.

Feeling appreciated and receiving recognition are not the only things that inspire employees to create massive results. There are two more extremely important aspects of appreciation that need to be addressed — because research shows there is a cumulative power when all three aspects of appreciation are being practiced simultaneously in the workplace — within a team, a department, or an entire organization. When comparing organizations that practice these three aspects “seldom or never,” to companies that practice them “often or always,” when these three aspects of appreciation happen together, research shows they have the possibility to increase engagement by nearly 600%.

Obviously, this drastic increase won’t happen overnight. But you can start making changes tomorrow to ensure these three aspects are being practiced often or always.

1. Receiving recognition: This is what we mentioned at the start of this post. We all know what it feels like to be recognized for our work. If you recall moments from your own life, and how they made you feel, then you can understand the impact you could have on someone else. You could inspire them to do more great work. And, research shows that receiving recognition is the number one thing employees want from their boss. In fact, 37% of employees responded by saying “Recognize,” me as compared to only 12% who said, “Give me autonomy,” 7% who said, “Pay me more,” and 4% who said “Give me a promotion.”

2. Observing recognition: Often overlooked, something profound happens when we see others receiving recognition for their work. And, it’s not jealousy. When managers or coworkers publicly recognize someone for their great contributions, we don’t feel anger. Instead, we learn what those around us deem important to the goals of the team or the organization. We reflect on the work we’re doing and wonder how we could align our efforts with others so our results will be loved and appreciated as well. Observing recognition also builds trust with the people both giving and receiving it. We understand the competence of the receiver, and we respect the giver for noticing the work.

3. Giving recognition: Research shows that when employees recognize others, they witness a 26% increase in engagement. In fact, employees who give recognition reported increased motivation to contribute, increased understanding of how teams contribute to organizational success, increased pride in the organization, and increased willingness to go above and beyond. Employees who give recognition also witnessed a 33% increase in innovation and a 22% increase in work results.

It’s interesting. While the numbers listed above are impressive, they shouldn’t be. You remember feeling truly appreciated. You remember witnessing or observing someone else being appreciated. And, hopefully, you know the impact recognizing someone has on you. It fills you with energy. It inspires you to be your best. And, it makes you believe that if you’re in the presence of greatness at work, then you can even rise above yourself.

We all want to create a difference people love. Maybe it’s time we start by recognizing the differences others make that we love.

This post was originally published on Forbes.

By david sturt and todd nordstrom
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