Higher Education

How to increase employee engagement at (almost) no cost

A CEO was asked how many people work in his company: ‘About half of them,’ he responded.

This is a joke, of course, but it has a troubling undertone. The truth is that in many companies, a significant number of people are “checked out.” They show up to work to get a paycheck, but they are not making positive contributions in their job or company. Worldwide, only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work.

The good news is that there are many things you can put into place to develop an environment where people are genuinely happy and productive. In order to facilitate this type of motivation and have employees in your organization who are truly engaged – you need to get intentional about showing your people you genuinely care.

Why recognize employees?

When you support people and their daily progress, they become happier and more engaged. Engaged employees are more productive and motivated – they produce higher quality work, take fewer sick days, and stay with your company longer.

We often think that recognizing and rewarding employees has to be tied to bonuses or other monetary incentives. But the best leaders know how to show appreciation for employees without spending a dime. When you take the time to show your people you genuinely care – in a variety of ways – they will be happier, more productive, and more engaged in their jobs. This usually leads to better customer service, too.

11 ways to reward employees at almost no cost

Here are 11 demonstrated techniques to show your team appreciation. Some of these you can start on immediately to recognize your deserving employees.

1) Say thanks in a note: A simple and heartfelt thank-you note goes a long way. Be genuine and specific in your acknowledgement. (For example, “Thank you, Jill, for doing such a great job on gathering the data I requested and entering it into Excel so quickly. Your quick turn-around and attention to detail let me get that last-minute project finished for our client at ABC Company.”) You can give it to them at work, or send it to the note to their home.

2) Send an all-staff email: This is such an easy – but incredibly powerful tool – that leaders can use to acknowledge employees. When a person does something amazing for a client, or goes the extra mile on a project, send an e-mail to your entire team and recognize the person for their efforts. Praise in front of peers makes a big impact.

3) Share aloud: At your weekly or monthly meeting/huddle, spend time going around the room and have each person spend one to two minutes to “share the good.” They 1) name a person and then 2) say why this person was awesome. This is an opportunity for people to bring each other’s hard work to the attention of the entire team.

4) Create a kudos board: Put a board somewhere in your organization where managers and employees can post praise for someone else in the company. You can encourage people to tie it in with one of your core values. Make sure you keep the board well supplied with notecards, pens, and thumbtacks (or whatever supplies your board needs) in order to make it easy for people to post on it.

5) Be flexible: Many of your employees would appreciate more flexibility in their jobs. If you have team members who are going the distance for the company, experiment with offering them more flexible work hours. For example, an early bird may want to come in at 7:30 am and leave at 3:30 pm. Or a parent with school-age kids may want to work from home from 2:30 pm -5:30 pm.

6) Recommend them on LinkedIn: Take the time to write a recommendation for your employees on their LinkedIn profile. Be very specific about their skills and expertise. Showcase their great work. This type of public recognition for your people goes far in boosting morale and making them proud of their contributions to your company.

7) Keep a Hero! Book: One fun recognition tactic that can be effective is a Hero! Book. Keep this somewhere where everyone can easily access it. Then encourage team members to take time to write in it, recognizing other employees for their accomplishments. These can be serious or whimsical depending on the personality of the writer and of the recipient. Then – and here’s the important part – at your weekly or monthly staff meetings, take a few minutes to read aloud some of the best, recent Hero! Book entries. By making a big deal about the entries, people will actually become a bit competitive in the creativity of their contributions creating lots of enthusiasm for their Heroes.

8) Spontaneous acts of fun! Every heard of a flash mob? It’s a group of people who assemble somewhere in a public place and then perform an unusual act like singing and/or for a short period of time. You can do the same thing at work by encouraging “flash” acts of fun. For example, know it’s someone’s birthday and she loves a certain sports team? Have a couple of people come in early and decorate her desk in the team colors with a birthday card. Or, give people an action figure that looks like them to recognize their “super power.” Make it a surprise so when they walk to their desk in the morning or after lunch, they’ll enjoy the flash fun.

9) Be social: Congratulate employees on social media for their accomplishments. Announce a promotion or new employee title on your Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram company page. Share a photo of the employee at their desk, at a company activity, with other team members, or with leaders. You can even take silly photos of employees to post. Encourage your other employees to Like and Share the message. This is also a great way to showcase your culture to potential new hires.

10) Spotlight ‘em: Regularly feature an employee on your blog as a profile post. Include a great photo and include quotes from them about what they do for your company and why they love doing it. In addition to their professional qualifications, you can interview them and ask them to talk more about their lives and passions. You can also leverage these profile-type posts further by sharing them on social media.

11) Wall of fame: Set aside an area to highlight employees. You can take photos of employees and recognize their contributions. You can also take pictures of them hard at work, or simply to recognize them and write down fun facts such as hobbies, children’s names, and pets. Your people will enjoy seeing their own stories, as well as those of their peers.

In all of your employee recognition efforts, make it genuine, personal, and timely. The great thing about the ideas above is that employee recognition will be remembered longer than a bonus check, while at the same time strengthening the bond between you and your employees. Start making these efforts regular, and you’ll see morale go up around your workplace. Engaged employees mean a more profitable, better-performing company with happier and more productive people. Do it right and everyone reaps the rewards.

By Wendy Maynard.

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Wendy Maynard
Wendy Maynard is the Strategic Director and co-founder of Kinesis, an award-winning marketing firm and business consultancy. She has over two decades of experience as a marketing strategist, business consultant, and executive coach.
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