Picture this: You’ve just reviewed your engagement or employee satisfaction survey results and they’re disappointing. You work very hard to create an environment where people want to come to work and it just feels like you have failed.
You may wonder if you’re wasting precious time and energy in asking people their opinion and that your efforts have seen the opposite of results you’re trying to achieve. Then, you notice in a LinkedIn group, people weighing in on a discussion “Employee satisfaction scores mean nothing.” Plus your boss needs you on another project ASAP.
I guess you’re off the hook, right?
Let’s clear up a misconception. Yes, there is a strong argument that measuring employee satisfaction is not sufficient. It’s too narrow a window into the employee experience to say, from annual surveys alone, definitely how people feel (but then again, would you ask your spouse only on your anniversary “honey, are you satisfied?” and believe one great dinner out will be enough to turn around any dissatisfaction?)
Along with studying staff turnover and reasons for attrition, customer satisfaction, safety trends, sick time, and other data, you can get a sense of the health of your employee experience. Your satisfaction or employee engagement survey data can help you to figure out what to tackle.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, I have built the case that focusing on recognition is almost always a way to boost all of the indicators I noted above. I want to point out the drivers of engagement need to go directly in your survey results, and if they’re low, targeted efforts to bolster recognition could help turn it around in record time (in fact, here is a link to an infographic, 10 Important Facts About Recognition and Engagement).
When it comes to improving employee satisfaction, what can you can expect will be improved when you focus on recognition?
- Improved continuous improvement
If employees feel that their voice is valued and they can contribute meaningfully, they are more likely to offer opinions, solutions and suggestions for improvement. They are also less likely to worry they will be blamed, shamed or targeted for pointing out opportunities for improvement (I actually talk about this more in my new book just out). When individuals’ strengths are honoured, they’re more likely to contribute more and at a higher level. Plus, given staff are the people adding the value (to the customer, creating the product, creating the intellectual property, etc), they are the most qualified to give that feedback.
2. Leader popularity
We’ve all heard the research that says people leave bosses not jobs. However, when employees feel valued, understood and appreciated by their boss, they are more loyal and satisfied. Makes sense. And loyal, satisfied people are less likely to leave. Think about the last time you had a cool new opportunity, but you like your work environment – boss, coworkers, the type of culture the leader helped to create – that you decided to stay where you were. Similarly, think about a time when you jumped ship even though it was less convenient, the unknown and perhaps paid less. I coach individuals who have started their own business, without one client yet, just to get away from a toxic boss. Recognize your people, and they will think twice before leaving.
As we have discussed, intention to stay is significantly higher in people who also rate high satisfaction with recognition. And in our current talent shortage that shows no signs of easing until 2030 (and at desperate levels in tech and healthcare), you cannot afford to lose your best people. In fact, what you’ll find is that your staff and leaders become an arm of recruiters; they want their friends to be happier so they’ll sing your praises, being the first one to tell them when a position becomes available. I work with some clients in very high turnover industries with no turnover problem because their employee experience is so positive that they have a waiting list of people ready to join their organization as soon as a position opens up!
4. Increased trust
What I find, when I visit great places to work where people feel recognized and appreciated, is there’s not only formal systems of recognition, but also informal recognition happening peer-to-peer. I hear leaders, owners, and staff describe their workplace like a “family” as opposed to an institution. They believe that the people they work with to be good people, have integrity and make decisions for the common good. The reverse to that, in teams and organizations I’ve worked with that have very low scores on trust, further reinforce this untrustworthiness by hoarding information, shunning some and favouring others, and not volunteering information. By the way, want more on this? Check out trust expert, Andrea Reibmayr’s book.
Not surprisingly, overall engagement increases too with higher recognition satisfaction. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.
Next week, we’ll learn how do you take this information and begin to focus on recognition in a systematic way? But in the meantime, remember, to grab that tool from the Cool Stuff!