What Do Employees Need Most?

Today’s post, I’m going to really bottom-line things here. There is ONE thing every employee needs, and most are not getting it. And it’s costing you by them not having it.

We are in the midst of a talent shortage with no signs of easing until 2030. Yet most organizations have no plan, aren’t aware or are not taking it seriously. Plus, only 30% of the workforce is actually engaged and satisfied. After all, did YOU wake up today, throw your feet into your ruby clad slippers, clicking your heels together saying, “There’s no place like work! There’s no place like work! There’s no place like work!” (I thought not.)

Now, you didn’t get into your profession, doing all that school, clocking all those hours, putting in all that extra sweat equity only to accept mediocrity. Since when did just getting through all our emails become a sign of a “good day”? If you too are unwilling to accept this reality – for yourself or others – let us unite in this common cause not to turn the 70% apathy to downright disengagement at a workaround. Are you with me? I said… are you with me?

(Of course, you are! We spend more hours working than anything else. To accept blah at work is the equivalent to eating mashed potatoes every dinner for the rest of our lives. Heck, I love a butter plate of taters like anyone else, but every night? Just sayin’)

But how you might be wondering? Besides being locked in email jail, there are those reports you’ve got to get to and the competition nipping at your heals and that vacancy you need to fill. Who has the time for anything else, as worthy a cause it may well be… You see, this is the very issue! For so many of us, we’re in firefighting mode. Reacting not engaging. Recovering not thriving. Managing stress, burnout and fatigue, not embracing wellness, growth and new opportunities.

We’re so distracted by the day-to-day grind, we are missing the single most effective, easiest and cost-neutral strategy to retain top talent and get out of firefighting mode. Recognition – or as I like to refer to it – Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness.

In writing my first book Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness, my co-author Brenda Zalter-Minded and I approached Canadian Engagement Survey company [email protected] to analyze their database. Were there differences between the 20 most satisfied teams with recognition compared to the 20 most unsatisfied?

What we found didn’t surprise us, as we found time and time again as organization development and culture experts, when we fixed recognition first in a team imploding, coached leaders how to do it more or initiated a peer-to-peer recognition program, everything else got better and fast. And here’s the data to substantiate it. Teams with high satisfaction with recognition have significantly higher scores in:

  • Overall engagement,
  • Continuous improvement,
  • Satisfaction with leadership,
  • Trust in the organization and
  • Intention to stay.

In my 20 years of organizational development and coaching, I cannot tell you another strategy that affects all these things and how easy it is to implement. Certainly not one that is accessible to anyone regardless of role, budget or industry.

So how have we missed this?

I have a theory. Somewhere along the way someone told us or we told ourselves that if we didn’t read it in a textbook, have to pass it on a professional exam or had to work hard to learn it, it isn’t as valuable. And this simply isn’t true.

We have a bias toward “things I know that others don’t” over the universal truths that work for us all. A universal truth is there isn’t a person on this earth that doesn’t need to know they matter and they have value.

Recognition is the ONE thing that is true of EVERY employee needs, regardless of education level, industry or position power. Don’t believe me? Well, have you ever conducted an exit interview and heard someone complain about receiving too many compliments, were made to feel too welcomed and couldn’t get any work done for all the appreciation that was happening? If only.

Humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers substantiated that for people to grow, they need to feel accepted, listened to and understood. Think about it in your own career. Haven’t you left jobs because you felt overworked, overlooked, and unappreciated for your contributions? Would you have stayed if you felt more valued and recognized?

Recognition can be a uniting factor across organizations. Forget the intergenerational BS that distracts us. Forget the metrics we come up within a boardroom if they’re devoid of the employee experience. Forget even about the mission, vision and values if our people don’t feel respected and appreciated. Those KPIs and start plans you’ve worked on is just a piece of paper (or worse a make-work exercise) if no one buys into it.

You cannot execute your plans and deliverables without talent. Your reputation is at risk when your talent flees (to speak nothing of being bashed on Google or Glassdoor). Your customers don’t want to work with dissatisfied people (and they can tell if someone doesn’t want to be there).

Our talent shortage may make it an employee’s job market, but this serves the organization too. It is lowering the waterline, uncovering aspects of your culture and behaviours that have needed attention for a long time but weren’t important enough (in someone’s views or compared to other priorities). Your talent shortage gives you licence to finally fix those things that you’ve known were there, like that nagging pebble in your shoe.

And you want some good news (you’re probably saying, “I thought she’d never ask!”) You can fix your talent shortage with recognition quickly, cost-effectively and easily. To start, please know there are three ways almost everyone wants to be recognized (according to that same research shared in our book):

  1. A verbal thank-you
  2. Personal specific words of acknowledgment
  3. A written thank-you

Have you ever received a thank-you card and say, “oh great! Another one of these. As if I have the time to read all this!” Did you skip reading it and threw right into the recycling? No! When I ask my audiences what they do, their answers are varied and fantastic!

  • I show my family
  • I put it on my Bulletin board/credenza
  • I send it to my HR file
  • I bring it up in a performance appraisal
  • I fell my friends over coffee
  • I put it in a box and look at them on a bad day
  • I shove my kid’s artwork on the fridge to the side so it’s front and centre (I love this last one!)

You have the potential for employees to become an army of recruiters. I work with organizations in high turnover industries that have no turnover problems. Why? Because their people tell their friends they should work there, even before there’s an opening! Why? Because they want their friends to be happier! (And according to Gallop “I have a best friend at work” is one of 12 indicators of job satisfaction so it serves to retain people longer-term too… a win-win!)

Be the disruptor by bringing recognition by FROGing someone – Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness – into your day-to-day world. Role model the way for others. Let’s dare to dream that together we can reverse that 30% engagement around so 70% (or more) are!

And by the way, if someone hasn’t FROGed you lately, let me say this; if you’re reading this post, you clearly care about people. Thank YOU for the huge love, care and service you give to your organization, colleagues and clients. It is a better place because of you.

Want to check out more resources about how you can recognize other’s greatness? Check out these articles:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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