Studying how different organizations measure employee engagement often helps better understand other things – like the challenges managers and employees face with giving meaningful employee recognition.
Take for example Quantum Workplace and their employee engagement survey. One of the survey questions states, “If I contribute to the organization’s success, I know I will be recognized.” Respondents use a Likert scale to provide their perceptual rating.
This statement stimulated some thoughts for me. I am not convinced we make contributions in time, effort, talents and abilities in order to be recognized. I believe we do so with a desire to make a difference in the world and to achieve a personal, inner purpose.
However, to never be acknowledged at all for your contributions would certainly influence you to look elsewhere for employment where you hope to be better appreciated.
What Is A Contribution?
Perhaps we need to understand what a contribution is. What does it mean to make a contribution?
To contribute anything is to simply add value to something else.
It might be a financial contribution to a worthwhile charitable cause. You’ve added money to the growing amount needed to make a difference somewhere in the world.
You have analyzed the workplace statistics and verified the turnover level at work and what the turnover costs are. This helps with determining the business impact well-designed recognition programs can have on employee turnover.
Insert what your contribution is in your job and how what you do adds value and changes the world in some small way.
Loss of Validation
But why do many employees feel so unvalued for their contributions? Is it because managers and peers are not even aware of what their employees have contributed? Perhaps they do not realize the importance of what the individual has done. Do your own bosses and work colleagues know what you have added today and the significance of your contribution?
What does it take for each of us to attach the same level of importance, or significance, as each employee does to their contributions through their work?
Getting Real Value for Something
To value something you first need to realize the great qualities of the person giving the contribution. Then you have to value what they’ve actually done. You need to show respect and demonstrate your clear understanding of exactly what they’ve done and at what cost – be it some sacrifice, acquisition of knowledge or application of skills.
You should also be interested in the person and show you care about what they’ve done. You develop insatiable curiosity to learn what each employee does each day in their job.
Many employees have shared with me how their work goes far beyond what their original job descriptions laid out. They even suggest their managers should sit down with them occasionally just to learn what it is they really do each day.
What value do you place on the work you’ve done today?
Some engagement research indicates employers may not be regarding their employees well enough as their most important asset. I personally do not like using the term “human assets” as it dehumanizes people into something mechanical. Perhaps because of this term the human element is what is being neglected.
Contribution Value Adders
Here are some suggested ways you can truly value the people around you and the contributions they are making.
- Learn an Employee’s Purpose for Work. Ask your employees privately what their work purpose is and how they want to be known for making a difference. If they don’t have a purpose work with facilitating what this could look like. Armed with an employee purpose for work you will be better able to discern when they’ve done something meaningful on the job.
- Find Out Their Most Meaningful Contribution. Hearing or seeing what an employee feels is their most important contribution in life or at work will teach you a great deal. This will give you ideas for projects or assignments to give them that might possibly generate a similar outcome.
- Examine Their Value Definition. Like learning employee personal recognition preferences, understand the value they place on work tasks. Some parts of a job are naturally not fun but still have to be done. Whereas there are other activities which are more meaningful. Find out why and capitalize on these attributes you discover, as identifiers of what is important and significant to them.
- Contribution Validation Meetings. Yes, sometimes you just need to ask on a regular basis. Build in to existing one-on-one meetings or create quick contribution connection sessions to find out what employees have pride in. Have them share with you recent contributions they’ve made. Commend them accordingly with the recognition they deserve.
- Commensurate Recognition to Contribution. Give the praise, recognition and/ or reward that fits the level of contribution made. Some contributions are smaller than others and people just want to be acknowledged. Other developments are work changers and impact business outcomes and profits. Those ones deserve a reward always accompanied with sincere recognition.
By learning to better value the contributions people make on the job you can acknowledge the great things people are adding in the workplace and the world.
Question: How do you most like be acknowledged for contributions you’ve made on the job?
Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.