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The Key to Employee Engagement? Appreciating Effort

Research shows that what employees want the most is: to be seen, to be heard, to be recognized, and to make a contribution. It’s not hard to see how fulfilling the first three items can lead to employees doing more of the fourth.

If you want to help someone learn something—particularly anything that is complex or involves dealing with other human beings—you must move that person into positive emotional territory. Focusing on what has already been done well is the ticket to accelerating a sense of progress and boosting confidence.

For employees, knowing their contributions will be acknowledged makes the difference between “just coming to work” and being excited about what more they can achieve. For executives, a focus on what is working builds momentum. What you see forms the foundation for what you get—from yourself and from your employees.

Put positivity to action

A majority of employees report that they rarely receive positive reinforcement for their good efforts; most of the feedback they get is pointing out mistakes and shortcomings.

Make appreciating effort a top priority using the five-to-one principle.

For every one criticism you have about an employee’s performance, find five things they are doing that are making a positive contribution.

Think about what it takes to be able to give five times more positive feedback than negative. The starting point is what you see. A leader literally has to be able to see the positive actions, capabilities, and potential in people before he or she can give anyone positive feedback.

Your ability to focus on the assets present in others is the single most important thing you can do to build a high-performing organization full of highly engaged people.

Dr. Kathy Cramer

Kathryn D. Cramer, PH.D.
Founder and Managing Partner, The Cramer Institute