Tag Archive for employee engagement

Your Team’s Work Matters

meaningDeprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark, raving mad. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

It really is a shame, but many employees trudge into work every day on autopilot. They’re corporate-logo-bearing zombies. They punch a clock, meander to their workspace, plop down into what may or may not be ergonomically correct chairs, and begin their daily countdown to 5:00 PM.

For these employees, there’s no real passion, no real desire, no pressing urgency about their work. And why is that? For some, the work just doesn’t matter. Don’t be so quick to assume they just need attitude adjustments. Before we go chalking those feelings up to those employees’ bad attitudes, I think we, as leaders and organizations, need to look in the mirror.

We like to speak in lofty terms about culture, employee engagement, etc; and rightly so. They’re very human, important things. They matter. Our people matter. Their work matters. But sometimes that idea — that their work is relevant — gets lost in the shuffle.

What I’m saying is that our employees need to know their work is relevant. They need to know it matters. And they need to know how it matters and to whom it matters. We’re not just running transactions or making loans or selling widgets.

A while back, I was speaking with some folks in the lending department at a financial institution. I asked them why they came to work every day. I asked them what they did during the course of those eight hours. I asked them if they even liked what they did.

The answers I got were sadly familiar. “Honestly, it kind of sucks,” said one.

“We fill out paperwork,” another chimed in.

Another piped up. “We process loan applications. That’s it.”

“I’m just here because I can’t find another job,” one even said in a moment of painful transparency.

My response? “Man, when you say it that way, your work does suck.”


64ed726b2fcbf319d734269664febc3dI went on to explain what I thought of when I thought of a lending department. It’s entirely different from what they were expressing to me. When I think of a lending department, I think of a group of dream facilitators. These people come to work every day, and yes, perhaps fill out reams of paperwork. They put in long, ridiculous hours. They work their asses off to help make other people’s lives at least a little bit better.

It’s not just empty paperwork. It’s paperwork that is a means to an end.

The lending department enables other human beings to accomplish their dreams on a daily basis. Do you see the huge distinction here? They’re helping people, day after day, accomplish something that’s a big deal to them. They’re consolidating debt to make it more manageable. They’re getting a new car or boat. They’re finally purchasing their first home. After saving for years, they’re buying that retirement condo somewhere warm. The lending department isn’t just lending money – they’re fulfilling dreams. Their work matters. It’s more relevant and meaningful than they know.

Obviously this principle applies across departments. Teams and organizations that get this idea will have more passionately engaged employees. It’s actually a huge competitive advantage for your organization when your employees really understand how relevant and meaningful their work is. The question for us all is this: Do they get it? Do they know and clearly understand how meaningful their work is?

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make that connection for our teams sometimes. We have to show them why their work matters and to whom it matters. It’s not just meaningless, mindless work. It contributes to something bigger. It contributes in at least some small way to making the world better.

6 Signs Your Team Needs to Fight More

fightingAs you look around the room, you see lots of heads nodding up and down, toothy smiles pasted onto each face. Your boss has just pitched an idea, and you and some of the rest of your team thinks it’s not the most wonderful one he’s ever come up with, so naturally you indicate that by nodding and smiling in affirmation.

In truth, it ought to be a red flag if a team can sit in meetings together discussing important things without engaging in robust and passionate discussion about those things sometimes. If teams can discuss things without any dissent or diverging opinions being aired, they can be almost certain things are being left unsaid or unexplored. It’s tough to imagine a bunch of adult professionals sitting in a room agreeing about everything all the time.

It’s not only OK to engage in healthy conflict around ideas, it’s important to do it. We’ve got to pick more fights. We’ve got to push on each other’s ideas because that’s how ideas get vetted and get better.

What are some signs your team needs to fight more?

1. No one questions anything. Conflict essentially is considered off-limits.

2. There is an environment in place where politics and gossip thrive. More conversation about ideas and strategy happens away from the team than with it. Think of it this way: Your team will discuss the vision and strategy of the team; it’s just a matter of where it’s  going to happen. Encourage healthy conflict, and you’ll be able to manage and push those conversations in a positive and helpful direction.

3. Everyone has well-defined calf muscles.This happens as a result of tiptoeing too much. Team members spend more time and effort trying to avoid conflict than they do trying to come up with proactive, innovative ideas.

4. Not everyone has ideas. It’s not that everyone has to have a strong opinion about every single topic that’s discussed, but at the same time if someone sits silently meeting after meeting, you’ve got to wonder why.

5. Tapdancing is considered teambuilding. Everyone ignores controversial topics precisely because they could be controversial. So they dance around them and rationalize it as preserving the peace. Or something.

6. There are more disclaimers than an anti-depression drug commercial. No one feels like they can say anything without prefacing it with some sort of disclaimer. Now, I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, and I don’t want to sound like I have any issues with So-and-So’s idea, because I don’t and I think So-and-So is just fabulous and always has such terrific thoughts; but…

Leaders, It’s on Us

This is an especially important point to grasp if you are in any sort of leadership role within your group, whether that’s a team, department, small business, or large corporation. We have to understand that we need our teams to work and think through our ideas. As humans, we’re nowhere near perfect, so we need to be aware (sometimes painfully aware) of the fact that not all of the ideas we have or will come up with are good ones. We must depend on our teams to think through ideas, critique them, and offer alternatives. It’s only after that sort of exercise that we can move forward together, confident we’ve explored the options we could think of and selected the best one, even if it’s not the one that we, as their leaders, were advocating.

This sort of healthy, productive conflict doesn’t happen automatically. It must be worked at and practiced. You may even want to consider calling someone in from the outside to sit in on a couple strategic meetings and help you identify when and where these discussions should be taking place, as well as what those discussions might sound like. If your team currently doesn’t engage in ideological conflict, it’s going to be a lot like learning how to ride a bike all over again at first. It likely will feel uncomfortable and slightly awkward, but your team needs to persevere through that stage so you can begin to really reap the benefits of cultivating that type of engaged and creative culture.

6 Ways to Really Screw Up Recognition (Guest Post)

wind up tired manA short while back, Matt wrote a terrific blog post over at Globoforce on how to make your company values sticky. As the saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished.” So we’re reciprocating by giving his audience (you) six sure-fire ways to screw up recognition.

So with that said, here are six ways you can really louse up your business results, lose your best employees and demoralize the rest of your workforce—all in the name of recognition:

1. Run Multiple Inconsistent Recognition Programs

If you really want to cripple yourself out of the gate, make sure you hold onto every legacy “employee of the month parking spot” program and every random department-only perk. Whatever you do, do not create a single, centrally-managed, global program that is accessible to all employees, in all departments, everywhere in your organization and everywhere in the world. A universal program with a single focus and brand will cut costs and connect your entire workforce around common values and business objectives. It will also be measurable and manageable, which is sure to spell dreaded success.

2. Limit. Limit. Limit.

Make sure you confine recognition to a strict hierarchy and implement departmental silos, to assure failure. Make managers the only distributors of recognition, only able to appreciate their direct reports. Making recognition “social” and peer-to-peer just allows people to easily see their coworkers’ awards and add their own congratulations—which amplifies the experience and positively impacts business results. Don’t empower and inspire all employees to recognize peers, managers and subordinates—across departments and geographies, or you run the risk of encouraging a true culture of recognition.

3. Give vague, delayed recognition.

Stale recognition is sure to be ineffective. For the worst possible, try to give it once-a-year or even once-a-quarter, only. Gallup reports that employees who received recognition or praise for doing good work in the last seven days had 10% to 20% higher productivity results. A study by Stanford’s business school of effective recognition programs found that recognizing of 5-8% of employees per week with substantive, specific recognition is a good benchmark for success. Avoid great stats like that by ignoring your employees and then mis-remembering what they did in the first place.

4. Do not connect recognition with core values and objectives. 

This one is critical. There is a strong connection between recognition, core values and business results, so you’ll have to work hard to keep them apart and render your recognition useless. Research from Deloitte has shown that managers of higher profitability companies were 12% more likely to have a strong focus on core values and corporate culture.  Connecting company values to recognition gets your values off the plaque in the hallway and injects them into actual employee behavior. Keep your values confined to the wall by making recognition random and not tying it to corporate values.


5. Spend nothing.

A common question we are asked is “what should we be investing to make recognition successful?” According to a World at Work survey, 2.0%+ of payroll is the mean average for recognition spend, but experts agree that you should dedicate at least 1.0% of your payroll for recognition. A SHRM/Globoforce research, has shown that companies who spend at least 1% on payroll have higher engagement and better overall business results. To ensure failure, stay under 1%.


Obviously, this is tongue-in-cheek, and the real best practices for recognition are the ones in blue, above.  If you’re interested in finding out how your program really measures up to industry best practices—based on a lot of independent statistics and a long track record of double-digit engagement increases, check out the 10-question Recognition Grader Assessment.


Guest post by Darcy Jacobsen. Darcy is content marketing manager at Globoforce, the world’s top provider of SaaS-based employee recognition solutions. Contact her or follow her writing at www.globoforce.com/gfblog.