Communicate & Recognize to Engage Employees

If you’ve been following my blog for the last couple of weeks or so, you may have noticed “communicate and recognize” have cropped up repeatedly as tips for boosting employee morale, increasing engagement and productivity, and gaining competitive advantage. It’s not just me. The same two recommendations are popping up in outlets across North America and the UK.

From the Los Angeles Times (California, USA):
“Set goals based on the new economic reality and share them with your staff. Talk to your employees every day, even if it's just to say hello and thank them for working hard. Recognition from leaders will make all the difference in your company morale. All you need to stay viable is to gain an edge: You don't have to outrun the economy, you just have to outrun your competition."

From the Calgary Herald (Alberta, Canada):
"The best strategy is to develop the employees they have to meet current and future needs so they can respond quickly to changing market demands and remain competitive. Businesses that invest in employees and have high employee engagement have a competitive advantage in their ability to make it through a recession. A leader's ability to communicate effectively is critical so that employees don't get sidetracked with assumptions and speculation.”

From the Kansas City Star (Missouri, USA):
“Companies that kept employees energized despite these troubled times:
* Set clear directions for personal success and let each employee know how he or she figured into the plan for the organization.
* Had open and honest communication about the company’s financial situation and the steps needed to get out of the woods.
* Recognized and rewarded individual high performance and made good performers feel valued.”

From the Financial Times (London, UK):
“There are two routes you can go down to win your employees’ goodwill. You can splurge cash on them, as Wells Fargo, the rescued US bank, proposed to do, by taking colleagues on “employee recognition outings” to fancy hotels in Las Vegas. This idea has now been dropped. Or you could try telling the unvarnished truth.”

Well, the Financial Times got it partially correct. “Splurging them with cash” is one way of recognizing employees, if a completely wrong way. Yes, share the unvarnished truth about the situation, but also share your appreciation for them and their efforts. People need and want both -- clear communication AND praise. The latter does not have to cost thousands or millions, but it does have to be sincere, direct, frequent and soon after the event deserving of recognition for there to be any lasting impact. If you're trying to encourage employees to repeat specific behaviors or actions that will help your company achieve its strategic objectives during this recession, then be sure to loudly and opportunistically recognize them for precisely those behaviors.

Are you communicating and recognizing? Are you using recognition as a powerful tool for communicating critical messages, and then measuring their reach and impact? Be sure to take our weekly poll.

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