Back to basics – a simple tool for engagement

A lot of words are expended on the subject of engagement,and a lot of money is spent on programmes to measure it. Some of that money is sometimes even spent on doing something about improving it, and occasionally it has an effect.

It is interesting that as a species we seem to seek complexity when simplicity is the answer. So rather than getting the basics right we develop complex programmes, and so it is with engagement.

As managers we often don’t get the basics right because of their simplicity, despite the fact that they are based on basic human interactions which have been around probably as long as we have had language. It seems that as the use of technology has increased exponentially we actively seek out complexity as the answer to every problem.

A recent study in the Journal of Social psychology showed that a certain simple activity improved well-being, physical health, strengthened social relationships, produces positive emotional states and helps cope with stressful times. So what is this activity with such almost magical properties? If I were selling this, and was charging an enormous price, based on those results there would be a queue a mile long with cheque books in hand. In fact this activity is free and consists of saying two words “Thank You”.

Unfortunately many bosses seem to think it is unnecessary. After all the employees are paid to do the work aren’t they? Well yes they are, but they would do it a whole lot better if those two small words were used occasionally, but you do have to say it with conviction and for some managers I have known that would really be a big ask. Get it right and it can be one of the most powerful things you can do, because for the recipient it is an acknowledgement of their existence in what can sometimes be an impersonal organisation, and it recognises the contribution they make to the organisation and to those they work with.

This is not just a theory but was backed up in the study by experimental results which showed that being thanked doubled the likelihood of help being offered in the future. The interesting fact that came out of the research was that the act of being thanked reassured the recipient that their help was valued and motivates them to provide more.

So this is not altruism but enlightened self-interest. So if you are interested in generating an engaged workforce get some basics in place, because without creating the firm foundations any later fancy programme, no matter how well-intentioned and well-funded, is likely to fail. Use the free tools first. If you are a manager, supervisor, owner, no matter how elevated your position, start by being a human being and  appreciating the efforts of those that work for you. Say “thank you” and mean it, and you will be amazed the effect it will have. I can guarantee that it will not demean you in the eyes of your staff, although they might take a little while to get used to this new boss.

I seem to recall a song “Sorry is the hardest word” For many managers it seems to be “thank you”. Although it doesn’t hurt to say “sorry” when you get it wrong, and that won’t demean you either.

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One Response to “Back to basics – a simple tool for engagement”

  1. Jose de Guzman Says:

    Trevor,
    Saw your link to this blog thru Employee Engagement Network.
    I fully agree with you that the prevailing preference for measuring EE leads to focusing on complexity for a phenomenon that may be just simple.
    If I needed to measure EE, I would look at the sector/s of the organizational membership whose EE would be most critical in addressing the strategic objectives of the organization. They would be the group that could add a recognizable contribution to the bottom line. And I would focus on a organization-shared definition of employee engaged behavior/s, such as a sincere gesture of “Thank you.”

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