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• Praise——personal, written, electronic, and public: Although you can thank someone in 10 to 15 seconds, most employees report that they’re never thanked for the job they do—especially not by their manager. Systematically start to thank your employees when they do good work, whether one-on-one in person, in the hallway, in a group meeting, on voice mail, in a written thank-you note, on email, or at the end of each day at work. Better yet, go out of your way to act on, share, and amplify good news when it occurs—even
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if it means interrupting to thank them for a great job they’ve done. By taking the time to say you noticed and appreciate their efforts, those efforts—and results—will continue.
• Support and involvement: How well you provide information employees need to do their jobs, how well you support your employees when they make mistakes, how well you involve employees when making decisions, and whether you ask your employees for their opinions and ideas create the foundation for this item. Employees want more than ever to know how they are doing in their jobs and how the company is doing in its business. Involving employees is both respectful and practical: You increase their commitment and ease in completing the work and implementing changes and new ideas.
• Autonomy and authority: Most employees value being given room to do their work as they best see fit. Do you allow employees to decide how best to do their work, give them increased job autonomy and authority, allow them to pursue their ideas, or give them a choice of assignments whenever possible? These elements all allow autonomy and authority to flourish—and provide a powerful motivation to employees. The ultimate form of recognition for many employees is to have increased autonomy and authority to get their job done, including the ability to spend or allocate resources, make decisions, or manage others. Greater autonomy and authority means, “I trust you to act in the best interests of the company, to do so independently, and without the approval of me or others.” Increased autonomy and authority should be awarded to employees as a form of recognition itself for the past results they have achieved. Autonomy and authority are privileges, not rights, which should be granted to those employees who have most earned them based on past performance and not based on tenure or seniority.
• Flexible working hours: Time is the new currency for today’s employees, who expect work to be an integrated part of their lives— not their entire lives. Given that in one recent study some 83 percent of employees reported wanting more time with their
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families, one way to help accommodate this desire is through greater flexibility of the hours employees work. With technology today, work is increasingly becoming a state of mind rather than a place to be. Consider allowing top performers to leave work early when necessary, have flexible working hours, earn time off from work, and have comp time for extra hours worked. Today’s employees value their time and their time off. Be sensitive to their off-schedule needs, whether they involve family or friends, charity or church, education, or hobbies, and provide flexibility whenever you can so they can meet those obligations. Time off may range from an occasional afternoon off to attend a child’s play at school or the ability to start the workday an hour early so they can leave an hour early. By allowing work to fit best with employees’ life schedule, you increase the chances that they’ll be motivated to work harder while they are at work and to do their best to make their schedule work. As long as the job gets done, what difference does it matter what hours they work?
• Learning and development: Today’s employees highly value learning opportunities in which they can gain skills that can enhance their worth and marketability in their current job as well as future positions. Find out what your employees want to find out, how they want to grow and develop, and where they want to be in five years. Give them opportunities as they arise and the ability to choose work assignments whenever possible. When you give employees choices, more often than not they’ll rise to meet or exceed expectations. Do you support and encourage employees to learn new skills, discuss career options with them, allow them to participate in learning activities, and discuss what they’ve learned after completed projects and assignments?
• Manager availability and time: In today’s fast-paced world of work in which everyone is expected to get more done faster, an employee’s personal time with his or her manager is in itself also a form of recognition. As managers are busier, taking time with
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employees is even more important. The action says: “Of all the things I have to do, one of the most important is to take time to be with you, the person or persons I most depend on for us to be successful.” Especially for younger employees, time spent with their manager is a valued form of validation and inspiration, as well as serving a practical purpose of learning and communication, answering questions, discussing possibilities, or just listening to an employee’s ideas, concerns, and opinions. Are you available to address employees’ questions and concerns, get to know them, and listen to their nonjob issues? Being accessible to employees—and getting back to them promptly at times when you are not—is critical for building lasting relationships with your employees. Remember, you can’t have an open door policy with a closed mind!