There are many ways we can improve our ability to drive employee engagement and loyalty. We can pay people more (that doesn’t scale), let them off easy (that’s bad for business) or play tough-coach with them (that’s bad for your employership brand.)
During the course of my career, I’ve found a better way to manage or lead: Turn up that noticing knob to 11! By that, I mean that we should go out of our way to notice contributions and thoughtful deeds. Giving recognition for the little things makes a big difference, especially for Gen Y (Millennial) employees.
It’s not something that comes easy, though. We live in a world where non-stop news cycles, full inboxes and social media clamor for our attention. We work heads down, only noticing that which can be measured. But most contributions at work are not obvious. When one of your employees rallies a team to solve a big problem, do we notice this leadership exercise or do we wait to see if the problem is solved? When someone mentors a co-worker, do we notice that?
Then there’s the two clicks down problem of recognition. Too often, we only notice what our direct reports (or favorite employees) do. But a leader should engage with all of her followers, not just the chosen few. At Barton Protective, CEO Tom Ward made a daily practice of “catching someone doing something right!” That’s how he practiced management by walking around. Whether it’s a custodian or cashier, turn up your noticing knob to spot laudable performances. Recognize people publicly too, as it only magnifies their pride-at-work.
There’s a side benefit to turning up your noticing knob: You’ll realize how many loyal and talented people you have on your team. Their efforts, noticed, will send a powerful message to you: You are not alone in this battle! This is important for leaders too, because confidence in team translates to confidence in general. And that’s rocket fuel.
One way to turn it up: Every morning, instead of jumping on email when you first wake up, take 10 minutes to recollect the previous day to identify someone who’s made a contribution worth recognizing. In the beginning, this exercise will identify the same old crowd, but if you do this long enough, heroes at work will emerge from the edges. This practice not only helps you start off your day with an attitude of gratitude, it viscerally forces you to keep your eyes open every day for people that are making a difference.