Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Appreciation in the Workplace

It’s almost Thanksgiving, so we conducted a brief survey about appreciation in the workplace. We appreciate all the thoughtful responses we got – clearly appreciation is alive and well which was encouraging to hear!

The good news was that a third of our respondents had been appreciated within the past 24 hours and an additional fifth of them had been appreciated within the past week or so (i.e., 55% had received appreciative recognition quite recently). Sadly, a few (about 10%) had to reach back a year or more to identify appreciation in the workplace – sometimes this was linked to a pay raise, performance review, or award ceremony but in other cases this reflected workplaces that simply weren’t recognizing the contributions of employees. One person said “Everyone is looking out for themselves right now, sadly.” Another listed 2006 (5 years ago) as the last time appreciation was expressed; still another wrote, “Can’t honestly remember when the last time was.”

When asked about the most common way to show appreciation, not surprisingly a simple “thank you” came out on top – 50% of the respondents selected this item compared to the next highest choice of letting management know (10%). However, the qualitative answers revealed a variety of approaches (so thank yous don’t become routine) – and many people emphasized the importance of individualizing appreciative feedback, both from the perspective of the sender (it needs to be specific and authentic) and the receiver (it needs to be personally meaningful).

Some people highlighted the personal touch (e.g., in person feedback or a hand written note rather than an email; customized gifts rather than generic gift cards; hugs; home-made food) – but responses were varied. Spa gift certificates were a common theme, as were lunches out, gift certificates for dinner ($100 seemed to be the most common amount for this item), chocolate, flowers, team events, and celebrations. The gift of time was always appreciated – whether time off for birthdays or after a busy project, covering for someone else to give that person a day off (one casual employee does this without compensation to give others a break!), or taking the team out for a special treat.

When asked about creative appreciation strategies, some unique ideas were shared. One organization has a “Cup of Awesomeness” (a golden cup on a beaded cord) that staff members pass to each other to show appreciation for a job well done. Another organization has a Treasure Chest, stocked with cards and small gifts that any employee can use to show appreciation to colleagues or suppliers. And, in one case, an employee’s parents were flown out for a surprise recognition dinner!

However, responses clearly indicated that what works for some doesn’t work for others – one person wrote, “Don’t offer food!! Some cultures keep offering food and you have to eat even if you are not interested not to upset them!!! – I truly hate that!” The consensus definitely was to individualize your approach – take time to learn how the person you appreciate would like to be acknowledged.

Aside from it just being a nice thing to do, respondents identified that appreciation contributes to increasing employee engagement (78%) and productivity (68%), reducing conflict (58%), and facilitating retention (55%). Showing appreciation also models a culture of respect. Some respondents cautioned, however, that appreciation can be a double-edged sword if it contributes to competition or some employees recognized that they aren’t been acknowledged as often or publicly as others.

Appreciation is a core element in both our Let’s CHAT! coaching / communication model and our Employee Engagement model . Don’t hesitate to connect if you’d like to learn more about either of these workplace tools.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Knowing What's Important

Things which matter most
must never be at the mercy of things
which matter least.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Our last newsletter introduced 10 Tips for Managing Time and Prioritizing Tasks; it included setting goals and rewards, investing time in scheduling, and making effective use of technology. All these tips will help you organize your day and successfully complete required tasks; with this blog entry I want to provide a tip for figuring out life’s priorities.

An activity we often use to help identify what is most important in life and where time and energy should be focused, first, is the Jar of Rocks. Google “jar of rocks” and you’ll get over 23,000 hits; one has some great images of this activity "in action." Other links describe the activity in fairly good detail and seem to credit a philosophy professor who shall, apparently, remain nameless; as an interesting aside, I’d never heard about the inclusion of beer . . . you’ll have to go to the link to learn more.

The point of the Jar of Rocks is that the big rocks, smaller rocks, pebbles, and sand represent your life’s priorities – the big rocks are the important things, smaller rocks less important, and so on until the sand which is the “small stuff”. . . that “stuff” everyone tells us not to sweat about. If you start with the sand, as so many of us do, there is no room in the jar for anything else. Instead, the key is to start with the big rocks – it is these important things that should be your biggest priority. For many, these include family, health, and self-care.

Take a moment to put together your Jar of Rocks – either figuratively by thinking about or writing down what represents your big rocks, smaller rocks, pebbles, and sand or, literally, by gathering the materials (a local craft store [e.g., Michaels] is a great place to get the necessary items) and putting together your jar. Place it on your desk or someplace where it will remind you to pause and make time for the important things.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Supervisory Skills: One Key to Workplace Success

We’ve just completed work on a supervisory skills framework and training guide for the Asia Pacific Gateway Skills Table. We’ve previously supported many organizations to develop their managers and leaders, and supervisors have a crucial liaison role to play – communicating management expectations to front-line employees and also communicating worker needs and concerns to the management team. Almost every measure of organizational success can be linked to good supervisors – they influence productivity, retention, employee engagement, workplace safety, income, and expenses.

In our research to populate a competency framework for supervisors, the skills clustered into 3 distinct areas – personal management, people management, and process management. Our research reinforced what we’ve experienced firsthand – good supervisors have their own “stuff” under control (i.e., they’re organized, productive, and have good communication skills – quite apart from their role as a supervisor). Some people that are good at managing themselves also have the interpersonal and people management skills to help others work well, too. With the first two competency areas under control, supervisors also need to oversee policies and procedures that contribute to safety, productivity, quality, and the ultimate success of their projects.

In mapping supervisory skills training across BC, we found countless workshops and courses that developed relevant skills – some embedded within sector-specific supervisory training programs and others available as stand-alone options. However, there wasn’t a simple “one stop shop” for supervisory training – an issue that’s been raised before in many other sectors.

If you’re in a role that involves supervising others, how did you learn how to do that? If your responsibility, instead, is to develop supervisors within your own organization, what resources are available to help them identify the competencies they need to do their jobs well? If gaps are identified, where and how can they learn?

Our own sector, career and employment services, is going through a transformational change at the moment. Within the next few months announcements will be made about which organizations will hold the contracts for government-funded employment services within BC. Many of the new centres will be larger than before, requiring a different level of supervisory competency. If you’ll be tasked with a supervisory / management role, are you ready? If not, we’re happy to chat with you about your needs and may be able to point you in the direction of some relevant training. Our book, Leadership Lessons for Transformational Times is a quick read that provides practical tips, too.