THE ULTIMATE BLOG ON ALL THINGS HR
& THEN SOME
& THEN SOME
I was talking with a colleague recently and she told me last year she spent $140 on her toddler’s birthday cake. My eyes widened and I’m pretty sure my mouth gaped. She continued telling me how she spent even more on custom decorations and gifts. Then she told me of a birthday party for a friend’s child, which was held at a local park. The parent offered guests a gargantuan bowl of cheese puff balls, a stash of Capri Suns, and homemade cupcakes. The kids loved it!
Have you ever worked for a company that threw branded schtuff at employees? You know, things like insulated coffee cups, laptop bags, and fancy pens with the company logo splashed all over it? And be honest, this schtuff ends up at the bottom of your closet, in your trunk, or in a paper bag for Goodwill, right?
Picture this: decision makers sitting around a table thumbing through impressive catalogs of products aimed at rewarding and recognizing employees. Employers believe they know what employees want and they believe it is throwing money at employees. However, this may be done in ways that really have no meaning attached. The “C Suite” can often get it wrong. It’s as if the “C Suite” members were blindfolded throwing darts and whatever the darts landed on is what the management team chose.
Instead of choosing blindly, management should be proactive and seek employee feedback. HR can help with this process by gathering employee opinions. This can be easily accomplished through surveys, focus groups, and suggestion boxes. These are just a few options—options that cost companies little to no money—highlighting democratic methods. Even if an individual’s preference isn’t chosen, the employee will feel included in the process. However, be sure to follow through with the results by acting upon them as well as communicating the results to everyone.
For example, if a hospital decides to move to colored scrubs to differentiate departments, employees should be involved in deciding what color scrubs their department will wear. The hospital could have an unveiling of scrub colors with refreshments. This will encourage employees to embrace the change while bringing employees together in a fun environment.
When employees are given a choice and voice for even the littlest of things, employees thrive and the organization benefits. Authors of The Leadership Challenge hit the nail on the head, “A one-size-fits-all approach…feels insincere, forced, and thoughtless. Over time it can even increase cynicism and actually damage credibility. Credibility is the foundation of leadership.”
To augment credibility, leadership would do well to clearly communicate their values AND walk the talk. The Leadership Challenge authors counsel, “Shared values are the foundational pillars for building productive and genuine working relationships.” I believe employee engagement is tied to values. To me, this contributes immensely to a positive work culture. Creating common bonds through shared values promotes a sense of community. Employees want to feel they belong and that their goals match up to organizational goals.
Has your employer hosted celebrations galore: buffet feast, open bar, karaoke, photo booth, and dance floor with DJ? And do you ever wonder to yourself, “This is cool. But why did they spend so much money on all of this? I can think of better ways to spend company funds.” Honestly, I believe this creates an air of suspicion regarding what else the “C Suite” may be spending superfluous amounts of money on without care. Again, I point to credibility.
As an HR professional, I repeatedly stress the importance of the employee voice to managers and administration. But an employee wants to hear their supervisor’s voice as well. Positive performance appraisal is a huge component of employee engagement. “Praise guides performance at work by making people feel valued and happy…and has a way of keeping people on course,” advises Scott Carbonara, author of Manager’s Guide to Employee Engagement. Again, the only company expense here is the supervisor’s time. An inexpensive win-win!
Not going to lie: employees appreciate tangibles like raises and bonuses. But I firmly believe if you recruit them at a competitive wage and treat them as part of the team, money won’t be first on their minds. Engagement isn’t always about the pocketbook.
Unless employers ask, they will continue to get it wrong. Employees don’t want fancy pens and wild parties. Employees want intangibles like feeling valued and a genuinely positive culture. These are intrinsic in nature with a powerfully positive effect. So before employers go all out on a company celebration, stop and ask whether this party is really to make the “C Suite” feel good or if it’s truly what employees want. Employers might be surprised to learn employee engagement costs little or no money at all.
Carbonara, S. (2013). Manager’s guide to employee engagement. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Kouzes, J.M, Posner, B.Z. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Creator: That makes me sound all powerful. I suppose I am in many ways. Hi! My name's Amy and I've been practicing HR for twelve years now. No big deal. I am here to offer fresh perspective on HR topics and topics about the world we live in and life in general.