The Tool that Makes Employees Engaged and Productive
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Our work lives have a strong, usually negative effect on our mental health. Our jobs consume eight to 12 hours daily, and we rely on them for our very survival – it’d be weird if they didn’t have a profound effect on us.
Only about half of all workers report feeling satisfied with their jobs based on this study from the Pew Research Center. The primary catalysts of job dissatisfaction are long commute times, poor benefits packages, lack of opportunities for skill training, lack of opportunities for promotions, and, of course, pay that was too low even before inflation started running wild.
There’s only so much you can do to improve engagement (which sits at an abysmal 32% among workers) without taking a huge chunk out of your profit margins, but there is one incredibly potent tool that keeps employees engaged and productive: impactful recognition.
The formula for impactful recognition
Employees who don’t feel satisfied, appropriately compensated, or engaged with their work are likely to quit as soon as they get the chance. That’s not a huge deal when you’re talking about jobs that don’t require much training, but it becomes a problem when you get into skilled jobs that require advanced degrees and years of experience.
Retaining employees is critical for firms that rely on specialized labor (like, financial advisory firms), and there’s a low-cost formula for reducing turnover. It’s about impactful recognition.
Here’s the formula: authenticity + high frequency + powerful message = Employees who feel seen, needed, and appreciated.
Recognition is the name of the game – though few know how to play it.
What pops into your mind when you think of the word “authentic?” The food at your favorite restaurant? The certificate that came with your dad’s collectible autographed baseball?
There are no wrong answers, just a pattern: Authentic things come from an authentic place.
That’s what you want to aim for when recognizing your employees’ work.
If you want your recognition to be impactful, it can’t come pre-packaged or postdated. Employee-of-the-month awards or superlatives given out at mandatory work functions don’t cut it. But you know what does? A pat on the back. A simple, in-the-moment compliment.
Anytime an employee does something good, say so. That’s all it takes.
Recognizing good work or achievements on a monthly or yearly basis is pointless. Imagine an employee does something great in January. If you jot it down and wait until the Christmas party to give them kudos for it, chances are they won’t even remember what you’re talking about. Worse, they’ll have gone the whole year thinking you didn’t notice, didn’t care, or just took their work for granted.
Everyone craves feedback, especially when it’s positive. Most people interpret a lack of negative feedback as a sign that they’re doing okay. But a lack of positive feedback makes people nervous. Imposter syndrome is incredibly common among smart, capable people, and since that describes you and your employees, there could be a bit of that going around your office too.
It doesn’t take much. Just a few kind words here and there (as in multiple times a week, not once or twice a quarter). You’ll be shocked at the way an employees’ eyes will brighten when you recognize that, yes, they did do what you asked them to. It doesn’t take much. You just have to do it often.
Powerful messages of recognition/appreciation do not come in the form of 20-minute monologues delivered from a dais while your employees wait for you to let them go home. They’re short. Simple. Built from just two building blocks. “I see you” and “I appreciate it.”
You could wait until the Christmas party to deliver that big, long speech to recognize your employees’ achievements. Everyone – even the employee in question – will check out within 30 seconds, and any resulting warmth or goodwill will fade by the time the year is over. Or you could parcel out your praise in smaller, more frequent chunks.
Impactful recognition is a powerful thing. It keeps people going, gives them the sense that they belong, and lets them know that you appreciate them and their work. It’s also a lot easier than you might think. Make a habit of it. Keep your eye out for opportunities to say “great job” and express positive reinforcement more often than you think you should.
You might think your employees know you appreciate them, but when was the last time you told them? If it wasn’t today, well, get on that.
Matt Reiner is a CFA, CFP®, and partner at Capital Investment Advisors, a $2.8+ billion RIA in Atlanta. Reiner is also CEO of Wela Strategies, a sister company to Capital Investment Advisors, and is the founder and CEO of Benjamin™. Benjamin is an AI technology created by Reiner after seeing the gaps in technology used in his own firm. Reiner's true passion is using his vast experience to coach other advisors across the country, helping them evaluate their firms' practices and find the best strategies for future success. To reach Matt Reiner, visit www.MattReiner.com.