1,001 Ways to Engage Employees: Help People Do Better What They Do Best

1,001 Ways to Engage Employees: Help People Do Better What They Do Best


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1,001 Ways to Engage Employees: Help People Do Better What They Do Best by Bob Nelson

Employee engagement has been consistently cited as a top and growing priority by CEOs, managers, and human resources leaders across the country. This new title from best-selling author Dr. Bob Nelson will help move any organization from just measuring the need to engage employees to actually changing management behaviors that will lead to a stronger culture of engagement. Your organization will become more effective at both attracting and retaining talent and maximizing the contribution of your employees.

1,001 Ways to Engage Employees:

  • Categorizes specific research-based factors proven to impact employee engagement.
  • Cites hundreds of examples of what other companies are doing to enhance employee engagement--ideas you can use right now.
  • Offers practical insights and advice from hundreds of clients Dr. Bob has worked with.
  • Highlights the key research on employee engagement you need to know and use.
  • Is the only resource on the market that guarantees behavioral change on the part of your leaders that will deliver desired results.

    Employees are your company's most important asset. Attracting the best, getting them to do their best work, and keeping them in the organization are critical to your company's success. 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees gives you all the powerful tools you need.

  • Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9781632651372
    Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
    Publication date: 07/23/2018
    Pages: 304
    Sales rank: 1,201,023
    Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.70(d)

    About the Author

    Dr. Bob Nelson is a leading authority on the topics of employee engagement, motivation, recognition, and retention. His many books have sold more than 5,000,000 copies and have been translated into 20 languages. He has spent his career researching best practices and helping managers and organizations implement strategies and practices to enhance the employee experience and achieve greater results for both the organization and employees. He frequently presents for corporations, conferences, and associations across the country and around the world and has been featured in national media such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and CBS 60 Minutes. He lives in San Diego, California.

    Read an Excerpt



    There are lots of reasons why managers can't provide positive reinforcement to their employees at work, but just one reason why they must find a way:

    It really works.

    Recognition, thanking and praising employees for doing good work, is the number-one driver of employee engagement, significantly representing 56 percent of employees' perception of engagement where they work. This might be surprising because thanking someone is such a simple thing — almost common sense — when dealing with others. Yet, most employees report they don't get very much genuine, sincere thanks where they work. In fact, in one survey only 12 percent of employees report they receive meaningful recognition where they work, and 34 percent reported that they didn't find meaningful those things their company did to recognize them.

    Yet this commonsense notion is far from common practice in most organizations today. Why is that? In my twenty-five years of working with this topic, I think it's because we often confuse the behavior of recognizing employees with things that are associated with recognition (money, gift cards, points, pins, plaques, and so on).

    In fact, in my doctoral dissertation on the topic, I posed a simple question: Why do some managers use recognition while others do not? I found that a manager's access to tools, programs, or a budget for recognizing employees was not significant in causing them to actually recognize their employees. Translation: Employees feel special from the act of being recognized in a timely, sincere, and specific way by someone they hold in high esteem when they have done good work. This is also why many companies that spend millions of dollars on recognition tools, items, cash substitutes, and merchandise still often have a major portion of their employee population report that they don't feel valued.

    According to the Aberdeen Group's employee engagement research, "By acknowledging an employee's positive behaviors and demonstrating appreciation for employee contributions, that individual worker will continue those behaviors, stay engaged with the company, and feel motivated to perform." Sixty percent of best-in-class organizations (defined as those in the top 20 percent of aggregate performers in their study) stated that employee recognition is extremely valuable in driving individual performance.

    Managers and organizations struggle to systematically recognize employee performance when it happens. The notion is commonsense but far from common practice in business today; managers tend to be too busy and too removed from their employees to notice when they have done good work and to thank them for it. It doesn't take much: A survey of American workers found that 63 percent of the respondents ranked "a pat on the back" as a meaningful incentive.

    The widespread lack of rewards and recognition programs at a time when it is most needed is particularly ironic because what motivates people the most tends to take so little time and money to implement. It doesn't take a huge bonus check or a trip to the Bahamas or a lavish annual awards banquet to get the best out of people. It often just takes a little time, thoughtfulness, and energy to notice what employees do, thank them for it, and encourage others to do the same. Here are some other simple forms of recognition any manager can use:

    * When you hear good news, act on it! Share it with others and thank those responsible.

    * Take a few moments at the end of the day to reflect on whose performance stands out. Write those individuals thank-you notes and leave the notes by their workstations as you leave.

    * Take time at the beginning or end of meetings to share positive news, such as letters from customers, or ask if there is any praise due from one team member to another.

    * When you read your mail, look for positive items to share with others or at staff meetings.

    * Take time to listen when employees need to talk. Be responsive to people, not just problems.

    * Make an effort to meet with employees you don't see or speak with very often. Take a break together; have coffee or an off-site lunch.

    * Remember the four-to-one rule: Every time you criticize or correct someone, plan to praise or thank that same person at least four times.

    * Take time to celebrate individual or group milestones, desired behavior, and achievements.

    At the same time, some 80 percent of managers feel they are pretty good at recognizing their employees, which is a big part of the disconnect. If managers feel they're providing recognition, but employees feel they aren't receiving it, who's right? Since employee engagement stems from employee perceptions, they have the upper hand on the matter, and managers need to find ways to provide more recognition and with greater frequency.

    It's not that difficult to provide more recognition, anyway. The basic behavior is quite simple. The best recognition has the following components:

    * Soon: Timing is important. The sooner you acknowledge someone after a success, the more that behavior or result is reinforced, and the more likely it will be repeated.

    * Sincere: Good recognition comes from the heart and rings true to the recipient. You can't just go through the motions if you want recognition to be valued.

    * Specific: Some of the sincerity in any praise comes from specifics, that is, evidence that what you're recognizing an employee for is valid and important.

    * Personal: Whenever possible, you should praise others directly, ideally in person.

    * Positive: Provide only 100 percent positive comments. Avoid the temptation to add a "yes, but" or other critique. Save that for a developmental conversation!

    * Proactive: Have a sense of urgency in showing gratitude to others. When you see something, say something!

    Once you have established a baseline of providing employees timely, sincere, specific, positive praise and recognition, you can build upon that with other forms of recognition they value.

    To successfully grow employee engagement in your organization, you must make recognition a foundational part of everyone's work life. It is critical to driving engagement and improving organization performance. In this chapter, you will find a collection of fresh examples representing the rich variety of practices others use to recognize their staff.

    * * *

    Dena Saddler, an HR generalist with Infinite Electronics says, "I always do, but should not, underestimate the power of a simple 'thank you.' It should be specific about what the person did and why it was important. But mostly, it should say something about how the person's action helped you, made your day better, or made your life easier." When Saddler worked for the City of Dallas, she gave and received a lot of thank-you cards using their Thank You program. The city provided cards to every employee, who then decided to give a card to whomever they wanted — upward, downward, across, and sideways. The cards included a place to identify which of the city's values the person's action represented. "But it was mostly the handwritten, heartfelt description and why the action was so important that was most meaningful to the recipient," says Saddler. "Anyone who was lucky enough to receive one of these thank-you cards was anxious to display it in their locker or on their bulletin board, maybe to get their attention every day, maybe to remind them about why work is important, really. It's not the money; you can get that at any job."

    Joanna Adams, a supervisor for Highmark, a health insurance company in Wilmington, Delaware, writes:

    I am a supervisor at my current job, and recognition is always something I have valued and held in the highest regard. I have a number of staff working under me, and I always take the time to not only acknowledge when they have excelled in some way but also to build upon their bench strengths, that is, their potential. Most employees work hard because they want to feel they matter to their employer. A hallmark of a good employer-employee relationship is not only recognizing when someone has done a good job but also for the potential they may offer. Because of that mentality, I have found my staff on the whole works harder and has a fierce loyalty to me because of that relationship. So we both end up benefiting in the long run.

    Recognizing positive, on-brand behaviors within an organization is critical in keeping employees engaged. People appreciate being recognized by their supervisors, management, and peers, and it demonstrates the organization is committed to its people.

    Core Creative, a Milwaukee-based advertising and branding agency with approximately fifty employees, understands that its people are its most important asset, and they developed a program for recognizing the good work of others. The Bring It! program infuses core's values and unique culture into daily activities. Employees are encouraged to nominate their peers for exemplifying on-brand behavior via an online form.

    Patti Schauer, the company's vice president of finance and human resources shares specifics: "Each month, all nominees receive a token for the Bring-It-O-Matic 5000 Positive Reinforcement Machine, a refurbished gumball machine located in our lobby, which serves as a great conversation piece for clients and visitors." All nominations are also shared on the company's internal TV channel and on Yammer, their internal communication website. Nominees can win individual or all-agency prizes. Prizes include gift cards, free car washes, an office breakfast, premier parking, or their choice of an all-agency spirit day, such as Pajama Day or Dress Like Your Boss Day, college wear, Packer's NFL jerseys, and so on. The Bring It! program has proven to be a great way for team members at Core Creative to show their peers that they see their hard work and value it.

    "We believe what gets recognized gets repeated," says Kimberly Heller, PhD, organizational development coordinator for Iowa Specialty Hospital. "A simple but effective thing we do is to provide employee thank-you notes. Each leader writes handwritten, personal notes to employees to recognize their efforts that are in line with our organization's core values, how they demonstrate our standards of behavior. They also write notes to recognize people for going above and beyond what is expected of them. The notes are mailed to the employee's home, which we believe is more impactful than receiving the notes in their mailboxes at work."

    Leaders use a tracking grid to see who and how often recognition has taken place. They write in the names of their direct reports (rows). The columns are labeled by the week for the month. Each week, the leaders tally when they write a thank-you note to any of their direct reports. At the end of the month when they meet with their supervisor, a senior leader, they report on the successes of their employees along with the recognition they provided.

    "Another form of fun and effective recognition we do is called a gratitude exchange," adds Heller. "In celebration of Valentine's Day, each department in the hospital is assigned another department to whom they express their gratitude for contributions they make to our success as an organization. Each department uses their creativity to tailor valentine goodies to match the department and its employees."

    When Heather Machado was a leadership and organizational consultant at Hartford HealthCare in Connecticut, they developed a Gold Medal Manager Award based on ten leadership behaviors. It gave employees a chance to recognize their direct supervisor and explain why they deserved the award. In her role, she analyzed patterns, themes, and behaviors described in the submissions. There were then ten to twelve items submitted to senior leadership and vetted for the award. Then Gold Medal managers were selected, recognized at a system level, and recognized in their respective facilities.

    When she chaired the recognition and celebration teams at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, they created a celebration workshop that linked the core values to accomplishments of teams within the organization. Supervisors and leaders learned best practices in rewarding and recognizing their employees, and supplies were given to create celebration events/activities (balloons in branded colors, celebration templates, a budget worksheet, and so on). The result was a 10 percent increase in the organization's celebration-practices score within the organization, related to organizational and team goals.

    At both locations they developed an electronic platform that linked the core values of integrity, caring, excellence, and safety, so employees at all levels of the organization can recognize each other. In doing so they were able to explain and give examples of how those they are recognizing exemplify and demonstrate the core values. Employees' supervisors also received notification of those who were recognized. In addition, all 18,000 employees went through leadership training based on their ten leadership behaviors. Those behaviors are also linked to the electronic recognition and allows for timely, specific, and meaningful recognition as employees demonstrate the behavioral expectations of the organization.

    Home Depot — the home-improvement chain based in Atlanta, Georgia — awards employees who live the company's values with Homer badges, named after the company's mascot. Employees who collect three of the badges are eligible for a cash bonus. To date, more than 400,000 Homer badges have been awarded to Home Depot employees.

    Christina Zurek, solution manager with the ITA Group, an event, incentive, and recognition company, shared how their client Home Depot handles this recognition with their store associates:

    Each time associates are seen demonstrating a core company value, they earn a badge that they display on their apron — part of their uniform. As a customer, it's easy to identify associates who are regularly recognized, which in turn makes it more comfortable to ask them questions. In addition, it can be a great conversation starter for a customer who may not be familiar with the program; they often ask about why there are so many badges, which then leads to an opportunity for the associate to feel recognized and share their pride in what they have achieved.

    Jennifer Clark, senior vice president and director of human resources for Benchmark Community Bank in Kenbridge, Virginia, says their niche is in the small communities they serve where customers want and find a family-type atmosphere:

    Our message to employees is clear: "Take care of the customer's needs." Employees do not have sales quotas — very unusual for our industry, but they know that if they take care of the customer's financial needs, the results will follow. Customers love banking at Benchmark because we make them feel special. That message is communicated from the top down.

    Benchmark's values are not written down anywhere in a handbook. Employees learn about them at an onboarding class in their first three weeks with the bank. During this session, employees learn what separates Benchmark from other banks, and they learn their role in fulfilling the bank's mission to take care of the customer. To make that happen, they created the All Star Awards program.

    One of their core values is caring. They created a program for peers to nominate others they see going the extra mile for customers to be All Star of the Month. Each month, the committee selects the winner from peer nominations. At the end of the year, the All Star service team selects one winner from the twelve monthly award recipients. The president presents the award and reinforces caring and going the extra mile for coworkers and customers.

    Adds Clark, "Our most recent winner was a teller who had a drive-up customer mention to her that she had vision issues one day when she was cashing her check. The teller decided to contact the local Lion's Club and worked with them to get her a free pair of glasses. The woman was so grateful."

    Case Study A: Employee Recognition

    Rhett Power, a head coach in Arlington, Virginia, realized early in building his first company, Wild Creations, that they had to figure out a way to reward and recognize their employees. The challenge was they had no money. As a result, they came up with a no-budget recognition plan to ensure employees know how much they meant to the company.


    Excerpted from "1,001 Ways to Engage Employees"
    by .
    Copyright © 2018 Dr. Bob Nelson.
    Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

    Table of Contents

    Foreword Marshall Goldsmith 11

    Preface 15

    Introduction 19

    1 Recognition 29

    2 Career Development 59

    3 One's Immediate Manager 89

    4 Strategy and Mission 105

    5 Job Content 131

    6 Senior Management's Relationship with Employees 145

    7 Open and Effective Communication 173

    8 Coworker Satisfaction and Cooperation 189

    9 Availability of Resources 205

    10 Organizational Culture 219

    Featured Companies 259

    Acknowledgements 283

    About the Author 285

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