In addition to looking for fulfillment in one’s work, today’s employees expect and seek balance in their lives. In fact, they are being motivated by things other than what work offers. The old model involved employees sacrificing family time for work because such a sacrifice was viewed as supporting the family. Today, people are sacrificing their work for more family and personal time. Why the change?
First, many people who grew up with parents who worked so much that they were rarely home simply don’t want that for their children. Today’s parents— especially men—want to be more involved in their children’s lives beginning at birth. Second, for economic and environmental reasons, there has been a recent cultural shift away from wanting more “stuff.” As a result, we don’t need to work quite as hard to earn money. Third, people are more concerned about their physical and mental well-being and are making conscious decisions to work less and take better care of themselves. All in all, it is not simply about working hard and making money.
In sum, our understanding of motivation and the factors that motivate employees have changed over time. The Greatest Generation is not the workforce of today, and organizations need to understand that the “new deal” is that there isn’t any deal—employees will leave for a better opportunity without hesitation. Moreover, employees are more willing than ever to work and earn less if it means being able to spend more time with their families and lead a more balanced life.
Reward and Recognition Programs Don’t Work
Traditional recognition and reward programs based on the principles of operant conditioning are doomed before they commence. Under the best of circumstances, such programs are relatively benign and reinforce only those employees who are already the most engaged and productive. More likely they lead to breakdowns in team functioning, decrease creativity and risk taking, create stress for supervisors, and decrease the motivation of the very employees who present the greatest opportunity to increase your human capital. Thus, organizations spend valuable resources creating and administering programs that, at best, provide no return on their investment and are most likely to produce a negative one. If carrots don’t work, what does?
The RESPECT Model: Building a Culture of Employee Engagement
Using the word respect as an acronym, the RESPECT Model is defined by seven critical drivers that influence an employee’s internal assessment of respect and subsequent level of engagement
Recognition: Employees feel acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions. Supervisors regularly recognize deserving team members, and people are rewarded based on their work performance.
Empowerment: Supervisors provide employees with the tools, resources, and training to succeed. Employees experience high levels of autonomy and are encouraged to take risks. Supervisors take the initiative to communicate with employees and ensure that they are equipped to succeed, not fail.
Supportive feedback: Supervisors provide employees with timely, specific feedback in a supportive, sincere, and constructive manner. Feedback is delivered for the purpose of reinforcement and improvement—never to embarrass or punish.
Partnering: Employees are treated as business partners and actively collaborate in business-making decisions. They receive financial information, understand the big picture, and are given wide latitude in decision making. Supervisors serve as advocates for their employees’ development and growth. Team members and departments actively communicate and share information with one another.
Expectations: Supervisors ensure that goals, objectives, and business priorities are clearly established and communicated. Employees know precisely the standards by which their performance is evaluated and are held accountable for meeting their performance expectations.
Consideration: Supervisors, managers, and team members demonstrate consideration, caring, and thoughtfulness toward one another. Supervisors actively seek to understand employees’ opinions and concerns and are understanding and supportive when employees experience personal problems.
Trust: Supervisors demonstrate trust and confidence in employees’ skills and abilities. Employees trust that their supervisor will do right by them. Leaders keep their promises and commitments and, in return, are trusted by employees.
RESPECT is about a way of being and behaving and is intended to change the culture of your organization from the top down. Leaders who commit to learning and following the tenets and principles of this model will transform their organization’s culture and realize unprecedented results in employee engagement and productivity.
The simple truth remains that acknowledging employees’ contributions increases their sense of pride and respect, which in turn increases their discretionary effort and engagement. Employees whose efforts go unnoticed feel disrespected and disengage. There is no more basic or powerful tool in a supervisor’s toolbox than positive reinforcement—and those who fail to use it are a liability, not an asset, to their organization.
The primary responsibility of supervisors or any leaders is to make those underneath them successful. We show respect for our employees when we provide them with the training and resources that lead to their success and ongoing development. As we challenge employees with new learning opportunities, they become increasingly more valuable and engaged, and they significantly increase the human capital of the organization. Reflect for a minute. Are you creating an environment in which employees can thrive or just survive? What suggestions and solutions can you take away from this chapter and begin implementing immediately to empower your employees?
#3 Supportive Feedback
As a manager, growing and developing employees so that they remain engaged and continue to become more valuable to the organization is your primary and most important responsibility. Providing regular, supportive feedback to all employees as a sports coach would to his players is a critical part of the process.
Do you make your employees feel like valued partners? Do you respect their input or go about making decisions without engaging your own internal experts? When we respect people, we treat them as equals and partners. In so doing, you will dramatically increase their performance and productivity.
It doesn’t matter how well trained your people are—if they don’t clearly know what is expected of them, they are going to miss the mark. Supervisors who collaborate with employees to set clear goals show respect to their employees and foster a culture of engagement. A word of caution: all goals should be viewed as checkpoints on the path of continuous improvement. Never allow a goal to create a “ceiling effect,” where there is no room to grow. In other words, don’t let goals limit what is possible for you, your employees, or your organization.
Consider that acting considerately typically costs nothing and pays huge dividends in employee loyalty, which reduces absenteeism, tardiness, and turnover. Unfortunately, those who tend to discount the importance of consideration for employee engagement are also typically those who have low empathy.
Of the seven drivers, trust correlates highest with participants’ overall RESPECT score. A strong foundation of trust is absolutely necessary in order to experience a sense of respect and engagement. This is true in both personal and professional relationships. If you have identified trust as an area of opportunity for you, focus here first.
Implementing the RESPECT Model
Whether on the battlefield or in the boardroom, people follow leaders they respect and by whom they are respected. As such, respect brings with it great power to influence others and their behaviors. Respected leaders inspire followers to engage in the work that needs to be done to fulfill the mission and vision of the organization.
Many leaders, however, assume that respect should be automatically bestowed upon them based on their position and achievements. In truth, leaders must earn respect by treating those around them with RESPECT every day.