There will be six million proposals worldwide on Valentine's Day – I wonder how many of them will turn into 'engagements'?  It's ironic that we also use the term 'engaged' for employees who are enthusiastic and driven to achieve.  

A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) (i) reported how feeling valued can impact employee performance:

• Staff who feel 'valued' by their employer are significantly more motivated to do their very best (93 percent vs. 33 percent).
• They are more likely to recommend their workplace to others (85 percent vs. 19 percent).
• Employees who don't feel valued are more likely to seek new employment within 12 months (50 percent vs. 21 percent).

More than nine out of 10 employees who feel valued are engaged and show improved productivity.  With the UK showing the biggest productivity gap among the G7 economies (ii), maybe it's employers who should be down on one knee today!  

Imperfect relationships

Some partnerships this Valentine's Day will be secretly on the verge of a break up, at home and at work.  Staff members don't tell you they are looking for another job.  Some employees will secretly be attending interviews – but sometimes feeling 'heard', 'respected' and 'appreciated' is all that is needed to turn things around and retain someone special.

The performance review or 'appraisal' was supposed to be the manager's chance to engage people.  For some reason instead of listening, saying thank you, and setting goals, appraisals often became a huge paper exercise, followed by a grim meeting that felt like a trip to the headmaster's office, where employees were just compared to each other… then we wondered why they didn't work!  

In 2015, the CIPD pronounced the appraisals process ‘dead’ (iii).   One year later the CIPD acknowledged that where appraisals had been scrapped, performance was suffering (iv).    It seems the only thing worse for morale than appraisals is no appraisals!  Managers need to engage staff more than ever, and getting performance reviews right is the way forward.

So how can you engage staff?

Leadership is not just 'telling people what to do' – it's finding what makes people tick,  learning what works and using individual talents to deliver team performance.
Astronaut Ken Mattingly explained how leader Glynn S. Lunney brought calm, focus and productivity to a panic-stricken mission control room during the Apollo 13 crisis (v):

"Glynn stepped in, and this is where the most magnificent display of personal leadership that I’ve ever seen…. People were confused. They were highly trained to do things, but this was out of the experience base, and it was real, and we didn’t understand it…. He went around to every position in the room and gave them a question to get back to him on…  my sense was, it didn’t matter what question he asked. It was just get your mind on something constructive, and then it’ll all take care of itself… You could almost feel the room settle down."

Listening to employees is a vital part of the appraisals process, and employee feedback has been built into our Activ Appraisals software (vi).  The cumbersome paper has been eliminated from the process, and everything is done online.  Managers can even request peer feedback too, if required.  

Once Managers have listened, they are in an informed position to deliver their own, individual feedback and set SMART goals that will utilise the employee's skills.  It's a positive process, encourages regular reviews and it's about ongoing two way communication.  


Why would a 'one-box-fits-all' approach to reward work?  Buying your wife Black Magic and roses when she's told you she likes Dairy Milk and daisies a dozen times is not going to win her heart.  It's the same with employees – employers need to identify what makes each individual feel special and deliver it!  

I am not by any means an expert on benefits or reward – but I am an employer.  To boost morale on a Friday, I started buying fresh blueberry muffins for my team.  
I soon learned not everyone likes muffins – so one now has a cookie because she prefers them and some employees have tangerines instead because they are health conscious.   Similarly, if I buy soft drinks for the fridge at work, I make sure I buy some sugar free options so our diabetic team members are not excluded, and earl grey tea because one of our team likes drinking it.

Difficult? Not in the slightest, same shop, just tweaked my shopping list!   Seriously, if you want to know what people want, doesn't it make sense to just ask them?
There is however,  one motivator that works almost universally – not fake 'thanks', but a genuine, heartfelt appreciation for what people do.

Thank you

The CEO of a large blue chip company made a point of walking around the office and personally thanking every junior member of staff he saw there after hours. Most of these workers were on the minimum wage, but they never minded staying late occasionally to type proposals, they knew their efforts would be noticed and appreciated by the 'top man'.  Almost everyone likes appreciation.  If they think you will notice, employees will try harder – and saying thank you at home will go a long way too!

Happy Valentine's Day!


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