Effective leadership and recognition can boost engagement

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Managers should be encouraged and empowered to “celebrate the heck out of success”

Effective management through encouraging, identifying and rewarding staff effort and loyalty is becoming increasingly important in the workplace, according to O.C. Tanner executive vice president David Sturt.

The author of New York Times bestseller Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love, said that managers often don’t understand their role in highlighting employees' good work and length of service in a meaningful way. However, good management skills can, he said, make employees feel their efforts are noticed, which in turn creates higher levels of employee innovation, customer satisfaction and company productivity.

Sturt said this leadership skill can be taught through training. However, in some companies employee recognition skills are being passed down from manager to manager. “Employees who are Generation X expect more recognition and appreciation from their line managers,” he said. “As a result, younger employees who become managers have experienced this practice and are picking up on this more than people who have been in management a long time.”

Sturt highlighted an acronym for effective leadership: SAIL. This focuses on the situation, action, impact and then links this back to the company values.

“We find variations of good leadership across industries,” he said. “For example, Virgin Trains is trying to do a lot of training to help its managers recognise and encourage good practice from employees. In contrast, Dow Chemical has been investing to pass management skills from person to person and weave this into its company culture by including recognition at staff meetings and events.”

Sturt added that HR directors could encourage business leaders and line managers to practise and adopt staff recognition in team meetings.

“Every organisation has regular meetings and HR people can use those opportunities to share tips on how to recognise good staff conduct,” he said. “Using these opportunities to highlight someone who’s done something really noteworthy can display to staff that their work is being appreciated and having an impact.

“I’ve seen it where leaders tee up their CEOs who have got an employee with an anniversary coming up,” he added. “The HR leaders meet with the leader to inform them of the event and prep them for that. As a result the CEO is better prepared to make a good job of the recognition exercise.”

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