A Failure to Communicate

Recognize Employees… Or Lose Them!

One of my favorite movie scenes comes from Cool Hand Luke. A very frustrated warden (played to a T by Strother Martin) has a problem getting through to a convict played by Paul Newman. Nothing seems to get through to the incorrigible Luke. While I’m not suggesting working in your shop is the same as a prison, “the failure to communicate” can be the same.

A friend — the names have been changed to protect the innocent so we will just call him “Luke” — has worked for a motorcycle dealership for about a year. When Luke first accepted the gig, he thought it was his dream job and he was excited for better pay and a change of pace. Does this sound familiar? Similar to the “Grass is Greener” article from last month. Anyway Luke couldn’t wait to work for this particular company, on the bikes he’d always loved and was certified for, and with professionals that would teach him so much more.
However, it turned out the manager of the shop wasn’t a dream boss. No matter what Luke did, he couldn’t get on the right side with the warden… um, I mean please the boss. Luke knew his skills weren’t lacking. He’d trained with mechanics who were excellent, and supplemented those skills with hours of OEM training and slews of certifications. In fact, he started working on motorcycles when he was in his early teens and already had years of experience working on all makes and models. His enthusiasm and passion for motorcycles was contagious and everywhere he went, people responded to his positive attitude. Luke was, by all accounts, the ideal, dare I say, perfect, employee, yet Luke was miserable.
Why? What was making Luke, and so many other employees with the same amount of passion and drive, unhappy at work? Simple…Luke’s issue WAS his boss. But, in a strange twist, turned out the boss actually thought Luke was an awesome employee. However, the boss just never told Luke that, or gave him any sort of recognition for his skills or positive attitude.

So, Luke’s story begs the question, how DO managers and employers recognize employees in a manner that really lets the employee know how important they are to the company? It’s a tough question. Companies spend a fortune on gift cards, trophies, employee of the month and other campaigns meant to show employees they’re doing well. Unfortunately, studies show these efforts are in vain and as a company, you’re wasting your money.

Think about it, as an employee, what would you want? Does a $10 or even a $20 gift card to Starbucks, really fill your inner spirit with happiness and a feeling of kudos for a job well done? No. A gift card, and other type of monetary incentive, actually causes the opposite effect of what it’s supposed to do.

Monetary incentives tend to lower motivation. It’s a sad, but well studied fact. What about a $100 gift card? That would motivate you, right? Wrong! All that does is convince you the job SHOULD provide an extra $100… and when it stops providing that, you lose even more motivation. In psychology, they say your intrinsic motivation (doing something because it’s personally motivating to you) is reduced or gone, and instead, your extrinsic motivation takes over (your desire to do something because you want to earn the reward).

According to Gallup, the number one reason people leave their jobs is due to their manager…because their manager doesn’t make them feel appreciated or is micromanaging them — that’s a topic for a different article.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: An effective employee recognition program reduces employee turnover by 31%. What manager doesn’t want to reduce turnover and make employees feel appreciated? Especially in the service department! Good techs are hard to find.

Here are some basic tips on how to develop an effective employee recognition program:

1) Create a peer-to-peer recognition program. Employees who obtain praise from other coworkers often feel like the recognition is more valid. They feel like a manager “has” to praise them… but co-workers, well, they don’t have as much skin in the game.

Some companies create a team to review employee of the month nominations… and every month peers vote on which employee is most deserving of the honor. A billboard or section of the company website with a photo of the winning employee is an easy, free, way to share that recognition with the entire company.

Don’t rely solely on an employee of the month to honor employees. It’s not really enough. This in conjunction with a gift card…that’s a win because the incentive is not necessarily the money, it’s the recognition for employee of the month!

At least weekly, find something good that an employee did, or does and recognize it. Recognize the employee immediately. Delayed recognition comes off as an afterthought. When you see good, praise good.

2) Don’t use general praises to recognize people. Be specific. Tell them that you appreciated the extra time they took working with a particular client. Or how well they did a particular job. Letting them know that you’re paying attention makes them feel important. Don’t repeatedly praise the same thing. This will take some effort, and you’ll have to pay attention. Paying attention will help you not only see things that could be praised, but could also help you as a manager to find areas where training could be improved.

3) Say thank you. When an employee does their job, sure, they’re getting paid for it. You shouldn’t have to say thank you all the time. But what you should do is be a good person. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated, and you’ll find the rewards will come to you in spades. Saying thank you when someone completes a task should be a standard thing you do.It recognized their work and effort, but also shows that you appreciate them, that they are important to you and the business.

4) Ask for feedback. By providing your employees the option to provide feedback, you are giving them a voice that they normally wouldn’t have. And, once you make it clear your employees are welcome to talk to you, about anything, you’ll find the entire company can benefit.

The bottom line? COMMUNICATE! Remember that by simply communicating with your employees you can change attitudes, and make the worksite a place where people want to be. Communication fosters trust, and by fostering trust, you’ll find your praise will mean more.

And if you are like Strother Martin’s character in Cool Hand Luke and continue to have “a failure to communicate…” well that is whereMotorcycleIndustryJobs.com comes in!

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