Post by M.J. Ryan, contributing Women On Business writer
What if I told you you could improve employee engagement and create greater profitability and productive without spending a dime and expending only seconds a day? You can with a very simple action that too many of us take for granted—praise.
Based on ten million workplace interviews in 114 countries, The Gallup organization indentified 12 questions that when people can answer yes to create workplace excellence. One is: In the last seven days have I received recognition or praise for doing good work? Employees who answer no are twice as likely to quit in the next year. But there are bigger consequences for the organization beyond folks leaving. Variations in this question account for 10-20% differences in productivity and revenue, and thousands of loyal customers. One large company calculated that each percentage point this element rose in the yes column equated to hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. It is so powerful that Gallup identifies it as the greatest lost opportunity in business today.
In a certain way of course, the fact that praise affects the bottom line is obvious. If I tell you you’re doing a good job, you will feel motivated to keep on going and perhaps even work harder. But is only recently that brain science confirms why. When you receive praise or recognition, your brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which gives a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction. Brains crave dopamine and people change their behavior unconsciously to get more. In a very real way, we are all working to get this “hit.” That’s why 71% of workers in another large survey said that praise was more important than money.
Making sure the folks who work with and for you (and you too!) get enough dopamine is important because it actually helps the brain make good decisions and choices. It is also crucial to memory and learning. When we don’t get praised, the person’s brain says, “There’s nothing here so let’s move on.” Therefore success is not leveraged or reinforced.
Understanding this means that we rethink performance evaluations, which generally are focused on weaknesses. Praise supports strength-based development, which has been shown to create a 36.4% increase in performance over weakness-based approaches that actually have a -26.8% impact on performance. That is a huge difference! It means that you want to look for when the person is doing it right—even if it’s only once and not perfect, and encourage them to continue to improve on that rather than focusing on what they’ve done wrong.
Liberally sprinkle praise and watch performance zoom.
Praise How Tos
- Effects of praise are short-lived, so need to be applied frequently—daily at best, weekly at least.
- Aim for 5 expressions of positive feedback to every negative one. Research has shown this ratio creates high performing teams because it generates “grounded positivity.”
- Praise must be specific to be effective. “Great job” doesn’t work because the person doesn’t know how it’s great or what the results of their efforts were. Make sure you put the action that s/he did and the effect. For instance: “When you stayed late to finish the report, it meant that our team could meet the deadline. I appreciate your persistence and hard work.”