I’m a big fan of what the team at The Marcus Buckingham Company, or TMBC, is doing when it comes to employee engagement, particularly around front-line leaders of people.
TMBC has found that the attitudes and behaviors of front-line supervisors have the biggest impact on employee engagement and retention. We should be focusing our training and development efforts on these leaders to help us improve employee engagement and drive retention — and to prevent recruiters and staffing professionals from drowning in open requisitions.
The hard part is teaching these leaders how to show appreciation and empathy to their teams, while at the same time driving needed results for the business.
I’ll give you five ways your front-line supervisors can have fun, show appreciation and increase employee engagement and retention.
1. Teammate t-shirt of the week/month.
For $20 and 10 minutes, you can get on a custom t-shirt design site, upload a picture of the employee you want to recognize — and then wear that shirt to work. It’s quirky, creepy, and silly and fun all rolled into one. If you wear a t-shirt with a big head of an employee on it, your efforts will be remembered. The employee will feel something!
2. Bake some cookies.
Everyone loves cookies. You don’t even have to make them from scratch. Every grocery store has ready-to-bake frozen cookie dough. Buy a tube, turn on the oven, put them on a plate, and deliver them the next day to the employee. Taking that time will warm their heart, and they’ll (likely) share with the rest of the team.
3. Create a motivating team name, make it public — and have fun with it!
Jim D’Amico, head of talent acquisition at Spectrum Health, came up a great team name. He called his team “The Best Damn TA Team on the Planet” and had them paint it in big letters across the wall of their talent acquisition offices. They didn’t start out being the best TA team on the planet, but they bought into the vision and worked to get there.
4. Create friendship opportunities.
We all want a best friend at work. As a supervisor, you don’t necessarily wish to be that friend to your employees, but you can help them create friendships with each other. Think potluck lunches, after work get-togethers, or work-sponsored athletic teams. If you build it, they will come. If they come, they will build lasting relationships. Those with lasting relationships at work will be more engaged.
5. Hug it out.
Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I love a good hug. I want to work for a person who will give me a hug when I need it. Also, someone who will give me a kick in the butt when I need a kick in the butt. I need both. Empathy and motivation. That’s the job of the front-line supervisor. You might not be a hugger, but you better find a way to show you understand the struggle.
Remember, there is no secret sauce to engagement.
Front-line leaders need to be both creative and consistent in their leadership behaviors. Organizationally, we need to give our front-line leaders permission, as well as examples of what this looks like in our workplaces.
Recognition is easy and hard at the same time. If you link recognition to an overall talent acquisition and retention strategy, the payback is awesome.