We all love superheroes, right? And why not? They possess supernatural or superhuman powers and, even more importantly, can use these powers to fight evil and protect us from supervillains.
But that’s just in the movies. Certainly we don’t face supervillains in the workplace? Wrong. Here are three supervillains I’ve come up against who may sound familiar to you as well:
1. Doctor Disengagement
This supervillain sucks engagement out of your employees, leaving them dissatisfied and unproductive, and causing disruption and devastation to your customers and your business.
This supervillain is a disengaged employee who hides out in your company and, when the time is right swoops in and lures others to join them. Magnetico promises that things are better on their side, leaving your business weak and vulnerable.
3. The Infiltrator
This supervillain is found in competitor companies that get stronger through weakening your company by infiltrating and stealing your valuable talent. They entice your employees by convincing them to join in their quest, leaving you again weak and vulnerable.
But don’t worry, because I’ve got a secret weapon that will turn your employees into superheroes, not only helping you to defeat the supervillains, but also helping your business to succeed in this competitive and challenging world we all operate in.
The secret weapon is recognition, something that I’ve seen time and time again turn “normal” employees into superheroes. Now they may not be able to leap tall buildings or lift a bus, but here are some of the superpowers I’ve seen emerge when recognition is done in a strategic, continuous and meaningful way:
1. Increased performance
Superheroes are the ones who outperform the likes of anyone and everyone who poses a threat to the organization. They use their superpowers to overcome obstacles and challenge supervillains, which are exactly the kind of superpowers your business needs to win out over the villains and your competitors. According to our research, 70% of employees said that motivation and morale would improve if managers simply said thank you more. I don’t know about you, but if seven out of my 10 employees became superheroes, I’d be quite happy!
But before you get too excited, let me make an important point: Not all recognition programs are created equal. If you want superheroes performing in a way that is right for your business, you need to recognize them for the right actions and behaviors. And I’ve found that the best way to do this is with a program based on your company values. It’s not just my feeling that makes me say so: According to a survey by SHRM, values-based recognition programs are most effective at engaging employees and creating a work culture driven by shared purpose. That's just what your business needs to succeed, with superheroes clearly focused on the most important objectives.
2. Greater courage
Superheroes are also the first to jump into a burning building to save the day. And while you don’t want your employees to literally do this, you do want ones who are brave enough to innovate and push the (appropriate) boundaries in how they treat your customers, develop your products and perform other tasks to help your business succeed.
Recognition is a great way to show your employees that you appreciate them after they perform their superhero acts, encouraging them to do so time and time again. Here are two ways I recommend doing this:
Get the recognition message right so that employees are clear on what courageous acts they’ve performed, and the difference they've made to the individual or the business. This will give employees the confidence to put on their superhero capes time and time again.
Make recognition visible so that others see the courageous acts being performed and aspire to behave in a similar way. By doing this, you’ll increase the likelihood of more courageous superheroes stepping up on your team.
3. Long-lasting commitment
Finally, superheroes don’t leave until their job is done, not fleeing the scene if things get tough or something better comes along. And again, this concept is just as important for businesses, as you don’t want to lose your superheroes to your competitors.
Here, too, recognition can help — and it doesn’t just turn employees into superheroes, but encourages their loyalty to you and the organization. In a survey, 50% of the employees we asked said they would leave their company if they weren’t regularly thanked and recognized for their efforts.
The key here is that recognition needs to happen on a continuous and regular basis if you want it to drive long-lasting commitment. Too often companies rely on long service awards, which are given every five, 10 or 15 years. I know I wouldn’t stick around this long to feel appreciated, and I doubt your employees will either. By focusing on what I call “in-the-moment recognition,” thanking employees for their contributions when they happen in a continuous way, you’ll have superheroes who perform better and stick around longer.
I challenge you to go out and find ways to use recognition at your company to create your own superheroes. To quote Superman, “There is a superhero in all of us; we just need the courage to put on the cape.” By appreciating and recognizing your employees, you give them the courage to put on their capes and set them free to defeat the supervillains before the supervillains defeat you.
This blog was originally posted on Forbes.