Forget the Holiday. This is What “Labor” Really Wants.

September 5, 2017
| ByMike Ryan

Welcome back to work! I hope you had a relaxing and fun-filled Labor Day weekend.

The idea of paying tribute to the contributions and achievements of our workers is not new. In fact, it became a federal holiday way back in 1894. As a society we realized early that the contributions of our workers keep our great nation on the path to prosperity.

This concept is not unique to the United States. Some form of Labor Day is celebrated in Russia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Canada and other countries at various points throughout the year.

No one disputes the value of recognizing hard-working people and few of us would say no to a day off. But companies should make it a point to celebrate their workforces by giving them the things they really want from work, especially in a labor market where people are becoming less and less loyal to the businesses they currently work for.

Over half of everyone who holds a job in the United States is not engaged in their work. More than a 1/3 will probably leave in the next 12 months. Employee disharmony is not restricted to domestic markets. Global engagement as an international measure has fallen.

Why are workers so restless? Many factors come into play of course. Macro level forces are creating both opportunity and anxiety. Mainly, though, restlessness comes from the micro conditions employees experience every day.

Sales at the mall, backyard barbeques and town parades are nice, but most employees would prefer these six things from you:

1/ A culture that reflects their internal value sets.

2/ The autonomy to do their work and make a difference while they are doing it.

3/ To work for exceptional leaders who are authentic, empathetic, and devoted to the service of others.

4/ Immediate supervisors they can trust and partner with.

5/ To be surrounded by co-workers who share their beliefs, ambitions and attitudes.

6/ Mostly, they want to be respected, appreciated and recognized for their contributions.

Unfortunately many companies fail to deliver, especially on numbers 5 and 6. When asked what leaders could do to improve their engagement, 58% of employees said, give us more recognition!

No matter what your employees do, or what country they do it in, people want to be recognized more for their good work. This bodes especially true for Millennials who already represent the bulk of the workforce. Like other generations before them, Millennials relish feedback. The difference is they want theirs more immediate and in higher quantities than the generations before them and they want it to come from all directions: senior staff, immediate bosses and colleagues, along with co-workers. The problem is (the missed opportunity if you will) that many companies have still not tapped into social recognition.

When employees have the opportunity to give, receive, or just observe recognition happening in their organizations, good things happen. Companies see large increases in employee engagement along with the improved business results and increased productivity that follows.

Social recognition also supports the top part of the employee wish list. Companies that encourage recognition across the ranks and files are building cultures that reflect what their employees honor and believe in. By rewarding actions (as well as results) they are often celebrating the individualized approach employees took in pursuit of a challenge. Finally, by giving managers (of all levels) the ability to recognize the people they have worked with (or come into contact with), they are reinforcing that the company’s management team is focused on their employees’ development and ultimately their happiness.

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