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Your Employees Need More than Words: Recognition that Inspires

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I’ve been a people manager for a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like we’ve experienced in the last few months in regards to the stress employees are feeling.

The surge of unknowns has left many people reeling. As people managers, what can we do to keep people connected, engaged, effective and confident?

Right now, as we talk to employees about what work will look like in the future – back to offices, work from home or a combination – we need to acknowledge that people may be struggling. Many employees have faced significant challenges as the lines between work and home blur. Some have had to create make-shift offices or share space with school-aged children studying remotely. Others have had to find new ways to engage customers, partners and colleagues.

Difficult situations can quickly escalate when people are not together to work through issues; negative feelings are amplified, requiring more effort to build and maintain relationships.

The “new normal” demands different ways of managing and collaborating, inspiring and recognising people. Meaningful recognition becomes paramount to positively influence employee engagement, well-being and effectiveness.

As a people manager, I have prioritised these actions:

1. Recognise that every employee is different

Every employee has felt disruption in some way. Some welcome the opportunity to work from home and avoid the commute, and feel more productive. Others, like one member of my team, miss the camaraderie of the office.

I’ve listened and observed, and as a result, am making sure that at least once a day, we connect via video chat so there’s face-to-face time. Not every employee wants or needs this. This is one way to address the unique needs of different people. Know what inspires and motivates every member of your team, and tailor your approach.

2. Keep listening and building trust

Show your employees that you care, through words and actions. Flexibility in how work gets done, gives your people a feeling of empowerment, and builds trust. Prioritise relationships. Our teams are working together as never before. Ask people how they are doing; listen to the answers so you can find ways to support your employees in each unique situation.

Be the resource people need. As your employees talk to you about building their careers and their skills, offer resources (that honestly, might look different than they did six months ago) and opportunities. Even without travel or in-person training, show employees that you still value and encourage growth and development.

3. Celebrate and recognise

I continually look for ways to acknowledge employee efforts. While we’re remote there’s no chance to give a shout out to the group around the conference table or a spontaneous thanks in the hallway or at lunch.

As our work has changed, so too has recognition.

Schedule regular check-ins. Start or end one-on-one and team meetings with recognition. Celebrate small victories and the way people overcome challenges. Encourage your employees to praise and acknowledge one another to fuel engagement, innovation and a sense of belonging.  Time spent with an individual can be as effective a recognition of their contribution as an award.

4. Keep the balance.

With so many people working from home offices, it’s easy to lose sight of things other than work – since it’s always there. Model balanced behaviour for your team – don’t send emails or texts after normal working hours and expect an immediate response. Take time off. Encourage people to have a few minutes of social time on video calls, just like they would in person.

We want potential and current employees to know that this is a place where people can bring their authentic selves, and that their work will be valued and recognised in a way that matters to them.

You can get a sense of what it’s like to work here and #LifeatROK.

When we take care of our people, our people take care of our customers and our company.


Mark Bottomley
Mark Bottomley
North Region Sales Director, Rockwell Automation
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