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Unlocking Organizational Potential: Raising social capital for sustainable success

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Making employees feel that they matter, might be what matters most.

Gallup, Deloitte, McKinsey, Aon Hewitt and many others report the majority of the American workforce is not engaged – 2/3rds of employees say they are not engaged or disengaged. Everyday, the Augeo employee engagement platform touches millions of employees around the globe, working to improve these numbers. I am happy to report that our numbers look much better than the national average. We have learned firsthand that this issue challenges not only Human Resource professionals, but is paramount for every manager who guides a team.

So, what is missing? Why can't employees find reasons to engage?

To be sure, the science of engagement is challenging, but at the most fundamental level, I don't think the problem is all that perplexing. People want to feel that they matter and that their work makes a difference to their co-workers, customers, supervisors or their boss. We all want to have a sense of self-worth. Keep in mind, however, that a feeling of worthiness usually comes from external reinforcement.

If every workplace found a way to make each employee feel like they mattered, engagement wouldn't be a problem. When people feel "important", most often they take their responsibility seriously and perform. When extra effort is required, employees who understand their particular significance usually step up. Having a sense of "self-worth" reinforced by others can be a tremendous motivator for the American worker.

Five things to remember when fostering a sense of workplace "worthiness".

1. Insecurity
As different as we might appear, we all share similar emotional insecurities. We may lack self-esteem because we think we're not smart enough or lack experience. We don't have enough friends, or enough money or are technically challenged. No matter what the reason, we all experience insecurity from time to time. When that happens, we tend to shy away or shut down. No one likes feeling insecure. It makes us unhappy. When we are unhappy at work, it doesn't work…for us or for our employers.

TIP: As you manage people, look for signs of insecurity. It might not be caused by a workplace situation but rest assured, it affects work product. No matter what your position, making someone feel more secure by simply letting them know they are doing something well can make a big difference.

2. Superpowers Rule
A key to fostering a sense of self-worth is helping a co-worker believe that they are really good at something. They may be a good writer, listener or organizer. Their superpower might not be directly related to their job function but tied to a personality trait like empathy, honesty, diligence or insight.

TIP: Try to help every employee identify, understand and explore their particular superpower – that thing they are exceptional at. When each employee has an acknowledged superpower, teams function better and productivity increases.

3. Confidence is learned.
Humans are not "born confident". We learn it. Think of those extraordinary things you accomplished in your life - most likely there were confidence builders present supporting your efforts. Those first steps, that first bike ride, that first lap in the pool, all were most likely accompanied by someone voicing encouragement. Confidence is a learned skill, so help your employees practice it.

TIP: Confidence is contagious. People like to be around confident people because it makes them feel like they can accomplish great things, as well. Help them believe they can do something great. You'll find that each challenge is met with increasing confidence and elevated performance will be the result.

4. Failure is an option. In fact, it's mandatory. Denis Waitley, author of The Winner's Edge wrote, "Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing."

TIP: It's critically important to help employees understand the difference between failure to meet a challenge, trying and not succeeding at something versus a catastrophic failure that could impact the entire organization.

5. The most important voice is yours.
People tend to obsess about what others think. Employees are the same. What will my boss think? How will my manager react? What will my co-workers say? Help your employees listen to their own voice. Show them ways to seek validation for their instincts. Help them recognize that experience will show them the path. The more they can be problem solvers versus order takers, the more valuable they are to your organization.

TIP: Instincts are enhanced and supported by experience. The more often employees try something, the better they will become. Second guessing usually diminishes with repeated attempts.

Helping your employees overcome natural insecurities, teaching them to listen to their own voice and meeting challenges with confidence all lead to a more productive workplace culture. Employees want to feel like they matter. Make sure your organization shows appreciation and acknowledges accomplishment. Every day, work hard to make every employee feel like they matter…because even more than you realize, they do!

Workplace Engagement
Employee Recognition
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