Boost Employee Engagement with Shining Moments

Organize corporate bragging sessions. Provide an up-beat forum for employees at all levels to share war stories and brag about how successful their units (departments, divisions, field operations, cross-functional teams) were in meeting and/or exceeding defined objectives.

There is a compelling body of team development research (Ash and Gerrand, 2004) and findings from positive psychology which support this type of activity. Sustained loyalty, commitment, and heightened interest in the job occur when feedback about performance and achievement is consistent and timely. The literature on motivation suggests that people tend to repeat the behavior they are rewarded for! (Okay, that last sentence may not be grammatically correct — but it definitely hits the mark when it comes to employee engagement!)

Make no mistake about it, people will repeat behavior they see as personally and professionally profitable — behavior that is recognized and rewarded by leadership.

Re-read that last statement. One more time. It makes good business sense, doesn’t it? Reward, commitment, and superior job performance and you’ll get honest to goodness commitment and superior job per­formance. Fail to appreciate or acknowledge heroic actions and mediocrity results.

Here are some ideas to organize these snapshots of success:

  • Advertise these bragging sessions (department-wide, company-wide) and hold them quarterly. (Held less frequently, continuity and momentum are lost; more fre­quently, they become too time-consuming and routine-like to keep their novelty status.)
  • Designate a theme for each session (i.e., ways we served our customers heroically, intradepartmental cooperation, new service/product innovations, cost reductions, revenue enhancement, sales and manufacturing partnerships, quality improvements, etc.).
  • Offer fun rewards for the best-judged success story. Have team members vote. Then select a team to compile the best of these shin­ing moments into a company album, history of excellence, small-wins portfolio, or a monthly newsletter designed specifically to praise excellence in productivity improvement, service distinc­tion, quality enhancement, and relationship development.
  • Organize an Annual Shining Moments Banquet. Invite key people from other departments as guests. Include the chief executive and other senior staff. Challenge other divisions to follow suit. Sell reluctant dragons and other hold-outs on the idea.

There are many ways to reward people for the quality of the work they do in the workplace (McRae and Mauss , 2010), in the form of money, benefits, time off from work, acknowledgement for superior work performance, affiliation with other high performers in high visibility special assignments, or a sense of accomplishment from completing a major task.

Here are a few things rewards should have in common:

  1. Recognition -- Shining momentsRewards should support performance directly aligned with strategic objectives that positively affect the bottom line.
  2. Recognition should occur as close to the performance as possible, so the reward reinforces the behavior the company wants repeated. Otherwise, the relationship between performance and reward will lose its intrinsic value.
  3. Rewards must be tied to commitment and purpose, not to implied threats or job security issues.
  4. Avoid processes that single out an individual employee, such as “Employee of the Month,” because they are usually seen as favoritism and are rarely effective.

We speak from personal experience when we report that with each of these small win-induced transformations, every incremental toast of performance, each shining moment (reported proudly and often) there will begin to emerge the glimmerings of an evolving mecha­nism for sustained employee involvement and long-term profitability.

Research support:

Ash, E., and R. Gerrand, Rewrite Your Relationships, Penguin Books, New York, 2004).
Kateri McRae and Iris Mauss, Using Positive Reappraisal to Counter Negative Emotion: Its Neural Mechanisms and Role in Resilience, Positive Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, 2010). 
Read more of our tips on how to be an Extraordinary Leader here!
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© Cher Holton and
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