When you talk to employees who are highly engaged at work, you will hear them use a particular four letter word a lot.
“I love this place.”
“I love my job.”
“I love the people I work with.”
And, while “love” isn’t a word that most HR departments use with regularity, perhaps it should be. Our annual analysis of hundreds of thousands employee survey results through our Best Places to Work programs reinforces each year that among the biggest drivers of employee engagement are feeling valued, being appreciated, trust, and knowing that someone is prioritizing your development.
These sound a lot like the things we look for in any important relationship in our life. We usually call it being loved. Perhaps love is really the missing element that’s holding back our workplaces from being more engaged.
Stop for a moment and think about the important relationships in your life. How do you know if you are loved? Within the answer to this question are likely some clues about how to make employees feel more loved at work.
In a Psychology Today article titled “11 Ways to Tell if Your Lover Loves You,” Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D outlines a list of indicators that signal you are loved by another.
- Wants to spend time with you.
- Asks about your day.
- Trusts you.
- Helps you when you need it.
- Shows respect for your views.
- Includes you in decisions.
- Shows affection.
- Looks at you.
- Likes to talk about the past.
- Is willing to go to bat for you and your relationship.
- Makes you feel good about yourself.
If you hadn’t seen the title, this almost reads like a guideline for the experience managers should create to engage employees. Here are three ways you can bring a little more love into your workplace.
Consider Work a Relationship
It turns out, work is much more like a relationship than a contract. So naturally, it comes with the same expectations and needs as all of the other really important relationships in our lives. If we viewed work as a relationship, how might our work as leaders and HR professionals change?
First, it would have to change our baseline thinking about the purpose of HR. Instead of thinking of our role as being about compliance, policy, structure, and process, we’d instead focus on ensuring every employee feels connected to and loved by the organization.
When employees feel loved by an organization, it dramatically impact theirs positive feelings about work. And, when we feel better at work, we do better work. How can you make employees feel loved? Start by creating the foundation we all look for in a relationship, acknowledgement and appreciation.
I’m always reminded of the movie Avatar when I think about acknowledgement. If you saw the movie, you might remember that the movie revolved around these tall blue aliens called the Na’vi. When the Na’vi saw each other, they greeted each other by saying “I see you.” With these three very powerful words, the Na’vi gave each other a strong sense of acknowledgement. And this is where love starts.
To support acknowledgement at your workplace, consider training for and requiring these management activities.
- Frequent check-ins and touch-points between managers and employees. Teach managers to ask “How are you?” and really listen.
- Regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings for each employee with their manager.
Take a moment to reflect on why we recognize employees. It’s usually performance-related. More specifically, we recognize the very top and very bottom performers (in different ways, of course). When most employees are average, this is potentially a big deal. Case in point, Gallup research from How Full Is Your Bucket suggests that as much as 65 percent of the workforce receives no recognition each year.
By definition, the majority of your workforce is average. Ensuring that these employees feel appreciated and recognized for their effort might be one of the most important roles that HR can play in the organization.
To encourage more appreciation, consider these actions:
- Teach, role model, and practice frequent appreciation of both effort and performance. Use technology to make both manager and peer-to-peer appreciation easier and more visible.
- Coach managers to identify and recognize behaviors in addition to outcomes.
While it may feel awkward to talk about love in the workplace as an HR professional, do it anyway. Engineering the work experience to foster and create the feeling of being loved may be the key to driving the employee engagement your organization desperately needs.