It’s no secret that praise produces better results than criticism. But the way top companies use this tool as a strategy to drive business success is a story not widely told.
According to research from Gallup Inc., engaged employees are more productive, profitable, more customer-focused and safer. Plus, they’re more likely to stick with a job. Says Gallup:

“The best-performing companies know that an employee engagement improvement strategy linked to the achievement of corporate goals will help them win in the marketplace.”

How does it work? Take the example given by Doug Conant, Campbell’s Soup CEO. Blogging in the Harvard Business Review’s The Conversation, Conant explains how he developed engagement as a business practice and why. As is often the case with the best ideas, it grew out of personal experience.
Conant was able early in his career to develop the analytical skills he needed to succeed in business only after initial failure. He succeeded after moving to a division that fostered employee growth through encouragement. It led him to a firm belief that offering a pat on the back is the best way to engage employees:

“Over the years, I’ve worked on acknowledging others for their efforts. I’ve managed to marry tough-minded performance standards with tender-heartedness.”

How does engagement affect the bottom line? According to Gallup research, companies with “world-class engagement” have 3.9 times the earnings per share growth rate compared with those in the same industry with lower engagement.
Creating an engagement program can mean a mindset change, described by Gallup as requiring, “a year-round focus on changing behaviors, processes, and systems to anticipate and respond to your organization’s needs. From the leadership team to the frontline employees, all levels within an organization must commit to making these changes.”
In his journey at Campbell’s, Conant notes three elements that have worked well for him:

  1. Make it personal: Conant describes how he takes a “direct, sincere and authentic” approach to establish trust and build a solid foundation for the relationship from the start.
  2. Seek celebration opportunities: How? “My executive assistants and I spend a good 30 to 60 minutes a day scanning my mail and our internal website looking for news of people who have made a difference at Campbell’s,” he explains
  3. Go old school with Thanks: Your mom and grandma were right — again. Writing Thank You notes make a big difference. Says Conant, “Believe it or not, I have sent roughly 30,000 handwritten notes to employees … over the last decade.”

Conant’s engagement strategy has been credited for turning the company around over the past decade. No real surprise. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of research to know that a pat on the back means more than a slap on the wrist.
Share with us your employee engagement success story.

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