What Comes First — Great Engagement, or Great Work?

If you’re managing a team you might wonder what comes first: engaged and personally invested employees or productive, great work?

Or to put it another way, is an employee doing great work because they’re engaged, or will they become more engaged after doing great work?

Let’s start at the beginning:  Most employees will start any position engaged and ready to work. As time goes on, either the employee will stay engaged, re-engage at a deeper level, or they will pull away to do minimal (or less than) work.

What happens at the moment of re-engagement? What’s the difference between an employee who produces great work and one who doesn’t? As a long time manager, I think the difference is how a manager recognizes their employee and motivates their everyday work.

Recognizing great work causes great effects

Your pro-active actions can engage employees, which will produce personal investments that yield great work. This engagement isn’t even dependent on the challenges the company faces. Every company has its challenges: resources, regulations, compliance, market, and even questionable leadership.

What every manager can do, despite company challenges, is to recognize and reward great work when they see it.

When you recognize great work several things happen:

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  • First, your other employees understand the standards they are being held to for their own production.
  • Second, the recognized employee is re-engaged to perform at an even higher level.
  • Third, you’re creating an environment that cheers on all employees, promising them the work they do is meaningful and worthy of notice. Your entire team is more likely to engage and produce great work when they know they are appreciated and valued.

Communicating they are special

The difference between engaged, productive employees and those who are not, isn’t usually that the first group are part of a company without problems. Their managers have found a way to communicate to their employees they are valued and special, which in turn re-engages the employees in their work.

If you want employees who produce great work, maybe it’s time to look at how they’re engaging and then find a way to recognize their efforts.

Happy, motivated, appreciated, and engaged employees will do great work, which means your employees will re-engage, who will then produce great work, who then engage…

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.

Carina Wytiaz is a professional writer and Internet marketer, with experience drawn from her time at FranklinCovey, Borders, ah-ha.com, Marchex.com, OrangeSoda.com, and several traditional marketing and advertising agencies. She loves helping employees feel more included and valued through exuberant appreciation experiences, and helping companies realize the incredible potential of their human capital.


4 Comments on “What Comes First — Great Engagement, or Great Work?

  1. I think great companies understand that engagement is part of the cost of having employees – its a cost just like rent/electricity/water. I just doesnt “end” with a salary.

  2. This is a great comment from r/ally. Investing in your human capital is ongoing. A great employee can have a deeper, more long-lasting effect than any other investment you can make in your business.

  3. Recognition is important and I think management trends over the last 10 years have recognized that (pun intended).

    What we and other research (e.g. http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7215.html) has shown is that poorly implemented recognition actually leads to demotivation. If the reward is meaningless, or not deserved, it turns employees off.

    It’s important to make sure recognition it tied to real challenge or achievement.

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