by Shayne Thomas
25 Feb 2021
Who Doesn’t Appreciate a Little Validation?
Give employees a greater sense of purpose by offering them validation at work
When typing ‘validation at work’ into a search engine, it’s shocking how much negativity surfaces at the top of the search results page. In my case, specifically, the top articles were all focused on providing tips for avoiding a constant need for validation at work.
Understandably, there are people out there—beyond in the workplace alone—who seek validation at all costs. There are reasons why they do it, and by no means am I going to be anyone’s therapist by attempting to unpack that can of worms here today.
But let’s be the devil’s advocate for a second. What if this so-called unhealthy need for validation actually stems from the fact that employees aren’t getting any kind of validation at work whatsoever? What if they simply want their managers and leaders to recognize their contributions and not see them solely as lifeless worker bots?
While the presence of incredibly needy people is, perhaps, most annoying in a professional context, this isn’t a reason to downplay the importance of validation at work. When done thoughtfully, it can boost employee happiness, productivity, and mental well-being in a big way.
A lack of employee validation runs deep
For the past year, as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the global office-based workforce has been working from home as a safety precaution. This has created a number of workplace challenges, most notably around employee-manager relationships.
While it would be ideal to use remote work as the excuse for why managers aren’t regularly recognizing their employees’ contributions, the problem of validation—or the lack thereof—is, unfortunately, endemic to the workplace experience. No one’s off the hook here, even though this virtual working environment we live and breathe today probably doesn’t help one bit.
For starters, 63% of employees don’t feel as though they get enough praise. About 32% say they have to wait around three months to get feedback from their managers while a small, yet important eight percent admit to never receiving any kind of recognition at all. Adding salt to that wound, even after receiving feedback, a solid 50% of employees said that their managers didn’t take consistent action on it, if any action at all.
Herein lies the issue: Although there might be feedback and praise being tossed around, it’s not being done consistently nor is it necessarily driving the most meaningful outcomes.
But here’s a stat that should give employers a moment of pause: 68% of employees who receive accurate and consistent feedback feel fulfilled in their jobs. So it begs the question, why aren’t managers doing this more often? Is it hard to do? Do managers feel uncomfortable praising employees for their work? Does it simply slip their minds?
Whatever the issue may be, it’s clear that receiving consistent recognition and feedback can play a major role in creating a more positive employee experience. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to put this into action without it feeling forced or superficial.
26% of employees ranked “recognition for my work” in their top three most important factors for staying with their current employer, but nearly 1 in 5 said their manager/employer was “horrible” at recognizing them.
Source: Achievers Survey Finds That Despite Disengagement, 65% of Employees Plan to Stay in Their Jobs
3 easy tips for validating employees
A common misconception is that employees expect you to shower them with non-stop praise. That’s actually not true. Doing so would make many people feel uncomfortable. However, employees do want to know that you care, you’re paying attention to their work, you’re there to support them, and, most importantly, you’re truly invested in their long-term success.
So to help you polish up your validation skills, here are three things to keep in mind:
1. Don’t just say “great job”
Of course, if someone’s done a great job, by all means, give a well-deserved shout-out. But validation isn’t always about specifically highlighting the moments when employees have done well. Sometimes it’s just a matter of noticing their work. Or giving a virtual high-five after completing a project. Or even saying things like, “I know this was a big project that required a lot of time and energy to get through. Thanks for continuing to move it forward.”
You see, a big part of providing validation is simply about being present in your employees’ work lives. It doesn’t mean being a micro-manager as much as it means keeping an ongoing pulse on what the people on your team are doing on a daily basis. In the remote work world, it’s easy for everyone, including managers, to get tunnel vision around their day-to-day work. We all have to be more conscious and mindful about removing those blinders.
2. Celebrate successes publicly
The success of any manager has a lot to do with the overall success of his or her team. In other words, when presenting your team’s work to senior leaders or others within your company, use that as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on your team’s great work. It doesn’t matter whether your team members are in the room or not. Calling out different people’s contributions is not only a great way to provide recognition whenever and wherever it’s due, but it’s an opportunity for you to set an example for other managers to follow. Doing so can create a positive domino effect across your organization that reinforces the importance of recognition and validation.
3. Look beyond tasks alone
A big part of going to work every day is all about crossing tasks off of our to-do lists. And completing projects, big or small, is always an opportunity for a little celebration.
But the validation you give doesn’t have to be uniquely project- or task-oriented. Consider seizing opportunities to highlight how your team’s work is contributing to bigger company goals or moving important initiatives forward. Everyone likes to know that their work has a purpose beyond just getting things done. By shifting the focus outside of the realm of your employees’ day-to-day tasks, you can give them a renewed sense of purpose, dedication, and motivation to continue doing what they do—and even see their work in an entirely new light.
69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.
Source: 5 Employee Feedback Stats That You Need to See
Offer employees the validation they deserve
The big takeaway here is really simple: When your employees do something great—even if it’s making incremental progress on a mammoth project—let them know that you appreciate their work and show them how it’s contributing to the bigger picture.
Offering regular feedback and recognition also helps the people on your team better understand your end goals and expectations. By providing positive reinforcement around where they’re excelling as well as constructive feedback around how they could do better or potentially approach their work in different ways, you create a solid validation-based foundation that can and will set them up for success for the long-term.
We get it, validation isn’t easy. Managers don’t always know what is too much versus what is too little. However, one thing is certain: If you aren’t giving your employees any kind of validation at work, it’s time to make a few changes. And when you do, we’re pretty sure you’ll see your team’s dynamic change in a pretty significant way.
As always, if you’d like to learn a few more tips from our HR experts, the team at Cornerstone is always happy to help. Reach out to us today to learn more.