Meet with employees one-on-one more often

Everyone is busy, but making time to connect with staff is essential. People who are the least engaged say their managers have no time to meet with them. Among engaged employees, 87% know their managers well. Drop by and find out what’s going on with your employees. What are the pressing issues? How’s life outside the job? What are they excited about in their life?

Recognize skill and competence

Saying thank you more often is great, but it’s even more effective when you recognize the skills of the person that were brought to bear on the task. As we have learned, competence is a core need in everyone. We have to feel effective, and when we do, we feel great.

When you want to give someone props for something, tell them you really like the way they did that project. That goes to the mastery drive and encourages more of it. You can vary your delivery methods for this message by using handwritten thank-you notes from time to time, targeted to their competence and effectiveness. The personal touch has even more salience in a tech world.

Speak a different language

When you look at the science of engagement and intrinsic motivation, it’s easy to see why only 32% of the workforce is engaged, according to Gallup. Most managers are too busy to speak to employees and when they do, they use the wrong style of language to evoke engagement—controlling language, using pressure and threats.

That is the opposite of the autonomy need and makes people feel forced and controlled. To unleash engagement, the language has to be more informational, promoting choice, offering rationales for tasks, and providing positive feedback.

Solicit participation, ideas, and solutions

The overarching need of humans on this planet is participation. We are not here to be spectators. We are here to be a part of things.

Lack of involvement in the organization drives boredom, learned helplessness, and a withdrawal to presenteeism, in which someone is physically present but mentally AWOL. Encourage employee ideas, feedback and solutions. Companies who invest in employee involvement had a return on investment of 19% in a study by USC’s Edward Lawler.

Use active listening and constructive responding

No one is going to feel valuable if you’re talking to them while gazing obsessively at your phone. Leave your devices behind or turn off the sound on them before you meet with your colleague or staffer.

Use active listening techniques, such as making sure you are facing the person, making eye contact, and listening intently, to let them know you are focused on them and what they have to say. When it comes to responding, avoid the active destructive mode of pointing out the negative or passive constructive mode of responding in generalities.

Opt for constructive responding by asking questions and offering authentic, enthusiastic support. Yes, there are times to point out negative issues, but that can be done while reinforcing the overall positive trajectory and what can help that going forward.

Expressions of value have to be consistent and convicing, so let them know more than once a year that you like the job they are doing and why. A little acknowledgement goes a long way to increasing the valuation that’s most important to all who can affect the bottom line. And that’s priceless.