When it comes to motivating team members, the simple act of offering praise and recognition for a job well done goes a long way.
Positive feedback triggers the release of dopamine, which serves as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Chemicals released in the brain stimulate feelings of happiness, innovative thinking, and creative problem solving. Beyond making people feel good, the pride, pleasure, and increased self-esteem resulting from a compliment boosts individual performance.
When praise and recognition occur regularly in the workplace, positive emotions follow and engaged cultures develop. Brad Black, President and CEO of HUMANeX Ventures and a Gallup Hall of Fame recipient for his work on designing and building a world-class leadership and human resources model agrees, “You need to recognize reality–in every profession there is a range of performance. This range is not affected by skill or knowledge–it is always talent.” When that performance is acknowledged, cultural engagement skyrockets.
The Gallup® organization agrees. Its studies encompass more than four million employees in 10,000 business units across more than 30 industries, and find that, when management regularly acknowledges strong performance, productivity increases, engagement among colleagues spikes, employees are less likely to quit, customers loyalty and satisfaction surges, and accidents in the workplace decrease dramatically.
Abraxas Worldwide, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, uses tools from HUMANeX Ventures to strategically select, position, and develop people in the right roles to maximize the potential of its team.
Melanie Gilbert, Administrative Services Associate Director at Abraxas, explains one such tactic the company uses to give feedback: the company hands out diamond-shaped pads of paper to all employees, called “diamond drops.”
Gilbert says, “We encourage employees to write diamond drops (of appreciation) for their coworkers within their departments, and outside their departments, if they see somebody doing a really great job. During our monthly company-wide meetings, we encourage employees to read (out loud what they wrote on) diamond drops that they are giving to a coworker. Employees are humbled by it. They really appreciate it. You can see in the recipient’s face. It’s always how we close the meetings. It’s not only coming from management to employees, but employees giving appreciation to each other.”
“From the first employee survey we rolled out in December of 2013 to where we are now, we see much higher employee satisfaction at Abraxas. Employees feel much more valued. They’re happy to work at here.”
Oftentimes, most workplaces, including schools, don’t stop to celebrate. They are too busy taking care of business, and in the educational field, that means students. In a recent Gallup poll, more than 25 million employees around the world, including over 100,000 educators, were asked what engages them at work. The lowest item rated by K-12 teachers was “in the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.” When Gallup asked teachers to rate their principals on measures such as management style, philosophy, and school climate, the principals receiving the highest ratings were recognized for valuing “recognition as a frequent and ongoing activity that builds a strong, positive school culture” and building “an environment in which recognition is contagious and everyone plays an important role.”
Enter the Catalyst Education Awards.
Regional economic development organization, Southwest Michigan First, founded the awards program in 2016 with the mission to make Southwest Michigan globally recognized for preparing people to thrive in education and employment. The programs hopes that by recognizing excellence practices currently taking place in local classrooms that other educators and schools will elevate their students’ performance by implementing best practices into their own classrooms and trying innovations of their own.
With a regional seasonally unadjusted jobless rate of 4.1 percent as of October 2016 across the counties of Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren counties, the region’s workforce is stretched to its limits. Southwest Michigan First sees the region’s K-12 educational systems as the greatest resource for talent to future supply workforce demand. According to its president and chief executive officer Ron Kitchens, “From classroom to community, we all can only grow stronger by encouraging teacher innovation and supporting leadership in our schools to produce talented students who will excel in our schools, and upon graduation from high school, community college or university, come to work at our great companies.
The 2017 Catalyst Education Awards honor one winning school, a principal and three teachers. “While students receive report cards to showcase their achievements, the Catalyst Education Awards believe that teachers, principals and schools should take time to celebrate big achievements and innovative practices, too. Many say that teaching is a calling. Because we couldn’t agree more, we proudly support the outstanding educators who have dedicated themselves to making a difference in our children’s lives,” Kitchens continues.
Children should be given the opportunity to succeed academically under any circumstance. Whether this means connecting with them on a personal level to ensure that they’re keeping a level head amidst the social and scholastic challenges in our modern educational environment, or immersing students in scenarios designed to strengthen skills that will be needed in their future work, character and promote perseverance, this year’s Catalyst Education Award winners have done everything in their power create a habitat for student success. And while all of them have managed to win the hearts of their staff and students, each has taken a different approach in doing so.