There’s been much media handwringing these days about the lack of engagement among U.S. workers.

And just as many remedies are offered, from segmented programs for different generations to changing performance management models.

Yet a mere 80 years ago, Dale Carnegie solved the issue in How to Win Friends and Influence People.

It’s something none of us hear enough of.  It cost nothing and requires little effort.  Which, as Google’s Larry Page admitted, “Appreciation is the best motivation.”

Studies upon surveys prove the power of gratitude, from an increase in annual operating income (Harvard Business Review) to healthy heart outcomes (from the University of California/San Diego School of Medicine).  No one, though, pays much attention to how best to deliver the praise.  So here are a few of our guidelines:

  • Get real – and specific.  Generic thanks don’t work.  Be precise about the reason for recognition.
  • Deliver today, not tomorrow.  If the behavior’s to be repeated, try to give thanks immediately – or as close to the “you did good” event as possible.
  • Authenticity is the word of the decade.  Think sincere and spontaneous – and embed it in context.  Writing an email to the team?  Makes sense to include an “attaboy/girl.” 
  • Avoid exclamation marks – and OVER-superlatives.  [‘Nuff said!!!]
  • Pick the most appropriate vehicle … we favor the most impactful, i.e., face to face.

After all, World Kindness Day is only six months away.


Straight from our advertising brethren: 

“The biggest barrier to engagement (according to a recent Association of National Advertisers’ survey) is the start-up’s inability to accurately describe its offering meaningfully, relevantly.”

The study goes on to say that even more than the 1/3+ of marketers who now work with marketing technology newcos – in social media, analytics, content development et al. – would do so … if they could figure out what the start-up did.

Shades of messaging 101.

Too many businesses, from our perspective, think that a tagline, a slogan, an elevator pitch, and a brand will tell a slew of audiences what it is and what it does.  Fallacies lurk in those assumptions.  Just ask yourself these questions :

  • Is the ‘about us’ pitch broad enough, suitable enough to cover most (if not all) of the company’s products and services?
  • Are spokespeople comfortable in delivering their sound bytes?
  • How do managers and leaders tailor it for their needs – and does it still resonate with all stakeholders?
  • Finally, do leaders agree?

One of the hidden benefits of developing the right messages is driving home consensus.  In other words, executives not only agree with the best way to describe the company but they also connect with it, bond with it, and get downright comfortable in talking about it. 

Yes, it takes a while.  It’s messy.  And noisy.  But afterwards, no one will ever ask you what your company does for a living.


Fun.  Creativity.  Laughter.  Engagement.

Bah, humbug.  We’re tired of the happiness@work drumbeat.

And we ignore the overwhelming amount of articles and treatises and tomes that explain, in five, eight, ten or 12 steps, how to encourage those smiley faces in the office.


Is it, as author William Davies insists, because corporate and government interests fix on the happiness quotient, without drilling into the context that started the not-so-content quotient?

Could our sadnesses be attributed to bosses who are negative or simply not great people managers?

Perhaps it’s due to the belief that happiness is 1) up to the individual and 2) somewhat fleeting in its appearances?

We vote for the last.  [Even though umpteen studies say that happiness is the ultimate productivity booster.]

Instead, from our forays into Fortune 500s and private firms alike, we find that the real test of engagement at work is the person who’s found a calling, who’s content in what s/he does, and who feels that s/he makes a contribution to the company.  Not happiness.  It’s all about the nature of the work (thank you, Dan Pink) and the deep-down belief that we make things happen – and that things don’t happen to us. 

Others might call it open awareness, the ability to see the big picture and not be held back by self-imposed limits.  Or simply another way of defining the ultimate selfie.


Sitting through videos with facilitators. 

Filling out endless reams of paper … or doing so online, with interminable screens.

Lunching with peers and bosses.

Reviewing job descriptions, competencies, org charts, and the like.

Go home.  Repeat.

It’s all part of Day One on a new job.  An eight-hour-plus architecture where everything you ever wanted to know about your employer was sliced, diced, and presented with enough care to wow (and sometimes dull) the senses.

The real question:  Does orientation – and its longer-term cousin, onboarding – work? 

For executives, at least 40 percent fail within 18 months [though we can’t necessarily fault the getting-to-know-you process].  For workers, probably not – especially since 50 percent of HR professionals confess to having limited time to orient and onboard [courtesy of a 2011 SHRM survey]. 

What does work, say an increasing slew of studies, is attention to the individual, a personalized introduction to the company.  Programs range from scavenger hunts to small group conversations, from a limbo bar (no kidding) to company sweatshirts emblazoned with the newbie’s name.  Instead of orientation, it’s now called “organizational socialization,” intended to begin new hire engagement on Day One.  So paperwork (or links to Web sites) is sent in advance.  Ride-alongs and peer coaches give a good taste of reality, what it’s like working for Company ABC.  And initial results show that such personalization promotes higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater organizational commitment – and reduction in stress and intention to quit.

Now that talent wars are back in force, with employers actively seeking the best and the brightest, it might make sense for us all – marketers and communicators, brand gurus and designers – to raise our hands and work together with HR to develop welcoming events and conversations that stick.  After all, learning the ropes doesn’t mean mastering hangman.